Hear it out loud with VoxDox
VoxDox is a new iOS and Android app from DnB. It’s available now as a free ad-supported download from the App Store and Google Play, and features additional in-app purchases to unlock services such as unlimited file conversions. This review is based on the iOS version, tested on an iPhone 4S.
VoxDox is a text-to-speech app that allows users to load in files and have them read back to them using a variety of realistic voices. Before starting to use the app, the user must sign up for a new account using either their email address or Facebook — in the latter case, the app automatically and silently posts a message to Facebook informing the user’s friends that they have installed it, which is not always desirable.
Once into the app proper, the user must create a new “project” to proceed. Projects can consist of several pages, and can be made public or private. Public projects are available to other VoxDox users via the “VoxBox” facility, while private ones are not listed publicly. Projects may optionally be shared with Facebook friends independently of whether or not they are listed publicly on VoxBox.
To add a new page to a project, users must simply tap the “Add” button in the top-right corner. From here, they may add pages in several ways — via the camera or photo library, from a URL, manually input or via the device’s file system. The camera/photo library option features an optical character recognition (OCR) system that allows users to “scan” documents and use the app to have them read aloud. The file option prompts users to browse through folders on the device, though on iOS it’s not at all clear how to actually get files into the correct location to be recognized. The app’s help file suggests that it is possible to share files from the iOS Mail app, but there was seemingly no option to do so when tested with a simple .txt file. This feels like an option that was ported over from Android and not really optimized for the different way iOS handles files — it would have perhaps been better to implement a Wi-Fi based “virtual file server” solution that many other apps do.
Once some source material has been loaded in, it takes a few moments to process into the selected voice — several voice settings are available for a number of different languages in both male and female options. Once it is processed, it can be played back at will even when the device is not connected to the Internet, though additional files may not be loaded or converted until the user restores the connection.
The app monetizes through a combination of advertising and imposing limitations on users as to what they can load and convert. The specific restrictions aren’t made particularly clear to the user up-front. The user may either purchase bundles of conversions, allowing a particular number of various file types and images to be converted to speech, or subscriptions for one month or three months at a time. The app always displays its purchasing options in US dollars, even in other territories — though the user’s local App Store (in the case of the iOS version, anyway) will ask to confirm the in-app purchase using their local currency after an option has been tapped on.
On the whole, VoxDox is a reasonable app that produces some high-quality text-to-speech output, but its interface is confusing and unnecessarily obtuse, clearly not particularly well-designed for iOS in particular, and not especially transparent about the limitations it imposes on users. Since it’s free to try, there’s little risk in downloading it and seeing if it fits one’s needs, but to be honest Siri on newer iOS devices does a perfectly adequate job of text-to-speech in most circumstances without requiring additional downloads or purchases.
You can follow VoxDox’s progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.