Voice Control App Showdown: Vlingo vs. the myTouch 3G Slide Genius button

Here at Android Central, we love the whole idea of using voice commands to make our phones work for us.  In the smartphone world, Vlingo is pretty well-known, with apps on multiple platforms, and we've been using it a while now.  Now drift back to the spring when we first started hearing about the Genius button on the MyTouch 3G Slide, and how it offers similar functionality, and you just know we had to check it out and see how it compares.

So hit the break, and watch as we pit Vlingo up against the Genius button and see which comes out on top.

[Ed. note: Full disclosure: The folks at Vlingo came to us with the idea for this test, and provided the phone to do so. We provided Jerry and the accent. The results speak for themselves.]

The testing procedure

Nothing complicated here, Vlingo was installed on a freshly wiped MyTouch 3G Slide, and after a couple days' practice using both I sat down with the camera and ran them through the paces.  The only edits done on the video were for privacy issues, adding the groovy soundtrack, and to trim out dead spots (while waiting for calls to connect, or messages to send) to get it all under 10 minutes.  Live, unscripted and by the seat of my pants -- that's how I roll :p 

Results and final scoring

You've seen my test, now let's talk about what we saw.  Both applications work, and in some areas are pretty equal in accuracy and result.  In other areas, not so much.  I've broken things down into 10 categories, and we'll score both applications in each.

Voice dialing

The Genius button struggled with this one.  As I say in the video, it very well could be the bit 'o twang in my voice, so it's understandable.  What's remarkable is that if my accent is the reason the Genius button couldn't tell I wanted to dial a number, Vlingo handled it just fine. 

Vlingo gets the point here, while the Genius button bowls a gutterball.

Text messaging

Again, the Genius button wasn't quite up to snuff here.  It did recognize I wanted to send a text message, and found the name in my address book, but doesn't pick up the message text like it's supposed to.  Vlingo, on the other hand, was flawless.

Point to Vlingo for working as advertised, and a half point to the Genius button, for being half right.


Sorry about the blur.  The test was filmed in one shot, and I'm sure you can understand the need to block out e-mail addresses. 

Once again, the Genius button misses the mark, but comes close.  It correctly identified that I wanted to send an e-mail, and correctly entered both the subject and the body, but couldn't seem to tell the name Terry from the name Eric.  Vlingo seems to be able to parse my accent and root through my contacts to find who I'm looking for, as well as fill the subject and body fields of the message correctly.

Full point again to Vlingo, and another half point to the Genius button for the effort.

Web search, Maps search, and opening applications

Both applications were flawless in these categories.  They work as advertised, are quick and the results were perfect.  Each app gets a full point in all three categories.


Easy to score. The Genius button doesn't, Vlingo does.  And it did it perfect, the first time.

Point to Vlingo, no score for the Genius button.


Vlingo offers a choice of three sizes, as well as a widget for Safereader.  Very nice.  The Genius button is mapped to a hardware button, making a widget pretty unnecessary. Both apps get the full point for ease of access.

Read aloud services

It's one of those things that you have no idea just how great it is until you've had it, then lost it.  Vlingo has it, and the video shows off just how handy it is (stroke of luck there, huh?).  The Genius button doesn't offer this function, which is too bad.  Voice commands and reader services seem to go together so well.

Point to Vlingo, nothing to the Genius button.


Vlingo isn't cheap.  At 10.00 (USD) it's one of the more expensive apps in the Android Market.  Is it worth it?  To me it is, but as is often the case, your mileage may vary.

Point to the Genius button, Vlingo gets blanked here.

The total, and highlights

Results are above, Vlingo wins the showdown by outscoring the Genius button 9 to 6.  Vlingo is polished, and really sets the bar for an Android application.  The Genius button, while not as feature rich and having a few issues, is system software and with the Geniuses (see what I did there) at HTC and T-Mobile working on it should only get better.

Vlingo application

Vlingo -- widgets

Vlingo really impresses me with its voice accuracy.  The filmed test wasn't a fluke -- during testing Vlingo interpreted what I was trying to say and who I wanted to say it to with amazing results.  And huge points for handling the odd-ball accent of a Florida boy transplanted into the heart of Appalachia.

the genius button application

the genius button

The Genius button has the benefit of being a native application and having a dedicated hardware button to activate it.  It's light on resources, does quite a few things well, and is free.  Those things can be just as important to some people as the rich feature set offered by the competition. 

Maybe the biggest issue is one of availability.  I'm digging the MyTouch 3G slide while testing things out, but it's not a phone I use regularly.  That puts the Genius button pretty much out of reach.  Vlingo is there for the picking on most any Android phone (Android 2.0 and higher), and being in the Market is easy to get installed.  Even if T-Mobile were to open up the Genius button as an app for it's Android customers, most of the world still won't have access to it.  In the meantime, Vlingo is there to take up the slack.

My criteria may differ from yours, but for 10 bucks I have to give the nod to Vlingo.  It outscores the Genius button by a wide margin, and is a very high quality application -- something Android needs more of.  My best suggestion?  Hit the Android Market, and try it for 23 hours and make your own decision.  You have nothing to lose, and I think you'll like it as much as I do.


[Market Link | AppBrain]

(Android 2.0 and higher)

The Genius Button

Available exclusively on select T-Mobile handsets (opens in new tab) (MyTouch 3G slide, coming soon to the MyTouch 3G)

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • I had this on my blackberry and I loved it. Was a great application. I doubt the quality is worse on android. Been considering getting this, but not sure how much I would use it now.
  • Is the built-in search for the MyTouch that crippled? My Incredible phone, out of the box, does voice search pretty darned well. So, that $10 is a pretty steep price to pay for what would be marginally better capability. Out of the box Search + Slice V-text ($2.99) does what I need on my Incredible. About the only thing my Incredible won't do without vlingo is apps/widgets. $10 just isn't worth it to add just apps/widgets. How often do I really need that? Maybe if VLingo offered a free version, I might give it a try but I don't want to spend $10 for marginal improvement over what I already have.
  • There is a time period after you purchase and app that you can uninstall it for a full refund. I think it is 24 hours but I'm not sure on that. So you could give it a short try and then return it if you don't like it.
  • Voice control on my Nexus One (especially under Froyo) seems to do most of those things. It will launch pretty much any app, search, call, etc. There is a limit to how many places I want to start commanding my phone in public, since everyone hears who you are calling, what app you are launching, etc. TMG. Too much geek.
  • This test is somewhat flawed. You were trying to make it difficult by choosing long/possibly confusing words, but in actuality, voice recognition systems do BETTER with long/unusual words. It is short, tiny words with MANY possible selections that voice recognition will fail more often in. Like "Terry", for instance, was a better challenge, because there's Mary, Jerry, Fairy, Carrie, Dairy, all of which sound similar and of similar length. I think you should revisit this with some more challenging short words.
  • I think this test was intended to be a head-to-head match between the features offered by the two application versus a strict evaluation of the voice recognition ability of either. I agree that seeing a test of the voice recognition capabilities would be nice, but that this test was not designed to rigorously test those capabilities.
  • I too used Vlingo as a BB user and was excited to see it come to Android. And I've been a part of their new beta test for the SuperDialer feature. It makes Vlingo even more attractive. It will combine voice recognition Vlingo already provides with a service similar to Google's Places Directory. Search by a business name, and you can tap the return to get reviews, the address, a map and you can even one touch to navigate to the business from where you are. Only drawback so far is that Google Nav is the only nav choice. In my opinion, it's not nearly as slick as Sprint's native Telenav app. For me, definitely worth the $10.
  • NICE!! i wonder if Vlingo will add the voice button to Swype??? gonna try it now......of course im not gonna pay 10 bucks for it, thanks to rapidshare! :)
  • Can you run Vlingo with your bluetooth? How about a comparison of vlingo to 2.2's voice dialer? (Or even 2.1's voice dialer which can run at least some commands, but I never really played with that much, because it didn't know how to respond to bluetooth?)
  • I agree that $10 is a bit much. I have a $3 limit on programs that I will buy just to buy. I already bought a bunch of apps and Live Wallpapers at $2 each. No brainier on those at that price even if I won't use them much. After than I have to really think about it. I will pay $5 usually if it looks like something I would use more than once per week. Daily is good. I would only pay $10 for something I would use every day and regularly. I don't think this offers enough over the built in voice commands that Android has for me to pay that. If it ever goes on sale for around $5 I will get it for sure.
  • I'd pay $10 if it would bring us hands-free commands from a bluetooth earpiece. But I guess I'll have to wait for Froyo for that.
  • Umm, did you try the driving mode for read aloud services on the Genius button??? All you have to do is put it in Driving Mode to get the read aloud service...just say "Driving Mode On". You can also use Dragon Dictation on any text entry field with the Genius button, just long press the input field box and switch the input method to dragon dictation as your default and you can talk away, including punctuation, etc. http://isource.com/2009/12/09/some-tips-for-dragon-dictation/ Also, on the Genius button if your contacts are stored with first AND last name you need to say both in order for it to recognize the contact correctly...Genius calls and fills in the message perfectly for me IF I say the last name. If you just use first name it is still looking for the last name when you are trying to give it the message...This is something they should probably fix (to recognize first name only), but once you know you need to do this it is no big deal. So...rather poor review of the Genius button functionality (one you should re-do IMHO), but I can't completely fault you b/c Tmo has not done a very good job explaining how the Genius button works. Thanks
  • I just used it.....its most definitely not worth 10 dollars, i can tell u guys that much! its the same as stock Voice! uninstalled! yea, u can do things directly from the widget of Vlingo, but its not hard to go to the messaging app and press the voice button on the keyboard! lol! not knocking the app at all, its awesome, but i am knocking on the price! tooooo much for something we already have for free!
  • I tried on the Evo and it was just plain bad. Slow, sometimes no response, from the app at all. Now way this is a 10 dollar app, when heavy hitters like ROM Manager and Titanium Backup are a fraction of that. Should be free until it actually works.
  • I tried it on my EVO after a buddy of mine bought it for his EVO and we both love it. I demonstrate Vlingo to Iphone people when I get a chance and they are blown away by how well it works.
  • I got it. I'll give it the 24 hours before I decide, but so far it seems a little subpar. Almost every text I try to dictate is wrong, and I can't get it to open ANY apps at all... it just pops open the browser and shows me a google search of whatever I said, i.e. - "open/launch Word Wise" brings up a Google search for "open/launch Word Wise." I'll continue to test it out for the rest of the day, but so far it looks like I'm going to uninstall Vlingo. Some of its failures seem pretty standard, but at $10 I expect better...
  • Yes, same thing with me. The only app it actually opened was the calculator, which was the only one tested in the video...
  • This comes preloaded on all new Nokia smartphones , I have it on my N97 and never use it so how they can justify a $10 fee for android has me lost sorry vlingo -fail-
  • Glad to hear it's not just me, it will not open an app, just takes you to the browser every time. Seems like a major flaw to me, was going to be the #1 use for me.
  • I really like Vlingo. I love the safe-reader for hearing incoming text read aloud, especially when I'm in my car. I can't find Genius in the app store. Is it only available for the Slide? That doesn't help me on my HTC Droid Incredible. I primarily use Vlingo for sending texts, and find that it often does a better translation than the built-in voice-to-text, even to including things like a question mark at the end of my sentence. It is not perfect. My daughters name is Keri. Built-in often translates this as "carry", Vlingo does "Carrie". Luckily I figure people on the other end of my text can figure out what I mean. After all, when I typed by hand, I would often just type a "K". This is the only app that I have bought to date -- all others I'm using are free-- so I cant compare the value versus other paid apps. I can only say it was worth the ten bucks for me. It seems like a very small price to pay for all the use I get out of it. I kinda think it was worth the ten bucks for the safe-reader alone. Just my 2 cents.
  • If you take a look at the Vlingo website it has a piece on how the more you use the app the quicker it learns your voice, style of talking and adapts better to you. The way it does this like your daughters name for instance, if it gets it wrong all you have to do is correct the error in the text and complete the task by sending the message and Vlingo learns from it's mistakes :) You have to complete the task though or it doesnt remember.
  • I count myself lucky to have gotten into the Vlingo beta, because I'm not one to spend $10 on a mobile application. (What can I say, I rarely would even spend $0.99 on apps, lol) But I have to say, while the native voice search application on my Droid is awesome, Vlingo just has the nice touches that get it the extra mile. Displaying options, being able to detect more accurately, and being able to click a button for "done" (seriously, it doesn't sound that important but when I'm driving in the car and there's outside noise, sometimes the voice search application continues to "listen" based on the other outside noise. Being able to tell the app "I'm done" is a huge benefit, since that's primarily how I use the voice application anyway!) are all huge differences to me. Haven't used the Genius button, but Vlingo has been amazing from all I've used it for...
  • I recently purchased Vlingo, and also have had problems launching any programs. I also did not like how safereader reads html code whenever reading my email. Is there anyway to modify this behavior. I will make a concrted effort to use Vlingo this week to see if it becomes smarter with use.
  • Love the Genius button even more now that there are finally some instructions on how to unleash it's full potential:
    http://tmobile.dragonmobileapps.com./demo.html I think your review would have been totally different had you had this info going into it...