Mobile phones past and present allow users to communicate while on the go. Just five years ago the cachet of a mobile phone was all about the look and feel of the phone, simple features such as calling and texting, and to some extent basic services like downloading a ringtone. Today, services, applications and content (games, music, videos), are what make a mobile phone sell.
Consumers want and need their mobile phone to not only make calls, but to manage their everyday tasks – send texts & emails, search the web, find directions, book flights and hotels, add appointments to their calendars and more. You get the idea. Smartphones changed the game and they continue to do so. The higher screen resolution and increased processing power of each succeeding generation of smartphones make these tasks easier to accomplish while on the go. Obviously, these increased capabilities also enable apps like Vlingo—that is, voice-enabled assistant applications—to not only meet your needs but try to anticipate them.
About a year ago, I wrote a post about a watershed moment in the mobile voice industry when Google introduced Voice Actions. It would seem that we’ve come to a similar point for the “virtual assistant,” as Apple prepares to release the Siri-powered Assistant with iOS 5 later this month. While exactly which of the rumored features will be in the final version remains up in the air, the “Let’s Talk” themed invitation more than hints that voice is a significant part of the announcement. We can feel confident that the folks in Cupertino will have integrated Siri’s technology beautifully into the core iOS experience, and that the Apple Assistant will substantially raise the profile of voice-enabled virtual assistants as a mobile service.
While there is no debating Apple’s ability to package technology in a way that transforms it into a standard for consumers, we think that we have a unique ability to drive innovation within the industry as the last truly independent player. The value of that innovation has manifested itself over the last year through partnerships like the one we have with Samsung, to power the Voice Talk feature on their flagship Galaxy S II phones worldwide. This past August we reached a couple big milestones as our Android application completed over 25M voice commands and read over 30M messages aloud via our SafeReaderTMfeature—both monthly records – just one year after that product became available for free. We couldn’t be more appreciative to those early voice pioneers on Android, who set out on this journey with us. We brought “firsts” like our hands-free InCar mode, and we remain the only voice solution that integrates with leading mobile services like Facebook, foursquare and KAYAK. You, in turn, have rewarded us with your incredible loyalty and we owe you the world for it. See snapshot above of our success on Android.
Our success on Android has only deepened our desire to innovate, push forward and deliver. We’ve really just touched a fraction of the total addressable mobile phone market. Millions of users worldwide are demanding that Vlingo’s Virtual Assistant be made available to them. In this spirit, we’d like to announce today that we have a brand new, next generation voice product that we will release on the iPhone platform this fall. While we’re excited that the awareness of voice-enabled apps is about to get a boost thanks to Apple, we have been hard at work creating a whole new class of applications that will once again advance our industry.
Many might question why we would choose iOS to launch this new product as Apple prepares to make a big splash with new native functionality. Truthfully it was a question we thought about deeply ourselves. The last few years Apple has continued to surge past its competitors by delivering products that technically beat user expectations. So why would we try to compete? The answer is simple. Vlingo delivers choice that you simply cannot get from these “OS integrated” options. Last year when Google launched Voice Actions we knew it was a great product yet millions of people have chosen Vlingo because of the differentiated services and versatility that go well beyond Google’s solution. Consumers have clearly stated that we’re not in a “one size fits all” market. The same thought process applies here. While it is almost a guarantee that the Apple/Siri product will be good, it’s also known that deep OS integration limits the user’s options. With Vlingo you will continue to get functionality that allows you to do things in places that you simply cannot do with the “native” solution.
When Google Voice Actions came out, we felt it was unfair to ask our users to continue to pay for our application. We wanted them to be “free to compare.” We feel the same way about our iPhone product, and have pushed a new version to the App Store that will enable the full Vlingo functionality at no cost. Note this will be available as soon as Apple approves this price change. To those of you who have supported Vlingo over the last three years on the iPhone platform, many of whom paid for the service – we owe you an incredible amount of thanks. We know that this decision will upset some of you, and we can only ask that you apply the same standard to applications that you do to the phones they power. In the same way that the release of a new phone usually coincides with a price decrease of the older model, we feel it is time to take a step forward into “what’s next” in mobile voice. We hope that you continue to find value in our Virtual Assistant, and hope that you are excited to join us as we set out on this next phase of our journey this fall.
Dave Grannan, President & CEO, Vlingo