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Google Recorder hands-on: Powerful live transcription in your pocket [Video]

Of the recently leaked apps from the Pixel 4, the Google Recorder app was one of the most surprising and proves to be one of the most useful.

The app is pretty basic, with recording, playback, and sharing functions. But in an odd move, Google has already updated the recorder to include powerful live transcription features and audio search.

Those features alone make this a really awesome tool for students and journalists especially, as it saves on note-taking and allows you to actually listen to speakers, lecturers or interviewees.

While the new additions make the Pixel 4 recorder a powerful app, it still manages to remain pretty stripped back and incredibly simple to use — making it well worth a download if you haven’t done so already.

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So as we mentioned, there isn’t a great deal to dive into with the Pixel 4 recorder app. Once you set it up, you’re greeted with a little splash screen that explains just what you can and can’t do.

The main ‘home screen’ is simply a basic waveform with a red record button underneath. It’s really easy for anyone to grasp. Just tap the record button and the waveform will dance along to any background audio or noise nearby.

When recording, the new voice recorder is actually capable of distinguishing between different types of audio — such as music, speech, whistling, and even laughter — we’re not sure there are any other such apps that can do the same.

You’ll be pleased to know that you don’t need an internet or mobile data connection to have these little extras enabled as standard. The Pixel 4 recorder app works offline, as does the very impressive auto transcription.

Google wowed us with its Live Caption tech at I/O 2019 and it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume some of that magic is bundled in here. So long as you want to transcribe in English, you’ll have rather accurate end results. I would liken it to the Google Assistant speech recognition. What I mean is that while it isn’t perfect — names being a particular sore point — it is accurate with conversational speed speech.

Having had to transcribe interviews and lectures for an extensive period of my adult life, I’m almost certain that even just having just a base or loose transcription will make it much easier to sift through long recordings. You don’t even need to use the transcription either if you don’t want to. It is automatically generated regardless of whether you use the text or not.

The recent unexpected update has also added a search function, that lets you pinpoint when a word or reference was made and instantly teleports you to that particular section of the audio recording. The words spoken are then highlighted, making it even easier to see just where you are when playing recordings back.

Google has also added the ability to scrub along the audio timeline to each specific point in the audio too, which gives you even further granular control and ensures you don’t get lost in longer recordings.

For me, this is one of the true “killer” features of the new recorder. If you’re studying I can also imagine it will be such a timesaver. Being able to add GPS and title tags becomes just another cherry atop the Google Recorder cake.

You don’t even need to keep the recording to share any transcribed text. The sharing options don’t just limit you to one or the other. You can mix and match depending on just what you need.

Being able to just save or share the text without the audio is superb if you are tight for time for instance — as a former UK sports reporter this would have been a dream during post-match press conferences.

Alternatively, being able to save and share both the text file and audio file is also something I’m not sure many other voice recorders offer without maybe a subscription or up-front payment.

Playback within the Google Recorder app is relatively stripped back, there is no option to Chromecast — which would have been a nice extra. You can playback when your phone is locked but the only controls are the 5-second rewind and 10-second fast-forward — which are similar to many existing podcast apps.

For some of you out there, the Google Recorder is just another potential system app that never gets more than the single run. For others though, this really is a useful tool in your smartphone app arsenal. Students can really benefit from not having to take notes, journalists can relax knowing that interviews and press conferences are pre-typed and basically ready to post.

It’s awesome that Google can channel the Live Caption tech into another useful everyday application that will become essential to millions around the globe. Now we just have to wait until the Google Recorder features are expanded beyond English.

The best news is that the app works with just about any Android smartphone. If you would like to try out the new app, you can do so via download from APKMirror and be sure to let us know your thoughts down in the comment section below.

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Avatar for Damien Wilde Damien Wilde

Damien is a UK-based video producer for 9to5Google. Find him on Twitter @iamdamienwilde. Email

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