Let’s face it: capturing the sound of a loved one’s voice is magic, so what are some great free voice recording apps? That sound can be cherished for years to come so finding the best app is important. But it has more value than just sentimental reasons. It helps capture valuable information that you may need or want to write the perfect family, personal or business story. The truth is that I love my digital recorder and I will choose it any day of the week over the apps I have tried. However, apps are great because they are free, with me all the time, and can serve as a backup recording method even if I am using a digital recorder as my main method.
Below we have found a few apps for both iPhone and Android that have different uses that you may find helpful. I know I do.
Note that there is a free version of this app with ads, and also a paid version which runs around $5. There is also a slightly different version for the iPad vs. the iPhone. We first learned about this app from a professional in the broadcasting industry when we asked him what his favorite was. His answer was swift and emphatic: Voice Record Pro. He said it offers the best functionality, which worried us that it might be complicated to operate. Not so. It is a professional professional voice recorder that allows you to record voice memos and on-site sounds at unlimited length with configurable quality. We use it for oral history interviewing mostly when we need a backup or if we don’t have a digital recorder handy. It is easy to use, robust, and has the flexibility to record in different file formats: M4A, MP4, MP3 (MPEG) and WAV (PCM). Plus, it has a converter to change formats. You can edit audio right in in the app, change file names, upload and share. In short, all the features you might ever want, with an easy-to-use interface. Click here to see the Voice Recorder Pro on the iTunes Store.
Quick note here. Rhonda is an Android user, and the main free app she uses for recording oral history interviews on the fly is Easy Voice Recorder. Click here to get Easy Voice Recorder on Google Play. We’ll add more detail to this review in the future, but for now, here’s a note that after using a lot of apps, this is by far the one she likes best for Android. She uses it nearly every day to record audio notes on the go, as well as when she needs a backup recorder or does not have a digital recorder handy.
This free recording app is put out by FamilySearch. Like Evernote, the recording device is one of many functions within the app. This app is set up perfectly for family storytelling. So it is perfect for what I would be using it for. There are some unique functions within this app that I really love. Once recording is finished you can email, text, upload to Facebook or upload it to your FamilySearch account. It can live in your FamilySearch account forever which is great. It’s nice to have something stored in an extra spot, which I would always suggest anyway. Plus, if you decide to make it shareable other people on your family tree can enjoy the interview.
Another part of the app I love is that it offers up some prompt questions right on the device so you can look and refer as the interview progresses. You can click on the question, record the answer and then move to another question. Using those questions can bog you down a bit though because the app has you pause and name each question or file at the conclusion of the answer. It’s a great way to divide up the interview and know exactly what questions and what answers are together, but could take some time to decipher if you aren’t doing it right away. But, if you already have your questions, you can just go on your own for as long as you want. The app suggests you work in five-minute intervals to keep the interview flowing and jot down your notes or whatever, but you can keep going if you want. For me, if the interview is flowing well you may not want to stop and start several times. On the other hand, it may give your subject some time to think between questions and come up with more solid answers. Trying the app is definitely worth the experiment though, especially because it’s free.
Also included in the app are options to record the story, so you could go in and record the interview right away as well as upload photos or important documents. You can also move directly into your ancestors and add the stories, interviews right to their names on their family history. It’s classic and wonderful.
This is the first free app I tried because it’s the first one that came up on the search in the App store. I actually had an interview this afternoon and jumped right in and tried it. I love it! It is simple and straight forward. It’s easy to save and share. It’s also pretty simple to transfer to my laptop with my usb. I can trim the video. It doesn’t allow for a ton of editing, but I do think that’s okay. For what I need it for, it’s not necessary. I can rewind and fast forward with ease and adjust the audio. I like using my phone to record because my phone is usually handy and it’s not just one more thing I have to drag around. I like that it looks like a tape recorder and acts like one, so it doesn’t scare people away who may be used to the ease of a simple of tape recorder.
But the best feature on this recorder for me? The ability to record to phone calls! As someone who interviews people frequently for my job, the ability to record a telephone call right on my device is heaven. The sound is great for this too. The only thing that worries me is wondering if it’s working while I’m talking and that I haven’t shut it off or something. But that would be a problem with any telephone recorder. The recorder is also helpful when interviewing elderly people who may talk more softly because I can adjust the sound to make it louder when I play it back.
One thing that was a bit annoying on the free app are the ads. Sometimes it could get confusing if I am downloading for the recorder or a pop-up ad. This problem can be alleviated by purchasing the ad-free version for $1.99. I guess you have decide how annoying it is.
There is unlimited recording time and you can loop audio. A more simple version of this app would be the Voice Memo app, another free version with very limited features.
The Smart Recorder app was pretty awesome in that there are several choices and ways to record included in the free app. Tips also pop up on the screen when you open the app. This can be a blessing and a curse. I enjoyed getting the tips, but they keep popping up all the time. You can turn this reminder off, but I do admit the tips are nice. I just wish they weren’t right in the middle of the screen.
I had the impression before downloading the app that the app itself transcribed my recording upon command. Not so. When you hit the transcribe button it takes you to a page letting you know you can get your recording transcribed by a “team” outside the app and that it would cost more money beyond even the premium version of the app. Great idea if you are in a hurry, but there wasn’t a lot of advice on what exactly the costs would be until you have already spent a lot of time and effort to have the recording transcribed. I won’t be using this feature because it seems a little unpredictable. But, the features of this app are great and handy compared to the simple version of Voice Recorder that I reviewed previously.
TapeACall has both a free app and a paid service. We had to include it here because we use it a lot. Telephone voice recording can be tricky. While interviewing a subject in person is the optimal, it isn’t always possible. Using the voice recording prompt with separate recorders seems cumbersome to me, so the idea of using the very phone I’m speaking on seems to make the most sense. But that just seems to be in theory. That too is quite complicated. And because it is, the wonderful app makers out there make it pretty tricky to get around. There are several that offer their apps to be free – but that may only be for a few minutes or you find when you are on the call you have to buy credits or upgrades. That seems tricky and unfair to me. I want to do my interview and be able to hear my subject without qualms and I don’t mind paying a few bucks to do so.
The best app I found for this is the Tape A Call or Tape A Call Lite is the free version. There a variety of upgrades available, but the best seems to be the Tape A Call Pro for $9.99 per year which is super simple to upgrade because the ad permanently appears in the bottom left hand corner of the free version.
I used the free version for starters and I think for fairly short calls/interviews this would be sufficient. If you are looking at doing a lot of interviews you may want to use the upgrade. I think it’s always a good idea to try the free version to see if it’s worth the purchase in the long run. I know $9.99 or even $1.99 doesn’t seem like much, but if you pay the money and hate the app in the long run it just seems like a waste. I also like the fact that the TapeACall App suggests you try it out. I’m not getting some flashing “upgrade” sign that I have to remove before I use the app.
There are step by step instructions within the app and I was able to use it on the first try with no issues. It takes about 15 to 20 seconds to connect the calls, but that is no big deal. I would suggest that when you initially set up your phone interview you can tell your subject when you call for the official interview that you will be recording the call and that it will take a few seconds (up to 30 the app said) to set it up so they don’t hang up and think you’re not there. The app works by connecting you to your subject by a 3rd party line.
With the free version the recorded calls can be sent by the cloud, by email or downloaded directly to your computer. The premium version lets you download directly to Dropbox, Google Drive or Evernote from your device. That there is probably worth the $9.99. You also have unlimited recordings for unlimited time. The app suggests making sure you have wifi when using Tape A Call so you don’t eat up data while on the call.
The app called “Cube ACR” is what Rhonda uses on her Android phone to record calls if she wants to begin recording mid-call. If she’s starting at the beginning of the call, she prefers Tape a Call. Cube ACR is free and doesn’t automatically record all your calls (why would anyone want that?…seems weird.) The the recording quality is reasonably good, and it has this cool feature that lets you slide a bar mid-call to start recording. So, if you’re chatting with a loved one and they start telling a story, just start recording on the fly. Note that there are laws about recording phone calls, so be sure you read up on it. Click here to check out Cube ACR on Google Play.
I have had Evernote on my phone for ages. Have I used it? Not much, only for swapping some recipes from friends. But, I should be using it a lot more. Evernote used to be a big one for Android phones, but now is available for Iphone. Evernote is a great app for a variety of things, but I had no idea the capabilities it held for voice recording. The best feature of the free version of Evernote (you can purchase the premium package for $4.99 per month, a bit of a racket) is that you can take notes while recording. I am a copiousnotetaker and this is a boon for me. But, taking notes on a phone isn’t the easiest – the best mode for using this app is going to be on a tablet. You have plenty of space to take notes and you have a keyboard to do so.
The one thing I don’t love about this is the fact that the saving part seems clunky. You have to email the voice recording and then download it. There doesn’t appear to be a huge limit on storage size, but the continual urging to upgrade can be a bit annoying and there are so many apps that don’t require a monthly fee, if you’re just looking for voice recording, you may want to pass on this one. It is a great tool for organizing many other things though, especially if you are trying to organize a series of interviews or notes it works well. It’s like a mini planner with a cool voice recording side too, but probably not the best for a super labor intensive project that you intend to transcribe and turn around quickly.
Co-written by Rachel J. Trotter and Rhonda Lauritzen.
Rachel J. Trotter is a senior writer/editor at Evalogue.Life – Tell Your Story. She tells people’s stories and shares hers to encourage others. She loves family storytelling. A graduate of Weber State University, she has had articles featured on LDSLiving.com and Mormon.org. She and her husband Mat have six children and live on the East Bench in Ogden, Utah.
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