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Review: decent phone call (!) / note / MP3 recorder VITO AudioNotes 1.3 out!

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#1
Menneisyys

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I’ve reviewed ViTO SoundExplorer, the big brother (and, to some degree, a predecessor) of VITO Technology’s new title in the Windows Mobile Audio Recording Bible, the definite resource of EVERYTHING audio recording-related. In the meantime, ViTO has also come out a specialized version of SoundExplorer, targeting the folks that would prefer making quick voice notes (or, for that matter, record any kind of audio at high quality) and / or record phone calls.

While most Windows Mobile-based Pocket PC Phone Edition (in the new, WM6 parlance, “Windows Mobile Professional”; from now on, I refer to them as “PPC PE” devices) models aren’t capable of making quality phone call recordings, some (not very common) PPC PE models have no problems at recording.

With the “little brother”, the MS Smartphone (WM6 Standard) platform, the situation is far better about the half of the current models allow for recording phone calls, even the pretty new, cheap and recommended HTC Oxygen (aka Orange SPV C100, HTC S310). Unfortunately, some other models, for example, the otherwise HIGHLY recommended HTC Vox (aka HTC S710, Orange SPV E650) do NOT support call recording. (Just ignore if somebody states the opposite – unfortunately, many people just don’t know what they speak about when talking about call recording quality. My measurements are VERY reliable as I do all of them on MY devices and, therefore, my info isn’t based on hearsay.)

Please see the article Windows Mobile device manufacturers & Microsoft, we DO need phone recording capabilities!, paying special attention to following the links; particularly the PPCT one – it explains EVERYTHING about all these questions.

Other call recording apps

Up until recently, the only really useful call recorder application had been the free PMRecorder. While having its share of problems (the need for using a third-party tool to convert its output to be playable with any other tool; the need to manually start it before automatic call recording and the fact that it runs as a process, which can easily result in its purging from memory; the lack of sophisticated audio codecs like MP3 or Speex), it’s an excellent and reliable tool really worth checking out; particularly if you’re into free and/or Smartphone-compliant apps.

Then came the beta versions of the forthcoming Resco Audio Recorder 4, which, while keeping (and, Speex-wise, even enhancing) its really great codecs, added call (auto)recording support. It’s a really excellent app well worth giving a try. Its three major problems are only the following:
  • no Smartphone-compliance as of yet (YES, I’ve tried even on my WM6 QVGA HTC Vox)
  • its MP3 encoder is really bad and should never be used
  • the Speex encoder (the best encoder for voice storage, memory usage / quality-wise) uses a lot of CPU time. This means you MUST overclock your slower (for example, 195/200 MHz TI OMAP-based) devices so that it can work OK. And, even at running your TI OMAP device at 273 MHz, you will encounter occassional stuttering when playing back the recording.
Finally arrived VITO AudioNotes 1.3, which, while keeping its excellent MP3 encoder (it’s capable of making really QUALITY recordings even at 64 kbps, unlike Resco Audio Recorder, which is unable to make quality recordings at any bit speed), added the necessary framework (autostart, storing caller / callee ID / number, the date etc) needed for call recording.

Getting, using

Get it from HERE. Note that the PPC (PE) and the Smartphone versions are exactly the same and are interchangeable. Install, start.

To enable call recording, go to Menu / Recording and tick in “Calls autorecord”. If you have a PPC PE / Smartphone not supporting direct call recording, you may also want to tick in “Speakerphone” in here. Then, your handheld will automatically enable the speakerphone upon all calls so that the built-in mike of your handheld will have an easier time picking up the voice of the other party. (Of course, it won’t at all work with (wired / Bluetooth) headset-based configurations. Then, nothing of the other party will be heard on the recording. Also, you will still have a hard time hearing the other party made on a recording on a noisy street.)

Finally, in the same “Recording” submenu, you will want to configure where your files should be stored at in “Record to”. It uses the built-in storage by default.

You may also want to review the recording format in the “Recording format” menu here; however, I don’t think you’d want to change to some other format from the really high-quality and memory-efficient “MP3 Medium quality” (64 kbps, 44 KHz).

After this, all your calls will be auto-recorded in the target directory (\My Documents\My Audio Notes), the files containing both the caller/callee ID / number (and if it’s not available – for example, it’s an incoming call from a hidden number -, “Record”) and the exact starting date / time of the call as in the following screenshot:

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This is VITO’s app running on a VGA PPC PE device. Note that I’ve also made screenshots showing it running on Smartphones:

A standard 176*220 MS Smartphone (WM6 Standard) screenshot; the same on a QVGA WM6 Smartphone (HTC Vox) in Portrait mode and in Landscape.

Compared to the alternative call recorder apps,

The latest version of VITO AudioNotes is indeed highly recommended, particularly
  • if you have a Smartphone (and not a Pocket PC PE, where you could also consider Resco’s app)
  • want quality MP3 recording capabilities (PMRecorder doesn’t support non-standard audio encoders at all and Resco’s MP3 support is VERY bad)
  • you have a Pocket PC PE with a slower CPU (for example, the TI OMAP) and you can’t / don’t want to overclock it, meaning you won’t be able to use the Speex encoder of Resco’s app
  • want to be sure recording will always work (which is an issue with PMRecorder which, again, runs as a process and is, therefore, prone to operating system-level process shutdown in case of memory / process shortage)
  • want to make advantage of the auto-speakerphone functionality (you don’t want to rely on activating it yourself manually)
I’ve also created a comparison / feature chart summarizing most of the points I’ve elaborated on above.

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Note that I do NOT include LivePVR by LLC Softtrends and mVoice 5.5 by MotionApps in this review. The former title is definitely inferior to all the three titles and I still haven’t checked out the latest, 5.5 version of the latter. I wasn’t particularly happy with the earlier version (version 5) of the latter and, as with LivePVR, I recommend it NOT to be taken seriously by anyone wanting to record her or his phone calls. With version 5.5, the situation may have changed. However, as version 5.5 still doesn’t offer the much more memory usage effective MP3 / Speex codecs, I still wouldn’t consider it a really decent alternative to the apps of Resco / VITO.

Also note that, in this review, I’ve elaborated mostly on the call recording capabilities of the app. That is, I haven’t tested features like one-button quick recording, protection against unintentional screen activation (something Resco 4 REALLY excels at) and the like. The REAL tests were done on the HTC S310/Oxygen (an excellent budget Smartphone, highly recommended ), HTC S710/Vox (a brand new high-res (QVGA) WM6 Smartphone; it’s really cool except for the inability to record calls flawlessly), HTC Universal and HTC Wizard (the latter two being PPC PE devices; of course, neither of them allow for flawless call recording).

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#2
nehvada

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this reminds me of my favorite "wanna-have-application" which i am still searhing the web for. is ther any onboard answering machine available for WM5 smartphones?

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#3
Menneisyys

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this reminds me of my favorite "wanna-have-application" which i am still searhing the web for. is ther any onboard answering machine available for WM5 smartphones?


Nope because of the lack of the call recording capabilities on several Smartphone (and most PPC PE) models.

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#4
VitOlga

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The main advantage is that VITO AudioNotes is 3 times cheaper than Resco Audio Recorder, its constant rival close on the heels. So you can get a better audio recorder for lower price! VITO AudioNotes costs ONLY $7 at http://vitotechnolog...audionotes.html.

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#5
Jim in LA

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I am trying to map a one key recording (Tilt2 0 WinMo 6.5) to begin recording a phone call. My old resco on Palm Treo could do this but so far I only see the ability to bring the recorder up - executing a second finger press to actually begin recording (I couldn't possibly record every call and have to go back to delete the 90% of useless files that would be there).

I tried ACR (free) for a while which had a nice feature to ASK after every call if I wanted to save the recording. However - when multiple calls would come in - it would truncate the existing call and not re-record the caller on hold.

any ideas? I don't see that either VITO or Resco can do this. I thought maybe there was an argument that could be fed with the executable on Resco - but Resco customer support won't respond.

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