Although voice-to-text may not be the first feature that comes to mind when using a smartphone, it has the potential to significantly increase its usefulness. It’s time for other Android phones to get the amazing speech-to-text experience that Google introduced with the Pixel 6 last year and blew away everything that came before.
Google introduced a new voice-to-text feature for Android in 2021 that was available only on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro and is now also on the Pixel 6a. Simply said, this new system functions because it uses the same linguistic model that makes the “new Google Assistant” viable.
I stated in our evaluation of the Pixel 6 Pro:
But the new voice typing feature in Gboard that is supported by Assistant is what I’ve truly come to love. The automatic punctuation is actually the game-changing tool, and it is amazingly quick and accurate. I’ve never been more comfortable using voice-to-text while driving or walking (which we should all keep to an absolute minimum regardless). Even with the voice option still enabled, you can change what has been dictated.
Nearly a year later, every time I used a non-Pixel smartphone, I actually missed that experience.
I’ve been experiencing that most recently on the Galaxy Z Fold 4. I adore this smartphone because of its exceptional and highly handy hardware, as well as the variety of upgrades that make me proud to use it as my daily vehicle.
But the voice-to-text feature on that smartphone has continued to irritate me practically every day. The Galaxy Z Fold 4’s voice-to-text experience with Gboard is identical to that of every other Android device. It is powered by Google and functions fairly well, but it simply cannot compete with the developments on the Pixel 6 series. I frequently send messages to the rest of the 9to5Google crew that are rife with mistakes or misspelled terms, which has led to some incredibly funny Slack chats.
Most recently, sending a tweet was the worst offender. I was pleasantly surprised by the photo of the moon I took from my Fold 4 using the 30x “Space Zoom” feature of the device. Gboard’s transcription failed to correctly transliterate the phone’s name when it was sent as a tweet, instead writing that the “full fer” can make a respectable moonshot.
These are mistakes that I hardly ever, if ever, noticed on Pixel. When using a Samsung device, there are many features I miss from my Pixels, but this one is probably the most annoying.
Punctuation is where things become very tricky, though. When punctuation was fully automatic on Pixel, I had forgotten how unpleasant it is to have to verbally yell at my phone to add a comma, period, or any other type of punctuation. And even better than that, the punctuation was correct as well!
Of course, this only serves to make the Pixel 6 and other Google phones more competitive with respect to competing Android phones. However, it’s also no longer a problem that the Pixel can solve alone.
A video from 2020 contrasted the speech dictation capabilities of the iPhone and the Pixel, which is what other Android phones have now. And it was very evident that Google’s Android experience was quicker and more precise than Apple’s.
But this week, iOS 16 is rolling out was released to millions of new and old iPhones, along with much better voice-to-text support . The experience Google offers on its Pixel phones, which Apple’s most recent incarnation of voice-to-text on the iPhone comes pretty close to mirroring is, means it will be much ahead of where most other Android phones are right now. Derek Wise recently examined this on 9to5Mac.
In light of this, it would seem to be in Google’s best interest to give up a Pixel exclusive in order to strengthen the broader Android ecosystem in opposition to Apple’s developments.
Is Google able to deliver this experience to other phones without hitting any hardware restrictions?
In all probability, no. When compared to other flagship-tier chipsets, Google Tensor did, at the time, offer greater AI processing power, but this is a gap that recent releases from Qualcomm and MediaTek have largely addressed. Additionally, the experience that launched on the Pixel 6 first has previously appeared briefly on the Pixel 5 and other older Pixels. It used to be supported, but not anymore.
Beyond adding more phones, it’s crucial that Google adds more languages to the voice-to-text feature on the Pixel 6. The experience is currently only available in Japanese, German, and English. That’s a terrific start, but it doesn’t even cover the large territories where consumers are purchasing other Android phones, let alone the few nations where Google sells Pixels.