Daily iPhone app: Voice Brief

Voice Brief for iPhone (free for a limited time) is a text-to-voice utility that reads information to you. It lets you sit back and listen as your iPhone reads calendar events, weather information, RSS and more aloud. The latest version, 1.81, is a big improvement over its predecessor.

I looked at Voice Brief about a year ago. I thought it had lots of promise, but was missing a few features that would make it really useful. This update moves it from interesting to something I can use. I pointed out in my review last March that the app ought to read email and full RSS and Google Reader feeds. You can check those items off now.

The basic app is free for a limited time, and is complete other than the ability to read email. That's a US$2.99 in-app purchase. To use the app, set up what you want it to say. It can start with your local weather, and then it moves onto news. Tell it what feeds you want it to read, and how many stories in that feed.

The app can also check your calendar for appointments, as well as Facebook, Twitter and your favorite stock prices. This is very handy on a commute, where you'd rather drive than fool with your iPhone. It's safer too. These features would be wonderful as part of Siri, but I don't think Apple is going that direction anytime soon.

With the app now free, I think it's worth a download. The $2.99 mail upgrade supports unlimited email (IMAP only) accounts. As I drove around town I found the audio very good, and for the most part the synthesized voices were excellent. When reading our TUAW feed it had some trouble figuring out how to say 'TUAW', but don't we all?

I've included some screen shots so you can see what the setup looks like. This app is a big 255 MB download due to the several voices included. It runs on any iOS device with iOS 4.3 or greater, but it's not a universal. Give it a try.