Apps are all around us. They touch nearly every corner of our lives and actively shape the ever-expanding world around us. From the services that park our cars to the maps that help us drive them around, today’s apps are a far cry from the strands of novelty code that came into existence 15 years ago. To help you understand it all, here’s Kim’s handy guide on narration for apps!
- Apps Shape Our World
- Why is a Narrator’s Voice So Important?
- The 6 Types of Apps (and the 4 Kinds of Narration that Make Them Tick)
- Top Three Text to speech Apps
- Text to Speech – Pros and Cons
Apps Help Shape the World Around Us
Back then, all it took was a visual-based app that could turn your iPhone into a lighter or a pitcher of beer, but as technology advances, so too do the needs of those who use it. These days, standards are far more exacting, and perfection is almost a prerequisite – even the crudest apps attempt an immersive user experience and professional touch. And what could be more immersive than the human voice?
Why is a Professional Voice So Important in Narration for Apps?
As revolutionary as the early days of the film industry may have been, a new world opened up for moving pictures when people threw audio into the mix. The same goes for apps.
We’ve come a long way from what apps used to be – what were once (now seen as) hollow gimmicks and parlor tricks have quickly become a fundamental component of the modern-day. From AI assistants to the native text-to-speech standard on every Android device, hands-free technology is the way of the future, and apps are the stepping stone that helps make it a reality.
So when you think of the different types of narration that go into apps, what exactly comes to mind? Is it the voice that sounds out directions from your navigation app, the scorekeeper in Candy Crush – the AI voiceovers that narrate Tiktok videos and Instagram reels? While each of these examples is technically correct, voice-over narration is a fundamental building block to most apps on the market today – even if you don’t always notice it.
The 6 Categories of Apps
As mentioned before, app narration is a lot more common than you might realize – and there are countless examples of it in day-to-day use in both the personal and professional worlds.
When a corporation wants to roll out an employee training app for new hires, they often use a pro voice actor. Because a pro-voice narrator can articulate just about any lesson plan into clear and concise bytes of information, people can absorb the information better.
The six categories of apps are as follows:
- Social Media: Apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok allow people to connect virtually.
- Lifestyle: Any fitness, music, dating, food, or travel app that helps you navigate the channels of your life.
- Entertainment: Music, Netflix, and Audiobooks – did I leave anything out? Any app that allows you to stream, download or access popular media is considered an entertainment app.
- Productivity: Anything to manage your workflow, finances, and personal tasks from the tap of a phone screen. This can include virtual assistants, invoicing software, editing apps, and text-to-speech technology available on every smartphone.
- Video Games: Video games – well, mobile video game apps require little-to-no example, but if they did, popular MMORPGs like Clash of Clans and Pokemon Go have dominated the public eye for the last few years.
- Education: If an app is meant to teach you something, say how to do a handstand or learn a new language, then it’s an education app.
4 Main Types of Narration for Apps
Now that we’ve got a better understanding of the different kinds of apps on the market, it’s time to look at the types of narration that make them tick.
1. eLearning Narrations
No two people learn the same way, so when an instructor develops a lesson plan, they typically cast a wide net that doesn’t cater to everyone in the room. With the onset of the global pandemic, eLearning has become increasingly used throughout every level of education and set a new standard for anyone wanting to take education into their own hands.
The beauty of eLearning lies in the flexibility of whatever’s being taught. That’s why eLearning applications like Duolingo (one of the apps I’ve narrated for), and other apps that teach additional languages on the go, have become so popular over the last decade. Because users can control the speech rate of their teachers’ voice over and look up helpful commentary in real-time, they get to study modules at their own pace and fully immerse themselves in the original message of whatever it is they’re learning.
eLearning narrations combine on-screen text, stills, short videos or animations, and audio narrations to create a hybrid learning experience that makes lessons easy to understand. Internal (and public-facing) corporate education is another dynamic learning-on-the-go situation offered within a large company’s apps.
2. Explainer Narrations
If you’ve ever used a home exercise app that coaches you through a workout routine, yoga flow, or meditation session, then you’ve probably listened to the distinct voice quality of a narrator explain what to do in intricate detail.
Similar to how the production of eLearning narrations skyrocketed in popularity with the Covid19 pandemic, explainer videos and apps have become a go-to standard the average person uses daily because of how accessible they are.
In the past, you’d have to pay an industry professional, like a coach or yoga instructor, to lay out the foundations of the exercise for the day. App narrations on platforms like these explain the content with natural-sounding voices that an AI text-to-speech app simply can’t replicate.
In-app explainers are short. Usually, in thirty to 60 seconds, they break down different aspects of how something works within the app. The in-app series of explainers I narrated for the Everdays app is an excellent example.
3. Narrative Storytelling
We’ve come a long way from the days of solitaire, centipede, and asteroids being the apex of mobile gaming technology. Today, just about anybody with enough free time can develop their own HD mobile game in a fraction of the time it would have taken even a decade ago. That said, we exist in a state of overwhelming abundance as far as mobile games are concerned – which means people have significantly higher standards than they used to.
Because most of these apps are free, except for a few in-app purchases, consumers expect more for less, and standing apart from the competition will only continue to get more complex. That means each RPG game needs to have a more compelling storyline than the last. Each narrative needs to be more immersive than the one before it.
People Have Naturally Short Attention Spans
People have embarrassingly short attention spans, and the best way app creators have learned to keep them engaged is through the human voice. If you’ve ever played CandyCrush, you’ve heard the female voice announcing your combo streak or score. I’ve been the in-app voice for bingo games, kid’s bedtime story games, and military-themed video games. Using an affirmative voice commentary encourages people to keep playing because they want continued validation.
4. Interactive Narrations
Interactive narrations are a far more recent development but essentially refer to an AI-driven narrator’s voice that people can interact with. If your phone doesn’t have a virtual assistant, think of it like an AI chatbot with a human voice. Companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google all make the most out of interactive narrations as a baseline for most of their new products going forward. And those are just the big guys.
Third-Party Narration for Apps with a Responsive Voice
Every day, more and more third-party apps crop up to fill the particular needs of each person with primary access to a smartphone and the google play store. If you don’t enjoy the native text-to-speech on your android, poof, you have another option with Jarvis AI or Voice Assistant.
If you prefer Alexa as an AI assistant to Google, you can switch to that too – we live in an age where we can mix and match these apps to our hearts’ content. Then there are apps like Replika that focus more on an interactive AI companion that can speak with you.
Text-to-Speech Apps Give You Customized Narration
Also known as a TTS app, any service in the Google Play and App Store that translates your text files into audio can be considered a text-to-speech app. While most are paid (some cost nearly as much as a professional voice actor), some free models exist with many voices and multiple languages.
Most iPhones and Android devices have built-in text-to-speech functions that read your text messages, emails, and web pages right off your phone, so you don’t have to look at the on-screen items. Simply speak to your phone as if it were an assistant and ask it to read whatever’s happening in your notifications.
Top 3 Text-to-Speech Apps
- Narrator’s Voice App
While it contains both in-app purchases and premium versions, the narrator’s voice app is one of the best text-to-speech applications on the market. Millions of content creators throughout the world incorporate it. Whether the intended use is to narrate web pages, publish youtube videos, or just share amusing messages with friends, the free version offers several pleasant-sounding voices. With only a few clicks, the narration app converts your text files to the AI narrator’s voice of your choice.
- Voice Aloud Reader: Voice Aloud Reader might have a fraction of the active downloads Narrator’s Voice App does, but that doesn’t mean it’s not powerful in its own right. VAR is a lightweight app that allows users to upload text files, web pages, HTML files, and eBooks into readily available audio files.
- Talk Free: This app is another inexpensive alternative that lets users import text from third-party apps or web pages and transcribe them into audio. It’s available on both the Google Play store and AppleStore.
Text-to-Speech Apps: Pros and Cons
As helpful as text-to-speech apps are, they still have their drawbacks. AI-powered digital narrators might be considered a saving grace, but the truth is they can be just as likely to hurt your business or brand. Although these programs are excellent alternatives for content creators on a budget, lifelike TTS software is still in its infancy. It quite apparently lacks the heart and soul of a real person.
While some platforms (like the Narrator’s Voice App) offer more than a few professional-sounding voices from authentic narrators, they still have a long way to go from the real thing, and it’s always better to go with a professional voice-over artist. What you get from a professional app narrator is a real person who understands your text and the people it’s written for and knows exactly how to breathe life into your project with the proper delivery.