The Voice Recorder I Want

Voice Recorder

I love technology, but there’s one problem I have yet to solve in a way that I consider “safe”.

I generally carry two devices with me: my mobile phone and a dedicated pocket voice recorder.

I’d rather only carry the first.

The only reason I carry the second is because I can use it without looking at it.

That may sound trivial, but it’s really about safety: I want to be able to record a voice memo while I’m driving. With the device I can pick it up, feel where the buttons are, and record away, all without taking my eyes off the road. It also works well in the middle of the night when I don’t have my glasses on.

I have not yet been able to find an app for my phone that allows me to do exactly that. Every app I’ve seen requires that, at some point, I look at the screen to push a button. Typically I need to look at the screen in order to run the app, or I need to look at it to start or stop the recording.

What makes this frustrating is that I can conceive of solutions that would work wonderfully. For example I can envision a scenario where I shake the phone (a function that some phones support) to start the recording regardless of what else the phone is doing, and then shake it again to stop. Simple. Elegant. No peeking needed.

When I mention this to my friends, one solution that’s often mentioned lately is “OK Google”, or Siri, or Alexa, or Cortana.

From what I can see there’s no way to do exactly what I want: a voice memo, not a transcription (I’ll be satisfied with a transcription only when accuracy is significantly better than it is today). There’s also no clear way to stop the transcription – either it times out after some period of silence – problematic in noisy environments, or if I happen to pause too long because I’m focussed on my driving – or it stops for other, more random reasons.

So, I carry two devices. One an incredibly powerful general purpose pocket computer, the other a device dedicated to the one function I can’t get the first to do for me.

Hopefully I’ll stumble into a solution.

If you have an idea, by all means, leave me a comment. My current phone is a Google Pixel, and I realize that’s part of what might be limiting me – I’m not sure it exposes “shake” functionality, for example.


  1. How about using Tasker to create a recipe (or whatever they call their scripts) to turn on your specific voice recorder app on a shake, and then turn it off with another shake?

  2. Left a subpage of my website that you might consider.

    • While it’s an interesting solution for a class of problem, I don’t quite see how it applies to what I’m trying to do.