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For the past five years, we've been using our fingers to navigate our iPhones, tapping and pinching to control every square inch of our favorite apps. But as Apple showed us with Siri, "the world's best pointing device" might not be the best way.
With Sonar, the popular Dolphin Browser wants to be among the first to test that idea. It might look like a cheap rip-off of Siri, but Sonar -- available as a $0.99 in-app purchase for the existing free app -- brings voice control to Dolphin's lengthy list of features, adding a unique layer of interaction far superior to what Siri brings to Safari.
Where Safari's vocal commands are limited to Web searches and dictation, Sonar lets you fully control the browser without touching the screen. For instance, if you want to search eBay for a new 4G iPad using voice control and Safari, there are several steps: 1) launch Siri; 2) search for eBay; 3) tap the eBay link; 4) tap the search field and the microphone button; 5) say "4G iPad"; 6) tap the magnifying glass. With Sonar, all you need to do is launch Dolphin, shake your phone, and say "eBay 4G iPad."
Everything from bookmarks and tabs to Facebook and YouTube searches can be controlled using Sonar, and its Nuance-powered technology makes it just as accurate as Siri, but its usefulness will vary. For one, it's not available on the Dolphin Browser for iPad; for another, giving vocal commands to my phone while at work -- or anywhere someone could hear me, for that matter -- hasn't quite reached the level of social acceptability. Your mileage may vary in that regard.
The bottom line. Dolphin positions itself ahead of the pack with Sonar, but it also might be a bit ahead of its time.
iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 4.0 or later
Incredible accuracy. Long list of commands. Clever shake-to-talk integration.
Questionable usefulness. Not available for native iPad app.