"Voice is quicker and smarter than your finger is," agrees Tom Freeman, a cofounder­ of VoiceBox Technologies in Bellevue, ­Washington. "Using keystrokes, you'll probably need at least eight to download a new ringtone for your phone. Using our tools, just say, 'Show me ringtones by Usher.'?" Freeman adds that, lately, voice-rec tool providers have been upping the ante. "We don't want the system ever to say, 'Sorry. I don't understand.' We are trying to build in context awareness. The better we understand your context, the more likely we are to understand what you want." He provides this example: Say you call a help number and mumble into your cell phone, "Blah-blah traffic." Are you asking about a 1970s super band? Michael Douglas movies? Local road conditions? If you were to call into a movie hotline, the system would have a head start in giving you the right information. "We are getting smarter about building a hypothesis about what the user wants to know. That's as important in improving responses as are the gains in understanding the spoken words," says Freeman.

Here's how smart voice rec has become. You are in a hopping, noisy bar in Bangkok, and suddenly you're overcome with the urge to sing "Jumpin' Jack Flash." Dial into Grammy Thailand, a Thai wireless and entertainment provider, say the song title, and bam! - out blasts a karaoke-perfect version of the Rolling Stones classic. "Put your phone in speaker mode and sing right along," says Mike Katz, director of product marketing at NMS Communications, a Framingham, Massachusetts, developer of communications technologies.

Hold on, though, because you really haven't heard anything yet.