Vlingo 3.0 introduces premium voice features

Vlingo 3.0 adds support for dictating e-mail messages, Bluetooth connections, and audio read-back to the voice search and voice command service for BlackBerry.

Vlingo logo

Mobile voice search company Vlingo on Wednesday released Vlingo 3.0 for BlackBerry. Like Vlingo 2.0 before it, Vlingo 3.0 uses your voice commands to text other Vlingo BlackBerry users, search the Web, dial a number, create a note, update Facebook and Twitter, and open other applications. New to Vlingo 3.0 is a robotic voice that reads back your actions (like, "calling Home"), plus two premium features. One lets you text any contact (not just others using Vlingo's BlackBerry service), and the other creates, replies, and forwards e-mails based on your dictation. These two services, packaged into Vlingo Plus, cost $17.99 for a one-time fee.

Since Vlingo 2.0 allowed for e-mail dictation in version 2, it's disappointing that the premium set-up in version 3 yanks back a core feature. The benefit is having Vlingo read back the contents of your message rather than having you view it yourself. This makes the move to audio a move to hands-free composition as well, which is useful if moving your lips is the only motion you can spare. However, as Vlingo 2.0 won't expire, those who want to continue dictating e-mail for free and who are uninterested in the application's other enhancements should consider skipping the upgrade.

In addition to the technological add-ons, Vlingo 3.0 officially plays nice with some Bluetooth and all wired headsets. So long as you pair the devices and press the side button, you can rattle off voice prompts through the headset without lifting the BlackBerry to your mouth. If you're driving while calling a number or dictating an e-mail or note, the new setup, along with the just-debuted audio playback feature, helps keep your eyes focused on the road.

Vlingo 3.0 on BlackBerry

As a final addition, Vlingo 3.0 becomes compatible with the BlackBerry Storm, Bold, Curve 8900, and Peal Flip phones, and adds some tweaks to make Vlingo work seamlessly on many more phones tied to corporate policies. (Company admins will still have the final say, however, on any programs they choose to lock out.)

The hands-on test
As with Vlingo 2.0, setting up Vlingo 3.0 takes about five minutes. Following the setup wizard, you'll first configure a hardware convenience key on the phone that activates Vlingo when you push it. This literal side door into the app obviates the need to launch it from the phone's start screen. After that, you'll also be shown a quick tutorial and will need to wait while the app indexes your address book. Figure in a few more minutes to set up your Twitter and Facebook credentials the first time you update your status messages with each social service.

How did the app actually do? Very well, although still not perfectly. My Facebook status update message, "Testing Vlingo 3.0" retrieved "testing Vlingo tree Plato," and did not always capitalize the 't' in testing, which for an editor is a serious offense. Luckily, Vlingo lets you view a message before sending it on its way, or reads it back to you, if you're a premium user.

The robotic read-back was also accurate in our tests, and is optional. In the settings are adjustments for volume, the voice's gender, and length of the message--it's here you can also silence the speech. Yet with this voice playback, headset support, and the new premium e-mail and texting services, Vlingo is by far the strongest voice service offering for BlackBerry, and is poised to make a buck to boot.

Related story: Vlingo one-ups Google with a better voice-powered iPhone app

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.