The iPhone has Siri, Android has Vlingo and Evi, and Windows
Phone 8 has its own, built-in speech recognition software — called, simply
enough, Speech. With Speech you can:

  • Make a call
  • Send a text message
  • Take a note
  • Open an app
  • Search online

You can do all of these things just by using your voice. Is it magic? Not at all. It’s
your smartphone doing what it does best — making your mobile life easier.
Thankfully, there’s nothing you need to install to get this feature up and
running. The only thing you’re asked is if you want to enable the Speech
Recognition Service, which is a service run by Microsoft to help improve the speech
recognition system. You should know that, by turning the Speech Recognition
Service on, the words you speak (and the data discovered by what you speak)
will be sent to Microsoft. 

If you’ve turned that service on, and (now that you
know what it does) you want to switch it off, follow these steps:

  1. Swipe the home screen to the left
  2. Scroll down and tap Settings
  3. Scroll down and tap speech
  4. Tap to disable Enable Speech Recognition Service
    (Figure A – if it’s checked, it’s enabled)

Figure A

Speech settings on a Verizon-branded HTC Windows Phone 8.

If you’re in kinder, more trusting spirits later, you can
always re-enable the service at any time. There’s one caveat to turning off
the Speech Recognition Service (there always is). Some apps will not function
with the service turned off, including:

  • Texting to contact
  • Searching the web

If you want those features to work, you must leave the
service enabled.

Finally, you’ll need to select the language pack to be
used for Speech. To configure this, do the following:

  1. Swipe your home screen to the left
  2. Scroll down and tap Settings
  3. Scroll down and tap Speech
  4. Locate Speech Language and tap the associated
  5. Locate and tap the language to be used (Figure

Figure B

Make sure to select the correct language pack or you could
have trouble getting Speech to recognize your voice.

Using Speech

To access the Speech tool, hold down the
Windows button until the Speech interface appears (Figure C).

Figure C

At this point, it’s time to start speaking.

As with every speech-to-mobile interface, the spoken command
takes on the structure:

COMMAND text to be used by command

For example:

Call Stephanie


Call phone number

where phone number is an actual phone number.

Every command is followed by the text to be used by the
command. Here’s the full list of commands (and their descriptions):

  • Call: Call a phone number
  • Redial: Redial last dialed phone number
  • Text: Send text to a contact name
  • Note: Take a note
  • Call voicemail: Call your voicemail
  • Open: Open an application
  • Find: Search online

With the Call command, you can also specify which number to
call for a contact. For instance:

Call Stephanie mobile

will call the mobile number associated with the Stephanie
contact, whereas:

Call Stephanie work

will call the work number associated with the Stephanie

You can also use Speech to dictate the contents of an email.
Here’s how:

  1. Open Email
  2. Tap the plus sign [+]
  3. Tap the “To” section and locate the contact
  4. Tap Subject and type the subject
  5. Tap in the body of the email until the keyboard
  6. Tap the microphone icon (Figure D)
  7. Dictate the body of your email
  8. Tap the Send button when complete

Figure D

The microphone icon is on the bottom right corner.

Although Speech might not offer the full-blown functionality
of Siri or Vlingo, this Windows Phone 8 feature will certainly make your mobile life more efficient. Have you used Speech on your Windows Phone 8 device? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.