The list of jobs your phone can do is a long one: It’ll take photos, play music, show movies, connect you to other people, manage your schedule, control your smart home, read you the news, and so much more.
But you may have overlooked your phone’s ability to work as a voice recorder, grabbing audio from any source within the range of its microphone. Whether you want to record lectures, interviews, meetings, or memos, a variety of apps can help.
The Voice Memos app is built into iOS, so it’s a convenient option for anyone with an iPhone. Just tap the big red button at the bottom of the screen to start recording, and tap it again to stop. By default the app will name your memo using your current location, but you can rename a clip by pressing and holding on its title.
To turn off location-based naming and adjust the audio quality of recordings, choose Voice Memos from the main iOS settings screen. The app is available on Macs and iPads too, and your recordings will sync across your Apple devices so you can access them from anywhere.
Tap any recording to hear it or edit it (via the three dots on the left, then Edit Recording). You can trim out bits you don’t want to keep and even record over sections of the clip. Tap the magic wand (top left) to clean up any background noise. To stay organized, go to the main Voice Memos screen and use the folder icon in the bottom right to create a folder. Then go to your list of recordings, hit Edit, select the ones you want, tap Move in the bottom left, and touch the folder you want to store it in.
Voice Memos is built into iOS.
There’s also a built-in dictation app on Google’s Pixel phones: Recorder. At the time of writing, it’s not available for other Android devices, but there is a web app so you can get at your recordings from a browser on any computer.
The red button at the bottom of the screen starts and stops recordings, and Google will transcribe spoken words in real time—switch to the Transcript screen to see this in action. You can also use these automatically generated transcripts to search your recordings for specific words and phrases.
By default, each recording is saved with a location, but you can change this by tapping your profile picture, then Recorder settings. Touch a recording to listen to it, rename it, or edit it. When it comes to editing, you’re limited to just chopping off sections from the start and end of the recording—tap the scissors icon up at the top if you need to trim.
Recorder is built into Pixel phones.
Easy Voice Recorder
Easy Voice Recorder makes recording audio a simple process on both Android and iOS. The basics are identical and free across both platforms, but there are some differences: Only the iOS app offers transcription, for example, which is $2 extra. The iPhone app lets you trim clips for free, but this requires a Pro upgrade ($4) on Android.
Whichever platform you use and whatever extras you want to pay for, the core functionality of Easy Voice Recorder is what appeals—with the Record tab open, just tap the red button to start and stop a recording.
We like the way the app shows you how much recording time is left on your device, and that you get a number of audio compression options to pick from so you can reduce the quality if you want your clips to take up less room. The app can also automatically attempt to reduce background noise, if you want it to.
Voice Recorder & Audio Editor
Voice Recorder & Audio Editor has an appealing retro look, featuring an image of a cassette player on its recording screen. The basic functionalities of this iOS-only program are free to use, but a $5 upgrade will get you extras such as automatic transcription, audio trimming, and the ability to add notes to recordings.
Tap the microphone icon to get to the recording screen, where you can name your recording before you start, and use the big Rec and Stop buttons at the bottom to capture audio. The Play button lets you review what you’ve just recorded. If you’re looking for a dictation app with a unique interface, this could be it.
You can start recordings straight from your iPhone home screen too: Tap and hold on the app icon, then choose Record. Sending recordings to other apps or the cloud is all straightforward, and you can keep your clips organized in separate folders, too.
Voice Recorder & Audio Editor is free with in-app purchases for iOS.
Following an iOS exclusive with an Android-only app, the aptly named Audio Recorder is one of the most well designed recording apps we’ve seen, with all the important features and functions kept front and center. It’s also completely free, with no strings attached and no features stuck behind a paywall.
One of Audio Recorder’s best attributes is that it lets you set the audio quality of your recordings, and decide whether they should be stereo or mono (the app will make suggestions about sampling rate and bit rate if you’re not sure).
With that done, just tap the white record and stop buttons to save audio to your phone’s storage—you’ll see a waveform on screen while you’re recording. You won’t be able to edit it when you’re done, but it works wonderfully well for quick and intuitive audio recording.
Audio Recorder is free for Android.
Rev Audio & Voice Recorder
The Rev Audio & Voice Recorder app exists to get you to use Rev’s human-powered transcription services. Whether or not you pay up for those, the basic app is great at recording and free to use on both iOS and Android.
Full marks to the app for letting you dive right in without any fuss: Just tap the big Record button and you’re off and running. The recording interface is simple and easy on the eye, and another tap can pause or stop the recording. Beyond saving clips to your phone, you can upload them to cloud services such as Dropbox or iCloud.
The app also comes with some useful editing tools, which you’ll find if you open up one of your recordings. You can trim the start and the end of a clip, and even add new audio to the end of a recording you’ve already saved.
Like the Rev app, Otter is an entry point for a transcription service—an artificial intelligence-powered one, in this case. You get 600 minutes of free, automatic speech-to-text transcriptions a month, and if you need more, you can sign up for the $13 a month Pro package.
It’s the built-in transcription functionality that really sets Otter apart: You can use it to quickly scan your voice notes and turn them into text documents, for instance. From what we’ve seen, the auto-transcription is quite accurate, but you can tweak the text if you need to.
Unlike the other apps we’ve covered here, you do need to sign up for a free account before you start recording, but it’s a fairly painless procedure. Once you’re in, tap the microphone button to start a recording, and the transcription will appear on screen in real time. You can attach images to recordings too, if needed.