BuzzVoice is the butterfly that emerged from chrysalis of the now defunct PimpMyNews app, a talking reader with far less functionality. What it grew into is a full system that starts on your computer at the BuzzVoice site. There you can sign up for a free account and explore the 1400 different blogs that BuzzVoice can read to you. The site allows you to listen to individual stories and to email a story that, when received, contains an audio file of the story, as well as the ability to visually read the story either on the site or by being transferred to the originating blog.
The BuzzVoice site lets you create a list of MyFeeds in where you build a list of the blogs you are interested in hearing by either searching, browsing or picking a ready made playlist based on specific interests. This is handy and becomes quite important when we get to the iPhone app.
The site also lets you put together a Buzzcast, which is a grouping of blogs that you like, and have that grouping transform into a 10 minute (for the free version) or 30 minute (for the pro version) personal podcast that, after a click, will be added to iTunes and update daily, so it can be heard throughout the iPod line. A feed is also displayed for use with a non-iTunes powered device.
How does it sound? I was expecting to be disappointed since I have had enough of the 'take-me-to-your-leader' type vocal stylings of many talking apps, but I'm very happy to report that the voice implementation is nearly perfect. It sounds quite natural with great attention paid to punctuation. You can choose a male voice or female voice or have BuzzVoice mix it up, using the pro version. For free you get one voice. The sound was good enough to allow me to stop paying attention to the player and start giving my full attention to the story being read. This is not a small thing if you're going to listen to more than a story or two.
The iPhone app (selling now for $US1.99) ties in nicely to the site and provides additional goodies. On the bottom of the screen are four buttons. MyPlaylist displays all the blogs that you put into MyFeeds on the site. Tap one and you'll see the current story list, tap a story and it will be read to you. If you tap the blue arrow to the right of each story a second screen lets you share a story via Facebook to Reddit (plus 4 others) or email. You can tap Listen to hear the story, or tap Source to read the story in BuzzVoice, which doesn't present in landscape mode, or Safari, which does. Tapping My Buzzcast will play the Buzzcast that you created on the site without having to go to iTunes.
The third button, BuzzRadio, is interesting. Tapping it brings up a listing of topics ranging from Apple Radio to Politics Radio to Sports Radio. There are currently eight stations to choose from. When you pick one, a grouping of top stories from various subject-specific blogs gets built, which BuzzVoice then reads; perfect for any time your hands should be somewhere else (driving, running or whatever). You don't get this on the site.
I'd like to see a non-variable, or user designated playing time for the stations. As it is now, I've found that playing time can vary from 4 minutes to 30 minutes. I can see that being a problem when driving and expecting a longer read. Once that is fixed, I'd like to be able to stack stations so if I know that I'll be in the car for 90 minutes and I know that each station plays for 30 minutes, I would be able to stack 3 topic-oriented stations which would then be sequentially read to me, filling up my 90 minute drive. The fourth button is 'Info' which doesn't really provide any. Instead, it opens up an email where you can report mispronunciations, suggest blogs or ask for help. It would be nice to see a little tutorial on this page.
In the iPhone app, when you receive mail sent from BuzzVoice, either from the site or from another iPhone, you get a link bringing you to a BuzzVoice-formatted Safari page with a big Listen to this story button on top and the full story with graphics displayed below. This is a very nice feature.