Vlingo 2.60 Update – Hey Vlingo

I’ve been using Vlingo since their beta stages and even paid for it after it first launched. However, it was never one of my favorite apps. I even had uninstalled it for a while as I found it was crashing my phone. While the initial features at first launch were good, they weren’t overwhelmingly great. The feature that was most useful to me at that time was the applications ability to read incoming emails aloud; they call this feature SafeReader. While I don’t remember much, I do remember it being a bit cumbersome to use.

Vlingo has grown up a lot since then. Along with SafeReader, the app now also sports other features such as InCar, Vlingo Control widget and Action Bar while maturing the voice launcher feature all the while. Some of the improvements they made on the launcher include the ability to launch native and third-party apps, provide social media updates to Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook and integration to third-party services that enable searches to hotels and movies as well.

The Vlingo Control widget is similar to the native Power Control widget. It allows you to access all of the Vlingo app features quickly from the home screen. This is quite powerful if you’re using the native Android home screens or HTC Sense where you have limited options as to what you can put on the dock bar. What I use it for the most is to turn off Safe Reader quickly.

The Action Bar is a new feature and it allows you to type the voice commands that you’d otherwise speak to Vlingo. Think of it as a macro launcher. You could either find the SMS application, click the “Menu” button, click the “Compose” button, type “John Smith” in the “To” field followed by “Are you coming to dinner?” or simply type “Text John Smith; Are you coming to dinner?” The idea seems like a good one although I have to admit quite unintuitive. I never think to use it because typing is not a natural way for me to navigate around a smartphone yet.

The feature that I really love is InCar. It allows for your phone to be an integral part of the driving experience and it is based on the inobstrusive but brilliant feature that is called word watch. When you turn on InCar, the app is constantly waiting for the term “Hey Vlingo” for you to give you access to all of Vlingo’s voice command functionality. One nice added feature in 2.60 is the ability to listen using your bluetooth device instead of the phone’s default mic. If your phone has a built-in car dock profile capability, you could replace the default Android Car Dock profile with Vlingo. This worked well with my Nexus One but isn’t as useful with the HTC Desire Z

In terms of performance, I haven’t done a thorough test yet but by unquantified observation, it seems to work just as well as Google Voice with some additional features making it one of my must-install Android applications today.