Dialogue's Great if You Love the Sound of Your Own Voice
Aug 12, 2013 5:00 AM PT
Dialogue by Emiel Janson is available in the Mac App Store for US$6.99.
Dialogue is a new app in the Mac OS X App Store that lets you place and answer smartphone calls on your Mac. So why do you need to take calls on your Mac when an iPhone is already super portable?
Sometimes your iPhone is stuck in a pocket or inside a backpack, bag or purse. I mean, not my purse -- I never put my iPhone in my purse. Still, the phone isn't always handy. Often I'll leave it charging somewhere out of reach, if not in the next room.
Dialogue uses a Bluetooth connection to let you route calls through your Mac, alleviating this admittedly minor problem.
Record Calls, Too
In addition, once you have a call connected, you can record a conversation and save it as an .m4a file to playback on your Mac. If you're a journalist, this ability is particularly handy when you're talking to sources about complicated subjects. If you're a consultant or working on teams, it's handy to record calls to make sure you get all the details, feedback, requirements and tasks nailed down.
Depending on where you're located in the world and who you're talking to, you might need to get their permission to record the conversation or you might run afoul of some law. FYI is all.
So how well does it work? Let's start with setup. To get it working, you need to have Bluetooth enabled on your Mac and iPhone (or smartphone). When you launch the app, an old-school phone icon appears in your toolbar, and the app will automatically launch a browser window to a readme file that steps you through the connection process -- which is basically to click to connect your phone and recognize that a Bluetooth pairing number matches.
Next, stick your iPhone in your pocket. Now you just need someone to call you. When that happens, a popup will appear on your Mac screen. Click to answer. Click again if you want to record. It's easy. Have your conversation. You can hang up, or a terminated call will hang you up and the Dialogue app will retreat back to the tool bar. Innocuous but always there.
To place a call from your Mac, your iPhone obviously needs to be within Bluetooth range. Click on the phone icon and type in a number -- or start typing a name from your Address Book on your Mac (or from Contacts on your iPhone; I'm not sure which it uses since they're all synced up via iCloud). Dialogue will quickly begin prepopulating the dial field with potential names that match. Works great.
Placing and answering calls works great, too. Snappy. If you happen to be holding your iPhone while you're connected to your Mac via Dialogue, you can choose to accept the call via your iPhone by tapping an on-screen button that pops up for you. It's easy.
Unfortunately, in my tests Dialogue gave the people I talked to an echo to contend with -- and depending on my setup, I sometimes heard it, too. Since few people like to hear themselves talk that much, this doesn't lead to great conversations.
At first I thought that my voice was simultaneously traveling into my mic on my Mac, then going to my iPhone via the Bluetooth connection, and then out to the other person -- and perhaps my iPhone's mic was also picking up my voice and sending it to the person on the other end of the call.
If your phone is in your pocket and the mic is muffled, this shouldn't be a problem. I took my iPhone to another room and tried again. No echo that I could detect -- but the person I was talking to could hear an echo.
The developer recommends that you use headphones with Dialogue, so I plugged in my default white Apple iPhone headphones and was treated to some wild interference screeching from my desktop speakers -- and maybe my Mac and headphones, too.
My eardrums didn't start bleeding, but I guarantee that no one is going to be pleased to hear that sort of noise. Depending on your setup, you might never experience this -- I have all sorts of electronic devices on my desk or near my Mac that could cause problems.
My white iPhone headphones did not stop the echo problem, so I tried an old pair without a mic. These sounded great, and but the person on the other end said the echo was still there -- and said I sounded "robotic."
The recoding of this conversation, however, was surprisingly pristine -- simply fantastic, actually, one of the best-sounding recorded phone conversations I've ever heard. Excellent clarity -- and I didn't sound robotic on the recording.
One note here: If you double-click the .m4a file, it'll launch in iTunes, automatically adding itself to your music library. So if you're going to use Dialogue to record a sexy call with your special friend, you might not want that in your iTunes music library.
All-in-All, Maybe Maybe Maybe
I really wanted Dialogue to work well, without an echo. I'm going to try a few different kinds of headsets, and I might even spring for a headset that's designed for phone/Skype conversations.
The Dialogue website doesn't offer up any special models that work great, nor does it specify the kind of headset you need, but if the developers of Dialogue can figure out an update that will remove the echo, they'll have a serious 5-star winner -- the echo is a common complaint.
Until then, I can't really trust it for important calls. Your experience might vary, though, depending on your smartphone and Mac combination.
Want to Pitch an App Review?
Is there an app you'd like to suggest for review? Please send your iOS picks to me, and I'll consider giving them a whirl.
And use the Talkback feature below to add your comments!