Random Thoughts – Randosity!

Google Android: How to fix Speech to Text “Couldn’t Connect” error

Posted in Android by commorancy on April 3, 2012

While this isn’t an overly common problem that I’ve found with Android, it is a problem that I have run into that has just baffled me.. until now.  Note, I am running Android 2.2 on my LG Optimus. To use the speech to text functionality (specifically voice search or voice keyboard input), you are required to download a package onto Android initially.  After downloading, I thought that I would be able to use this functionality all of the time. Let’s explore why this isn’t true.

Text to Speech Input Troubles

On the Android Keyboard (that is, the non-Swype keyboard input), there is a small microphone symbol.  Why this isn’t on the Swype keyboard is anyone’s guess?  If you click the little microphone, the feature activates and allows you to speak your text.  The phone is then supposed to convert your speech into text.  This is particularly handy while driving. Unfortunately, most of the time I always seemed to see the error ‘Couldn’t Connect’ when attempting using this functionality.  After all, I had downloaded the necessary packages.  At first I thought it had something to do with the microphone.  So, I plugged in different headsets and different bluetooth devices, but it still only randomly works.  Sometimes it works perfectly and other times not.  I also tried restarting my phone thinking there was some kind of service that was not working properly.  No luck with any of this.  For a while, I had given up on even using it.  However, I finally decided to get to the bottom of this issue.

This would seem to be a very handy feature while in the car.  And, it is, when it works.  In my car, however, most of the time it doesn’t work.  I couldn’t figure this one out at all. I kept thinking how lame it is that the one feature you absolutely need while driving is Speech to Text.  Yet, it is the single feature that is the most unreliable.  However, today I have finally realized why this functionality only intermittently works. It requires the Internet to function.

The Internet?

Why would this service need the internet?  Apparently, whatever data was downloaded only enables the feature, but it doesn’t actually do the speech to text conversion in the phone.  Apparently, the audio input is sent off to one of Google’s servers on the Internet (can you say, “Privacy Issue”) to be processed and the text sent back to the phone after conversion.  The phone doesn’t actually do the conversion.

My Rant

While I understand the audio processing needed to decode an audio file may not be capable within the phone (although, Siri seems to do a great job offline in the iPhone), the phone should at least have some offline capabilities.  However, the error message here is just absolutely stupid.  It doesn’t explain anything.  If the Internet is not available and this service requires it, the phone should pop up a message that either explains that no Internet is available or it should simply remove that functionality from the keyboard (grey it out) until the Internet is available.  Why try to allow use of this functionality when the Internet is not available?  This is both a confusing and stupid design.  Google, you need to fix this design fast.

So, you’re probably asking why it periodically worked in my car?  First, my phone is not Internet enabled.  Second, I refuse to pay $80 a month for a 3G data plan that’s half the speed of my cable service and offers half or less the amount of data at twice the price.  Instead, I pay for an ‘unlimited’ MiFi device that I don’t always turn on in my car.  Sometimes it’s on, sometimes it isn’t.  That explains why this functionality sometimes works and sometimes not.

I use the MiFi specifically because it works with all of my devices and is not locked to only one device.  It allows for more data throughput, due to the plan rate. It is also a non-contract prepaid service, so I don’t have to worry about being stuck in a hugely long contract.  If something better comes along, I just stop payment and walk away with no penalties.  Specifically, I use Virgin Mobile’s MiFi that is actually using the Sprint 3G Network. I digress.

How To Fix

If you’ve been searching all over the Internet trying to figure out why this functionality only sparsely works and how to fix it, this feature requires the Internet.  If your phone is not 24/7 Internet capable and you use WiFi for connectivity in select places, like myself, you will run into this problem when trying to use ‘Speech to Text’ from the Android keyboard while there is no Internet connectivity.  To fix this issue, you either need to subscribe to a phone dataplan so you have ‘Always On’ Internet service or carry a MiFi device around with you and turn it on when you want to use Speech to Text.  A hassle yes, but complain to Google as they are the ones that designed it to require the use of a Google server to decode the audio.

So, there you have it.  Problem solved, mostly.  At least, it’s solved for Android 2.2.  If your have a later version of Android, your mileage may vary.

[UPDATE: 2012-05-04]

My bad.  It appears that Siri does, in fact, require the Internet for Speech to Text conversion just like Android.  So, I guess this article applies to the iPhone as well.

27 Responses

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  1. fillist said, on July 8, 2014 at 7:50 am

    i realized if u have magic jack app on you phone it blocks the feature for voice search and video function so u have to disable it for it to work

    • commorancy said, on July 9, 2014 at 5:32 am

      Since I haven’t tried the Magic Jack app on Android, I’ll have to take your word for this. Thanks for the info.

  2. Amber said, on April 10, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    When i hit the little microphone to speak text it says “audio problem” so someone please tell me what to do to fix this…. tell me a way to fix this please …. thanks

    • commorancy said, on April 13, 2014 at 9:20 pm

      If you don’t subscribe to internet access on your phone, you cannot use the text to speech. When you receive ‘audio problem’ after clicking the microphone, check to see if you are online. If not, you will need to locate internet access and then try again.

  3. matthew said, on December 7, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    For me it turned out Zoiper application was the problem. If Zoiper is running all the voice services dont work.

    • commorancy said, on December 7, 2013 at 5:08 pm

      Good catch. I don’t have Zoiper on my phone. I’m curious how you figured that out?

  4. Marie Stockwell said, on December 1, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    But I have full WiFi, full 4g. Why does it say no connection?!

    • commorancy said, on December 1, 2013 at 2:58 pm

      Make sure you can web browse. If that works, it could be your router blocking it.

  5. anonymous said, on April 15, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    Those Bastards!!!!

  6. John S said, on April 5, 2013 at 4:11 am

    help you know didn’t help

    • commorancy said, on April 5, 2013 at 10:26 am

      Most times, the help doesn’t help. You have to rely on other data sources to get the things you need.

  7. Bill Pummell said, on October 11, 2012 at 12:30 am

    http://www.usemydroid.com/android-voice-commands-fix-tip-7/

    This helped, but I also found that by disabling WiFi I was able to make it work.
    I went and cleaned the cache and then found it worked on WiFi.

    • commorancy said, on October 11, 2012 at 1:52 am

      Hi Bill,

      Yes, your solution will work. But, let me clarify your comment for any future readers. You can disable WiFi and make this work if you have a data plan and a 3G or 4G enabled data service. For phone owners who are using a phone without a data plan or without a 3G/4G enabled phone, disabling WiFi won’t work. So, I just wanted to clarify that disabling WiFi only works if you have a phone data plan.

      I mention this because not all Android owners are subscribing to a data plan on their phone as data plans are costly. I do not currently subscribe to a data plan because I carry around a MiFi device to use instead as it’s more flexible and works with multiple devices (and costs the same or less than a phone data plan).

      Thanks.

  8. Tim said, on September 7, 2012 at 2:31 am

    I found that its in the routers fire wall – If you turn fire wall security off – Voice to text works fine, I’m not sure what ports would need to be opened for it to work

  9. connie said, on August 21, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    On my old Nokia 5800 Music Express I could use Vlingo for talk to text without any internet connection. I had paid 6.99 for it. However, it seems that Vlingo on android only works if there is an internet connection. The Vlingo app was free on android, however, I too don’t want to pay for a data plan. You would think that Talk to Text or even just talk to call would be on all phones without data connections because it is much safer.

  10. Mike said, on July 8, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    My WiFi is on.
    I’m using LG Optimos / Android 2.2 right now! Yes I’ve accessed the internet to Google your site.
    Speach to text – couldn’t connect
    PS this comment is sent via cellphone. Thanks for your time

    • commorancy said, on July 8, 2012 at 11:43 pm

      Hi Mike,

      If 3G and WiFi are both on, they can sometimes compete for Internet serving. What I would suggest is temporarily disable the 3G data network on your phone and test using WiFi only. If you can connect on WiFi only, then your 3G is getting in the way and the phone is getting confused. I would also suggest just the opposite. Turn off WiFi and attempt Speech-To-Text with 3G only. If you can connect this way, then it should work with WiFi on. You can disable the 3G under Settings->Wireless & Network Settings->Mobile Networks->Data Enabled. Uncheck ‘Data Enabled’ to turn 3G off, check to turn 3G on.

      I’m definitely thinking there is an issue either with your 3G connectivity or the WiFi connectivity. One of the two of these will likely fail once you isolate them as suggested above. Until you find out which one is the one that’s failing, you won’t be able to easily debug this. I suspect your WiFi might be the issue. If so, you should log into your WiFi router and make sure you don’t have any rules in place that could be blocking any types of traffic.

      Let me know what you find.

      Thanks.

  11. Frank said, on June 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    I just got my Razr Maxx a few weeks ago, so thanks for this enlightening article!

    After your explanation, I have found that if my WiFi connection is poor, then the Couldn’t Connect error displays, but if I disable the WiFi, then it works fine.

    Thanks again,

  12. sophia said, on June 10, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    i love this article.. its very true. F google, F metro pcs and F the world for ABUSING wifi internet with thier absolute control , invading privacy by spying via facebook, ipods bluetooth, software , androids and everythn else

    • BJ said, on February 13, 2013 at 11:59 am

      Sophia….just calm down. it is technology, not a conspiracy.lol

  13. R. Mark said, on May 28, 2012 at 4:13 am

    I was aware of the need for an internet connection…and I have an unlimited data plan, both 3G and 4G, and also wireless…..I am home now and the wireless signal is exceptional…yet, I still get that same “couldn’t connect” error message. The only thing I can see is that my 3G is not lit up when its supposed to be sending or receiving, and my area doesn’t have 4G.

    • commorancy said, on May 28, 2012 at 4:24 am

      Yes, it sounds like your 3G connectivity isn’t working properly at your house. What I might suggest is if you have WiFi at home, set up your phone to use this. If you’ve already done this, it’s possible that the WiFi connectivity is failing and the phone isn’t falling back to 3G. So, you might want to disable the 3G and make sure your WiFi works properly. I’d also recommend that you use WiFi whenever possible over 3G as it is usually quite a bit faster. 4G can be faster depending on the network.

      3G sometimes turns off to save on power. As a result, it has to turn back on whenever it’s needed. For some applications, the 3G won’t light up when it is needed. In the case of Speech to Text, it’s very possible that this software won’t activate 3G when needed. Hence, another reason to use WiFi over 3G.

      Thanks.

      • R. Mark said, on May 28, 2012 at 4:30 am

        Ont the Droid Razr, the 3G usually turns off when connected to WiFi, which I am while at home. What I discovered though is that some of my systems work well connecting to my Linksys signal and some do not. When they do not, all works well through my Motorola wireless signal. The modem is the Motor, the router is the Link.

        So I disconnected the phone from Link, connected to Motor and now voice works….its my understanding that some hardware finds it difficult to navigate the protocols….and I figure that is what was going on….

        Thanks for your quick response tho!

  14. Winston said, on May 14, 2012 at 12:51 am

    Thank you, thank you thank you! I’d never guess that “Couldn’t connect” actually refers to the Internet connection! I’m shocked how incredibly stupid this message is. I’d never suspect that from Google, known for the user-friendliness of their applications.

  15. Tom Topokopoulis said, on May 3, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Spectacular !!!!!

    I had an old Linksys 2.4 ghz router in my office unused ( as I prefer a hardwired connection) plugged it into an unused pipe to the net – Voila – problem solved. Thanks so much.

    • commorancy said, on May 5, 2012 at 3:59 pm

      I’m glad that you found that the information was helpful. Thanks.


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