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Even though we speak into our smartphones all the time, there’s still something about using voice controls that reeks of science fiction.

I suspect it’s because you’re talking to a ‘machine’ rather than another person. A lot of people find that unsettling. Several people I know dislike leaving voice messages for that exact reason.

All the same, there are some real advantages to using voice controls, such as when you’re driving, and there’s no doubt that it’s becoming more and more popular. The technology is getting better too.

Voice recognition has now improved to such an extent that many of your Lumia’s core functions can now be controlled via the power of speech.

To initiate the Speech functions on your Lumia smartphone press and hold the Start button. You’ll be able to call people, use search, open apps or dictate notes.


You can also use voice recognition to compose your emails or text messages – just tap the ‘microphone’ icon and speak your message.

Besides these core functions there are also many apps in the Windows Phone Store that are using voice controls on your Nokia Lumia.

Here are several examples that are worth highlighting.

NB. To use voice recognition you have to download your local language pack and to have the function enabled on your Lumia.

To do this go to Settings > Speech and then check the Enable Speech Recognition Service box. Tap ‘Speech Language’ and select your language to download the pack.

Translator (free)


This is the multi-purpose translator app from Microsoft, which doesn’t just use regular text but also your Lumia’s camera. Take a picture of a sign or menu and within seconds the app will translate it for you.

Of course, you can also translate by voice. Speak a phrase or word in your language and you’ll then hear the translation spoke back to you in a native accent. Clever!

Translator requires a data connection although you can also download language packs for offline use.

Sound Pong (£0.79p)


Retro gaming chic meets futuristic voice controls in this clever update of the classic pong video game.

You can use your voice, or any sound that can be picked up the Lumia’s microphone, to control the paddle and keep the ball in play.

There is sure to be great potential in speech recognition for games especially in the role-playing genre, I would think. On the downside, it’s not really something you’d want to do in public, is it?

VoiceMusic (free)

Using this app you can command your Lumia to play an album or playlist or genre simply by talking to it.

VoiceMusic has a few other nifty tricks too. You can ask for random playback and best of all – if you are listening to a song but you’re unsure what album it belongs to, you can ask that as well.

This app integrates the music voice controls into your Lumia’s core speech recognition feature. So when you’re using it, rather than opening the app, you only need to press and hold the Start button as outlined above.

You begin your commands with “Voice Music… Artist Adele/Album Revolver/Random Song”.  Developer Rob Miles gives a demo of the app in the video above.

Voice Controlled Camera (free)

Voice Camera

If using your voice to control your music wasn’t impressive enough then how about taking some pictures with your Lumia’s camera?

Voice Control Camera is a lens app for the Nokia Lumia 920 or Lumia 820 smartphone that means you don’t even need to use your hands to take a picture.

You just have to command it to Take Picture, which instantly takes a shot or Ready Camera, which starts a timer countdown.

The developer promises that more speech commands will follow in later updates, so this is definitely one to keep your eyes on.

TalkingNotes (free)

Talking Notes

Speech recognition naturally lends itself to dictation and note taking apps and TalkingNotes is a good example of how it can be fun to use and save you time.

You dictate your notes, which are then transcribed and you can also use voice commands to save your notes or quit the process. After you’ve finished, the app can even read your notes back to you.

The novelty value aside, TalkingNotes demonstrates that speech recognition is hugely important for accessibility reasons as well.

Do you use speech recognition on your Lumia? Tell us about your experiences and favourite voice controlled apps in the comments below.