Speaking Email version 2.0 released

4 years later…

Version 2.0 is now here! Since launching Speaking Email 1.0 four years ago, we’ve come a long way.

We always keep a focus on our core feature of reading out email for those who can’t or don’t want to read the screen. But on top of this we’ve added many features for interacting with your email, primarily by voice.

So, what’s new?

“Compose” command with contacts integration

Send an email to anyone in your phone contacts with our new “compose” command.

“Search” and “account” commands

Two new commands “account” to switch accounts and “search” are available everywhere. You can now control all the functions on the home and inbox listing by voice.

“File” command

If you like to file your messages in folders when you are done with them, this feature is for you. “File” moves the message to a folder on your server, letting you choose the destination folder or sub-folder with your voice.

Auto play body, or not

If you would prefer to just hear the headers and then have Speaking Email ask before reading the body, this new preference is for you.

Replace word

We don’t have room on the dictation commands screen for all our command buttons now, so we’ve put the editing functions under a new “edit” button. The newest, the “replace” dictation command, lets you change a word in the dictated text. Pretty useful if you just need to correct one word that was mis-transcribed.

4 years ago

Just for fun, let’s take a look back and see the evolution of features.

Version 1.0 released was mid 2015 with:

  • Swipe next/back
  • Double tap archive
  • Auto play next
  • Flag
  • Archive
  • Instant reply
  • Gmail protocol
  • Smart(ish) content detection

During 2016 we added:

  • Command button overlay
  • More protocols based on IMAP and ActiveSync
  • Multiple accounts
  • Instant FYI
  • Attachment reading
  • Trash
  • Ignore sender
  • Smart content detection (improved)

In 2017 the faded 70s green was replaced by British racing green and:

  • Dictate reply
  • Voice commands
  • Choose voices
  • Faster, slower
  • Important
  • Large buttons
  • Smart content detection (more improved)
In 2018 we got so many commands we needed a new button choosing screen, plus:

  • Done
  • Mark as read
  • Unread
  • Preferences wizard
  • Forward by dictation
  • Language detection
  • Smart content detection (in 6 languages)

Earlier in 2019 we added:

  • New protocol Office 365 Direct
  • Undo
  • Language switching within email threads
  • Dictation voice commands
  • Inbox listing by voice

And as I mentioned already, these new commands:

  • “Compose” new email
  • “Search” inbox by voice
  • “Account” switcher command
  • “File” to folder
  • “Replace” dictation command

Also in 2019, Microsoft awarded us app partner status. And recently Google certified us as compliant with its new stricter Gmail user data policy.

So try out the new features, and I hope you enjoy using Speaking Email.

Find out more



Approval from Microsoft

Microsoft has approved Speaking Email as a Partner app!

We are excited to announce Speaking Email is now a certified app for running on Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility + Security platform.
We’ve been working with Microsoft to provide Office 365 users with secure access to their email in Speaking Email when they use Microsoft’s mobile security.

Microsoft has a number of security options and ways of referring to its email systems, for example:

– outlook

– office 365

– exchange

– intune

– active sync

Don’t worry, at Speaking Email we handle them all. If you had any trouble connecting in the past, now is the time to try again as we’ve added more connectivity options.

Check it out:

Let us know if your organisation might be interested in enterprise licensing. We can help out with a free trial and evaluation.

Find out more:




Life changing abilities

That was the title of the email I got yesterday. Very proud to see our app making a difference for stroke victims –

“I work as a speech language pathologist, one of my current clients is a woman who has had a recent severe stroke. She went from being only able to repeat words to speaking in sentences with difficulty. Due to the stroke she is unable to read, which had been a social avenue for her. Today I found your app and I put it on her phone. When we used it for the first time she cried. She is now able to listen to all the emails she has received since she had her stroke. Your app has decreased her isolation and drastically improved her quality is life.”

(email from Ruth Ginsburg, Speech Language Pathologist, Boston)

Siri simply not smart enough to read email

Siri simply not smart enough to read email

Research from by digital agency Stone Temple shows Siri was able to answer only one in five questions asked of it. And they weren’t trying to trick it either.

They tried out 5000 questions (including general knowledge and some standard tasks like reminders) on all the leading digital assistants and they all did poorly, but Siri did the worst.

I notice they didn’t ask any of these assistants to read email. Bearing in mind email is the number one activity smartphones are used for, this seems to be missing.

It is unrealistic to expect a general assistant to be able to do everything. Digital assistants are generally best for single answer questions, rather than engaging in an activity.

This is where our voice controlled email reading app Speaking Email has an edge.

It addresses this shortcoming. It is a dedicated app for doing just email reading. Its smarts are around detecting email signatures, disclaimers, reply threads you have seen, and other clutter, and surfacing the important content. It has voice commands to archive, flag, trash, reply by dictation and forward.

It doesn’t attempt to answer 5000 random questions, and it doesn’t have to, so it can focus on being good at helping you get through your backlog of emails.

Activity-dedicated voice apps make sense. The general assistants are creating the demand – consumers (and businesses) are wanting to use smart voice technology. But the assistants are stumbling, not having the smarts to engage in involved activities, and this is where Speaking Email shines.



Look – no hands! How to do email handsfree – both listening and speaking

Look – no hands! How to do email handsfree – both listening and speaking

Earlier this month as we were grilled by the NZ Hi Tech Awards judges one of the judges queries whether the app is truly “hands-free”. It’s hands-free for listening to email but until recently you needed your hands if you wanted to interact with your mail.

We’ve released several new features recently that now make it possible to do email completely hands-free – including replying, forwarding, flagging, archiving or trashing.

Waiting for your command…

Now that we’ve got voice commands working nicely, we figured it would be easy to have Speaking Email listen for commands at the end of each email. Indeed, it was easy and it’s a great new feature, making it fully hands-free to interact with your email.

You can also have it wait for a command at the start of the email, after the headers – say “play” or “continue” or wait 10 seconds for it to carry on as usual and play the email body.

Bluetooth / Steering Wheel buttons

You can now use steering wheel / headset controls – next, previous and pause hardware buttons over Bluetooth or on your headphones (while technically this isn’t “hands free”, you don’t touch the phone!). We support skip next & previous email, rewind and fast forward.

If you hit the “pause” button on your steering wheel / headset, we’ve made it invoke command listening mode, so you can say any command – like “archive”, “trash” or “reply” to dictate a reply. This is released on iOS and coming soon to Android.

Bluetooth Hands-Free Profile (HFP)

We now fully support Bluetooth HFP, which means using the microphone and speakers over Bluetooth. We support Bluetooth A2DP mode also, using the device microphone and a Bluetooth speaker. When a new audio routing is detected, it displays on screen.

Speaking Email even shows the subject and sender on your Bluetooth track display

Playing email content without the clutter

Of course listening to emails works pretty nicely hands-free too, with smart content detection skipping of disclaimers, signatures, email headers, email trails that you’re in, limiting email length, and automatically moving to the next email. You may notice we even shorten common text like dates and times, http://www is shortened to dubdubdub, and we read out smiley faces (can be essential to get the mood of the writer!)

By the way you can dictate smiley faces too. Try it! 🙂


Get your hands on Speaking Email at https://speaking.email

Basic edition is free and premium subscribers pay a piddly $2 a month!

Talk back to your email

Talk back to your email

What? No voice commands?

Many users have asked for voice commands and reply dictation – in fact, they have been our most requested features. We now have both these features fully baked and released. (You may have seen these features already – we put them out and refined them over the past couple of weeks.)

It took a while to get this right: we tried two other voice engines before picking Apple and Google. On iOS we are using the newly opened up iOS voice recogniser that is part of Siri. On Android we use the built-in Google voice recognition.

We chose these because of their wide range of regional accents and languages, low battery usage, and offline usage. Most importantly we tried them and they worked pretty nicely.

Personally, I was skeptical about how useful voice would be. These features took a while to come to fruition because we wanted to do it well or not at all. Given the experiences I’ve had using software like Siri, Talkler, and trying out other voice assistants, I thought voice would be annoying to use.

Gee I’m popular, I’ve got more than 25 emails. At this point, Siri gives up…

If Siri mishears a command it just says “I didn’t understand that” and stops. No chance to try again.

How we did it

We’ve tried to address these sort of issues. I’ll give you a rundown of how it works.

Tap anywhere to see the command buttons. Then either tap a button or you can say its name, like “trash”.


You can say any of the labels on the buttons: “archive”, “trash”, “ignore”, “flag”, “repeat”, “reply”, “forward”, “play”. This makes it very easy to remember what you can say and when.

For the “forward”  command, a list of your preset forwarding recipients is shown. You can say the first word of the email address to select the person to send to. For example for “mike.nelson@beweb.co.nz” say “mike”.

Anywhere you can say a command you can say “help” to find out what you can say, or “stop” to stop listening.

Dictation too

Speaking Email dictation keeps listening as long as the operating system will allow – on iOS this is two minutes and it’s ok if you  pause for breath during this time. At this time on Android unfortunately a pause of a couple of seconds will stop the dictation (so you need to speak without pausing).


When you tap “done” or pause for 10 seconds (2 seconds on Android) Speaking Email repeats back what it thinks you said so you can change it before sending. You can say “redo”, “send”, “cancel” or “more” to add more. If you say “send” or “cancel” it carries on reading your next email to you without further ado.

The little things

We’ve taken care over the little things that make all the difference:

  • Your words always appear on screen as you talk
  • If you say a wrong command, we don’t leave you hanging, we just listen again
  • When you say a command, we repeat it back so you know what action you triggered
  • After a command we keep going, moving on and reading the next email as usual
  • If you say a command like “forward” that needs more input (the recipient name) we’ve made sure the entire experience can be done by voice
  • When we say commands can be done by voice, we mean without looking (not like Siri where half the time you get visual feedback only and hear nothing)

In dictation, Speaking Email uses voice recognition in the language set in your operating system settings. In case this is not what you expect, it’s shown on screen. If you have any problems with the recognition, check your system settings to make sure this language has voice recognition downloaded and available for offline use.

One satisfied user

And you know what? After my initial skepticism I now find the voice commands and dictation incredibly useful and don’t know how I got by without them!

Actually, it’s not just me, other people agree. Here’s Scott Middleton, a sales VP at Access Partners in California:

the game changer for me with your app was your new feature that allows dictating replies and functions. That is a huge advantage for Speaking Email over all the other apps…

I absolutely love the app and being an outside sales rep in the car 4 to 6 hours a day find it incredibly helpful. It is literally freeing up and hour or two of time for me every day I am on the road by having a lot less time at the desk doing email. THANKS!!!

Bonus: disclaimers

We found sometimes the dictation engine would come out with something a little off beat that we hadn’t intended. So we decided to embrace that and added a light hearted disclaimer in our tagline.


You can turn our tagline off in Preferences if you want to, and/or add your own signature.