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Recording interviews using mobile devices

Just when I figured I’d tried every last interview recording technology I could use (and omitted ones I don’t care for anymore – goodbye cassettes), along comes a technology that improves on what I’ve used before. That’s why this series of blog posts on interview recording technology is six posts long – the latest one blew me away and has come in handy more than once.

Here’s a recap of the first five posts in this series:

Now I need to cover a class of tools many people already know about – mobile apps. But mobile apps, as mundane as they may seem today, can still surprise.

Smartphones and tablets usually ship with audio recording apps, and third-party developers make many others available via app stores. They’re as easy to use as voice recorders and, given how many people have smartphones, I expect these apps are biting into sales of voice recorders.


The app I’m thinking of, though, goes farther than just voice. Yet when you look at it, there isn’t much to Notability. This mobile app may have the simplest interface of any of my recording devices. Notability lets you take notes using your finger or a stylus on a tablet or smartphone while using the microphone on your device to pick up audio. (The clever app icon says it all to me.)

The software synchronizes the audio to the notes so you can tap anywhere in your notes, drawings, figures and so forth to hear what was said when you wrote those notes. It’s like a Livescribe Echo for the tablet, with recording and playback machinery in the “paper” instead of the “pen.”

Recording and note-taking using Notability

Start the app, open a page, start the recording and start writing. FYI: You aren’t tied to recording audio while you take notes. Similarly, you can record audio without taking notes.


Tap your notes where you want to hear what was said. You can do this on your mobile device or, if you synchronize your notes, on your computer using the Notability desktop app.

The quality of the audio depends on the quality of a tablet’s microphone. (More modest tablets might not have microphones.) The audio is clear on my 2012-vintage iPad either in close quarters or in assembly halls.

You’ll probably want the most internal memory you can get on a device since audio files, by their nature, are much larger than text or image files.

Have you used mobile apps to record interviews? Write about your experiences in the comments below.