Voice dialing is pretty common these days, but the standard vox-recognition systems used by the major cell carriers leave a lot to be desired. Let's say, for example, you've got the studio lines for your favorite New York City radio station saved in your address book, by either call letters (e.g. WAXQ) or it's "public identity" (in this case, Q-104.3). Chances are good that, if you try to voice-dial using either, your phone's gonna go "huh?" or, at best, "Sorry. No match found."
In an attempt to solve this, we stumbled across a neat (and free) app called Vlingo, which adds not only better voice-dialing recognition, but improved voice control of your phone in general. Vlingo currently supports the iPhone (download from the App Store) and various Blackberry handsets (they'll email a link to your Berry, then you download and install over the air); a flavor for Nokia N95, E51, or E71 phones is beta-testing even as we speak.
We tested version 3.0 of Vlingo on a Blackberry Curve 8330 (Verizon). Download and installation was painless; Vlingo asked (politely) if it could seize control of the Curve's default voice-dial side button. Once installed, pressing and holding said button prompted Vlingo to listen for our command — in this case, "Call" and the address-book entry. So we told it "Call W-A-X-Q." Bingo! Entry found and dialed. (Vlingo looks at first/last name, then company name, to attempt a match.) We then changed the company name to "Q104" and tried it again; it took a couple of tries, but Vlingo finally parsed what we were saying. (The company promises that as you use the app, it learns how you speak and becomes more accurate.)
But this is more than just a fancy-schmancy voice-dialing program. Vlingo can also understand commands to launch standard Blackberry apps (calendar, address book, etc.), initiate Web searches via either Yahoo or Google, and transcribe notes, to-do tasks, even text messages to fellow Vlingo users. (It won't let you text just anyone, or dictate emails, unless you spring for the US$17.99 upgrade).
There are some other limitations to the free edition. Vlingo won't launch third-party apps (such as Blackberry App World), and while it supports verbal status updates to Facebook and Twitter, it does so using the mobile web versions. You can still use your Bluetooth headset, but pushing the headset button launches the default voice-dialer, not Vlingo. These would all be nice features to add to a future version, or at the very least include as incentives to buy the premium upgrade. As it stands, though, Vlingo is a very useful free tool, worth downloading and mucking around with.