With so many speech-to-text (STT) apps out there, it’s hard to distinguish which work well and are worth paying for. We asked 40 people who have hearing loss to help us test some apps and identify the best and worst performers.
Our volunteers tested five apps that use STT technology to provide subtitles for phone calls, or live subtitles for everyday conversation, over eight weeks. Half of the volunteers used an Apple iOS device and half an Android. All the users spoke English and were spread UK-wide.
After the eight-week trial, we asked our volunteers for feedback on:
- the most useful features
- what could be improved
- their overall experience of using each app.
Total rating: 2.8/5
Microsoft’s Skype has enabled people to communicate via audio and video calls, worldwide and free of charge, for some time now. The latest version of Skype (Version 8 for apps) now enables users to easily toggle the subtitles on and off during audio and video calls.
Most of our participants found the Skype app, and switching the subtitles on and off, easy to use. The accuracy of the subtitles was reported as largely poor but the subtitles did, however, appear quite quickly following speech.
When asked about the appearance of the subtitles, 76% found the, easy to read. Participants did however report that the placement of the subtitles prevented them from being able to see the speaker’s face, which made lipreading difficult. The app’s most popular feature was that it was free, followed by its ease of use and that the subtitles were easy to read. When asked what they disliked most, our users said poor accuracy and not being able to save translations.
59% of participants said they’d continue to use the Skype app with subtitles and 69% said that they’d recommend it to others.
Total rating: 2.6/5
Roger Voice is another STT phone calling service. As well as having automated STT translations like Skype, you can also make calls using a STT relay or sign language relay assistant. The relay assistant service is currently only available in France (where the app was developed) so we only tested the automated STT translation service.
When asked about the accuracy of the subtitles, half the participants said that they were accurate. However, compared to Skype, the subtitles had less of a delay. ‘Ease of use’ was the most appealing feature of the Roger Voice app, closely followed by being free of charge. The most-disliked features were poor accuracy of translations and there being only a short time to use the app free of charge before having to pay for the service.
Half of our testers said that they’d continue using the app and half said they’d recommend it to others.
Total rating 2.3/5
Ava is a group conversation STT app. It allows each person in the group to join a forum and use their own devices to translate what they’re saying into text. Each person’s transcript is colour coded with their name (much like other text-based group conversations, so that you know who’s saying what).
When asked about the accuracy of the subtitles, Ava performed the least well however it did better on speed of translation which were comparable to that of Roger Voice. The Ava app’s most popular feature was ease of use followed by being free to use (for a limited time) however overall it performed the least well out of our 5 apps.
Total rating 3.3/5
Hearing Helper (iOS only) is a live STT translation app, most useful for one-to-one conversations or transcribing speech for notes. It is only available on Apple devices.
This app performed well with overall good accuracy and speed of translations.
The app’s most liked features were ease of use, easy-to-read subtitles and being free to use. Not being able to save the transcripts was the least liked feature. All participants said that they’d continue to use the app and recommend it to others.
Total rating 3.7/5
TextHear (Android users only) is a live STT translation app available on both iOS for Apple and Android devices. However, it uses the Google STT algorithm and so is available free of charge for unlimited use on Android devices only. It is free for 30 minutes on Apple devices and chargeable for further use after this 30 minutes.
The TextHear app performed the best out of all five. Texthear was the fastest and most accurate translator out of our 5 apps.
The most-liked features were free to use, easy to use and the subtitles easy to read. Only two participants reported not liking the delay and accuracy with the app. Everyone said that they’d continue to use the app and would recommend it to others.
This app review in partnership with EE has helped support our work with users to find the most useful apps and other assistive technology in everyday life. In August, we will look at the latest smart home technology as part of our EE partnership.
If you would like to help us test new technology, sign up to our Tech UX Panel by filling out this short survey.