ReadAloud a basic speaking tool, but not enough (yet)

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After the success of the commercial Share to Speech, we now have a free contender for the 'speaking' app genre, with ReadAloud here reading out web page text (or indeed anything that's HTML/URL-based) plus PDF files - with more to come in future versions. It works but the crucial bit - speech - isn't anywhere near the standard of that in 'Share to Speech'. Which is odd, you'd have thought that the same OS and device would sound the same, whichever app was driving its synthesis routines.

From the Store description:

ReadAloud app converts any text into spoken words. Instead of struggling to read text on the small screen of the phone, with this app you can have any text read to you. ReadAloud reads aloud the text displayed in Windows Phone apps, e.g. web pages (internet explorer, opera mini, etc.), news articles (Bing news), PDF files and more.

  • Click “share” in supported apps to send text to ReadAloud for aloud reading.
  • If “share” is not available, copy text from another app and paste into ReadAloud for reading.
  • Open PDF files from Windows file system for reading aloud.
  • Save articles opened in ReadAloud for listening them later.
  • Easily control the pitch and rate of the speech.
  • Pause/resume speech as needed, plus next/previous buttons to jump by sentence.
  • Read in background.
  • Select from list of languages.
  • The sentence being read gets highlighted.
  • Auto scroll while reading.
  • Customize the look and feel of the reader as per requirements.

It all worked as advertised, with a reading list being maintained and easily accessible. Some screens of ReadAloud in action:

Screenshot, ReadAloudScreenshot, ReadAloud

Appearing in the Windows Phone 'share' list, along with rival 'Share to Speech', on my phone at least(!); (right) reading in progress, the currently read paragraph is always highlighted. Note the ad at the bottom of the screen, this is how ReadAloud is monetised.

Screenshot, ReadAloudScreenshot, ReadAloud 

Reading continues (within reason) even with you switch away to another application, thanks to the system media player; (right) the 'home' interface - you can kick off reading from a page or file here if needed.

Screenshot, ReadAloud  Screenshot, ReadAloud

Previously read documents, apps and pages are recorded, for easy recall and re-reading; (right) adjusting pitch and speed

The developers do rather shoot themselves in the foot with the claim "We can very confidently say that ReadAloud is the best text-to-speech tool available for Windows Phone." Having tried this and 'Share to Speech' back to back, there's no comparison - the quality of audio from the latter is far superior and more natural. And I've no idea why, since in theory both use Windows Phone's own speech synthesis routines. Maybe one's feeding the system a word at a time, the other a phrase at a time? Comments welcome here if you can clarify this!

You can grab this in the Store here, to see what you think.

Source / Credit: Windows Phone Store