iOS Dictation: No More 30-Second Timeout

Published September 23, 2022

I recently performed a dictation test. The competitors were Dragon NaturallySpeaking, the iPad along with Google Docs, and an app called Dictatioin (pro edition) that I had downloaded from the Apple store. The bottom line is, the dictation feature within iOS works just fine for me, once I got around the 30-second of silence limitation.

If you don’t want to read the whole saga, skip to the Heading: 30-Second Limitation Didn’t Make Sense

Here’s the Long-Drawn Out Version

WritingBecause I suddenly need to do a lot of writing in a relatively short period of time, I decided to test the waters again with dictation software. As a longtime user of Dragon NaturallySpeaking on my PC, I was very familiar with it and its accuracy. I found it to be an accurate tool and it has helped me quite a bit in my writing career.

However, since transitioning over to the iOS environment, I had to find a new tool for dictation since NaturallySpeaking is not compatible with the iPad or iPhone.

Testing Different Apps

I tried the dictation capabilities of the iPad and the iPhone and found them to be pretty accurate. The only problem I had was the timeout after 30 seconds of dictation silence. At first, I didn’t realize that was a “thing” and thought I was doing something wrong.

I have a habit of pacing back and forth when I dictate, so I didn't realize it timed out until after I finished dictating a rather long article and saw the device only captured the first paragraph. Yes, a painful way to learn about the 30-second limitation. That sent me on a tear to find the right app that would not time out.

Enter the Dictation - Speech to Text App

Dictation is an inexpensive alternative to NaturallySpeaking. I tried the free version and opted to spend $12.99 for the year. While Dictation is pretty accurate it's not as accurate as the iPad or NaturallySpeaking (or so I thought).

Dictation to Speech

The app thrives in the iOS environment. I sometimes use it to dictate journal entries and transfer them seamlessly into my journaling app, Day One.

With Dictation, I couldn’t use voice editing commands such as “delete that” or “cap that” as I could in NaturallySpeaking, but within the app I could invoke the keyboard to make the necessary corrections. I would have preferred voice corrections, but I made do with what I had.

30-Second Limitation Didn’t Make Sense

The more I thought about that silence limitation, the more I thought, “Apple is innovative. There must be a way to extend that blasted 30-second silence limitation!” So I scoured the internet to find an answer. And, as the saying goes... when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

I found the answer. It was in a discussion thread on the Apple site: The solution is in the Voice Control feature. The intent of voice control is to operate your device by voice. When enabled, in addition to controlling the device, you can dictate without the 30-second silence limitation.

A Caveat to Voice Control

With Voice Control enabled, after dictating, you can tell the microphone to “go to sleep” or “wake up” just like in NaturallySpeaking. The big difference is, although the microphone is asleep, the device is still listening. So, as I did with NaturallySpeaking, I turn Voice Control on when I need to dictate and then turn it off when I’m done.

If you are interested in enabling Voice Control, go to Settings, Accessibility, then scroll down until you see Voice Control. The first time you access it, you have to set it up. Once you've set it up, it's a matter of enableing and disabling it.

Voice Control Set Up

I’ve read that Voice Control is resource intensive, so I’d rather only turn it on only when I need it. Adding a Voice Control shortcut to Control Center makes it easy to toggle on and off.

How to Add Voice Control to Control Center

If you want to add Voice Control to the Control Center, go to Accessibility, then scroll down to the bottom of the Accessibility page to the General section. Tap on Accessibility Shortcut. That will open a page with a host of features. Select the features you’d like to see in the Control Center and you’re done.

If you go into the Customize Command feature of Voice Control, you’ll find a host of text editing commands. In addition to the pre-set commands, you can add, delete and edit commands to tailor dictation to your needs.

Voice Commands

Circling Back to the Dictation Accuracy Testing

Now that you’ve been through the long, drawn-out dictation saga, here’s how the three apps fared. I tested all three (NaturallySpeaking, Dictate and iOS built-in dictation) simultaneously. I set up two iPads and a PC. I read the first paragraph of Brian Tracy’s book “Eat that Frog.” Here’s how the test went:

Performing the tests taught me a valuable lesson. You see, I ran the test several times (5 to be exact). The first four times, human error made things go sideways. What I learned at the end of the 5th test was the accuracy of the app depended on how clearly I dictated. By time number 5, I was enunciating better and as such, all three apps were 100% accurate. Not so on the first 4 attempts.

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MeAbout the Author: Felicia, also known as Low-Tech Grandma, is a wife, mother, and grandmother who now owns a few iOS devices and likes to write about them.

Last Modified: 19 October 2022

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