Apple is testing a local, offline version of Dictation voice input for iOS devices, according to strings of code found inside of the iOS 7 beta. The code, which was discovered by Hamza Sood, is located inside of both iOS 7 betas, but it is not present in iOS 6. Currently, when an iOS user uses their voice to input text using Dictation, the iOS device will use software that uploads your speech to the cloud to be converted into text. Because this relies on an internet connection and a cloud backend, this could sometimes mean errors and long-loading times, as well as some unwanted data usage…
Based on what Apple is testing, future versions of iOS could allow an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to process and convert speech from a user right on the device itself. This would speed up the process considerably, allowing emails, text messages, notes, and web searches take place via voice quicker than ever. The functionality is currently not active in public-facing builds, but we are told that devices internal to Apple have the function up and running.
We are also told that while local dictation is an option in these seeds, the former, cloud-based dictation process is present for certain situations. Perhaps this will be an option in Settings or an option based on internet conditions.
Google’s Android operating system includes offline dictation functionality, and in Apple’s pursuit of positioning iOS as superior to Android, perhaps this feature parity could sway more customers toward iOS. Apple’s own upcoming OS X Mavericks also includes the functionality by way of an extra several-hundred-megabyte downloadable package. It’s likely that any future version of iOS supporting offline dictation may require a similar download. As shown in our video above, the offline dictation feature in Mavericks provides live feedback.
While we do not have evidence of this, it seems plausible that Apple could eventually port over this technology from Dictation to Siri. This would allow certain queries to Siri to take place at a quicker pace. Both of Apple’s most recent “S” iPhone hardware refreshes have included new elements of voice technologies. For instance, the iPhone 3GS included Voice Control while the iPhone 4S introduced Siri. Perhaps the iPhone 5S, the likely successor the iPhone 5, will make use of local dictation as an exclusive feature. Local voice processing is a power-intensive process, so this could go hand-in-hand with the next iPhone’s improved processor and battery.
Over the past few weeks, we have found several unannounced iOS 7 features in testing, including new gesture options and LinkedIn integration. Like those other features, it is unclear if local dictation will survive the iOS 7 testing phase.