Sunday, April 14, 2024
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I record interviews for work. These are the best free recorder apps


The iPhone 14 Pro and Google Pixel 7 Pro's voice recording apps running together.
The Voice Recorder app on a phone (left) and the Voice Memos on another phone Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Before you head to the app store on your phone to buy a voice-recording app, take a moment to consider the apps that may already be installed on your phone. Why? In my experience, they’re likely all you really need. I’ve recorded interviews and voice-overs for work for years, and I’ve found the two best examples come preinstalled on your phone already, so they’re entirely free to use.

The caveat worth understanding before we get into each app is that whether you get to try them out or not depends on which smartphone you own. But just in case you don’t have an iPhone, Pixel, or Samsung phone, I’ve got a suggestion for you too.

If you own an iPhone

The Voice Memos app running on an iPhone 14 Pro.
Voice Memos Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

If you own an Apple iPhone or iPad, pretty much regardless of which model, you’ve got access to one of the best free voice-recorder apps as standard. Apple’s Voice Memos app is part of iOS and, therefore, is installed with the operating system when you get the phone. I’ve used it for years in various different environments and have never been disappointed by the results. I’ve been using it most recently on the iPhone 14 Pro.

It’s very simple to use, as when you open the app, there’s a very obvious red “record” button at the bottom of the screen. Tap that, and the app starts recording, then tap it again to stop. There’s no setup or options to select at this stage, which makes it great for impromptu recordings. The iPhone has always had excellent microphones, and recordings from it are always clear.

The Voice Memos app running on an iPhone 14 Pro.
Voice Memos Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

When you save a recording, there are a couple of playback options to know about. You can adjust the speed of the playback, and there’s an option to skip the silence, which works very effectively. There’s also an Enhance Recording switch, which promises to reduce background noise and echo from the room. It does make a difference and can save recordings that may be lost otherwise. Voice Memos’ functionality doesn’t end after recording. There’s an edit feature to trim your recording, record new sections, and insert them into the file.

Another reason Voice Memos works so well is because I use a Mac for work, and AirDropping the file between devices takes just moments. I have used a lavalier microphone with my iPhone and recorded voic-overs for various videos using Voice Memos, and I find it’s as good for that as it is for recording a video call or in-person conversation. The simplicity of Voice Memos, and the ease with which you can edit and share the file, makes it my go-to voice recorder.

If you own a Google Pixel phone

The Voice Recorder app running on the Google Pixel 7 Pro.
Google Recorder Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Google’s Recorder app is only available for Google Pixel phones, which is a shame as it’s feature-rich and relatively easy to use. Most recently, I have been using Recorder on a Google Pixel 7 Pro, and it stands out against the iPhone thanks to its AI-driven transcription feature, where the live conversation is transcribed as you speak. The transcription is saved alongside the audio file, and you can follow it during a replay.

Even more helpful, the transcription can be shared directly to Google Docs, but it’s unfortunate that the file doesn’t separate speakers, which makes it slightly annoying to edit without listening to the audio file at the same time — especially if it’s a wide-ranging, multi-speaker conversation. To transcribe Voice Memo files from the iPhone, I’ve been using Trint, and find it is very reliable at recognizing and then separating speakers. However, you have to pay for the service, unlike the Recorder app’s transcription feature.

The Voice Recorder app running on the Google Pixel 7 Pro.
Google Recorder Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

There are other interesting features, too, including the usual editing tools and a way to create a video clip of the audio and transcription running. I also like the quick skip buttons that advance 10 seconds or backtrack just 5 seconds. It’s far more useful when listening to conversations than the iPhone’s 15-second skip buttons. However, the Pixel 7 Pro’s microphones aren’t as sharp and clear as the iPhone 14 Pro’s, and I always choose the Apple phone for recording voice-overs.

If you own another Android phone

Samsung's Voice Recorder app on the Galaxy Z Fold 5.
Samsung Voice Recorder Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

What if you don’t own a Pixel phone? If you own a Samsung Galaxy phone — like the Galaxy S23 Ultra or Galaxy Z Flip 5 — the standard Voice Recorder app has similar functionality to Apple’s Voice Memos. It has easy one-tap recording and editing features, including the ability to skip silent sections and to record and replace sections. Samsung goes one step further than Google with its scrubbing tool, as you can advance or backtrack in a recorded file by just 3 seconds. How’s that for ultimate control? There’s also a speech-to-text feature, but it’s not very accurate and only creates a transcription for a maximum of 10 minutes.

If you don’t have a Samsung phone and want an app that works on any Android phone, I’ve used Dolby On before and recommend it. It’s free to use, unlike most other voice-recorder apps available in the Google Play Store, which require you to pay for a “Pro” version to unlock more advanced features. Dolby On is easy to use and has a feature the other apps do not, which is the chance to record in Lossless quality.

The Dolby On app running on a Galaxy Z Fold 5.
Dolby On Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The app also promises to apply various enhancements to the file after recording, including noise reduction, EQ, and normalizing the volume. There are also several different filters to apply to your file too, all of which work well, as the standard recording can be quite sharp and echoey. The app is geared up to record your own voice, and files can be shared instantly to Soundcloud, but it works just as well for interview recording.

If you find yourself in need of a voice- or audio-recorder app, don’t just head to the app store on your phone and pick the first one you see. Give the free, standard apps on your phone s try first, as they’ll likely be more than powerful and feature-packed enough for most people. I’ve certainly never needed anything more when I’m recording interviews, and you probably don’t either.

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