WhatsApp testing feature to transcribe voice notes to text

 ·14 Sep 2021

Instant messaging service WhatsApp is working on a new feature that will automatically convert voice notes to text.

This is according to a recent report from WABetaInfo, which said the voice transcription feature is currently under development on WhatsApp for iPhone and would be available in a future update for beta testers.

This feature could be handy in situations where a user cannot listen to a voice note or wants to read a message quickly instead of taking their time to listen to any long-winded ramblings from family members or friends.

Converting the voice to text would require the content of the audio message to be analysed, and an immediate assumption is that the voice note would have to be sent to a Facebook server for transcription.

However, WABetaInfo reported that this will not be the case, and Apple’s own speech recognition technology will instead handle the transcription on iPhone.

iPhone users will have to permit WhatsApp to access this service and agree to their speech data being sent to Apple, which may be used to improve its speech recognition technology.

The image below shows the prompt users would receive when choosing to transcribe a voice note.


After the transcription is done, the converted text is stored locally and shown in a message underneath the voice note.


WABetaInfo said it was unclear if there were any plans to deploy a similar feature to WhatsApp on Android.

Given that WhatsApp rarely implements a feature on one platform which it does not eventually bring to the other, it seems likely.

What remains to be seen is which speech recognition service it will rely on with Android devices, with one possible candidate being Google’s speech-to-text API.

It should be noted that WhatsApp voice note transcription is already available through third-party apps.

However, it is not recommended that you use any services that can read your messages or upload the content to online servers for analysis, as this could inadvertently expose your data to malicious parties.

Read: New hate speech laws planned for South Africa – including jail time for messages sent via WhatsApp

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