WhatsApp to transcribe voice messages with an assist from Apple

WhatsApp is working on a feature that would enable users on iOS to transcribe voice messages, with Apple lending a hand.

A new report from WABetaInfo reveals an in-development feature that could enable users to receive transcripts of voice messages sent using the service.

While this would be a noteworthy addition, perhaps the most noteworthy element is WhatsApp handing off the file to Apple to handle the transcription. The report points out that Apple’s speech recognition tech will handle the feature and that will mean giving WhatsApp permission to access the speech recognition tech.

“How will this service work?” the report asks. “Your messages won’t be sent to WhatsApp or Facebook server for getting the transcription, but Apple provides it. Your voice message will also help Apple to improve its speech recognition technology, but it won’t be directly linked to your identity.”

WhatsApp voice transcript
Image credit: WABetaInfo

The pop-up notification: says “Speech data from this app will be sent to Appel to process your requests. This will also help Apple improve its specs recognition technology.”

It’s not clear what Apple will do with this data, but it’s something that’ll prick the ears of privacy advocates. The feature is entirely optional, but this remains a question that will need to be answered. It’s possible that the speech recognition will take place on the device, rather than be sent to the cloud, but we await clarification.

Earlier this year Apple announced it was moving Siri speech recognition offline in iOS 15 meaning your commands stay on the device.

Once transcribed, users will also be able to jump to different, timestamped points in the voice message.

WhatsApp voice transcription iOS
Image credit: WABetaInfo

There’s currently no indication that this feature will become available on WhatsApp for Android, web or desktop. It’s not even a given that the feature will become available to all users on iOS as the feature remains very much in development.

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