Third-party apps are where Windows Phone 8’s voice commands really shine

Over the last few weeks, voice commands on Windows Phone have gone from a feature I used sparingly to something I now use all the time. This is due in large part to Windows Phone 8’s speech API, which allows third-party apps to add additional – and quite often innovative – functionality.

While Windows Phone has a few system commands like “call <name>,” “find <search>,” “open <app>,” and “text <name>,” I really only used call and text on a regular basis. The latest version of the OS, however, added support for “note <voice/text note>,” as well as third-party apps. My favorite example of this is Feed Reader, which will read your RSS feeds out loud and respond to common commands. With this single app, voice commands went from a cool occasionally useful feature to something that I can see myself using on a regular basis.

Of course, there are other great apps as well. Copy This allows you to copy any phrase to the phone’s clipboard, bringing speech to every textbox, rather than just emails and text messages. Short phrases were translated very accurately, but I did notice a few errors here and there in longer sentences. Then there are Twitter apps like Rowi and Mehdoh, which allow you to compose and send a tweet with your voice. The most common – albeit not quite as useful – implementation of voice commands simply opens up a specific section of an app. TVShow, for example, will let you jump straight to a particular television series or the calendar, while Weather Flow will bring up the forecast for your current location.

Naturally, the usefulness of the voice commands will vary from app to app. But by tapping into the Windows Phone 8 speech API, developers can expand upon the somewhat limited range of default voice commands and create a number of innovative and highly useful apps. What are your favorite speech-enabled apps on Windows Phone?

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William Devereux

William Devereux is the former Microsoft editor at Pocketables, as well as a Microsoft MVP and SkyDrive/Outlook.com Insider. As his title implies, he wrote about all things from Redmond, including Windows 8 and Windows Phone. He is currently carrying a Windows Phone 8X by HTC and a Microsoft Surface with Windows RT tablet.