Vox ex machina
Your smartphone can tell you what to do

Vlingo, a voice-action app, has been on the market for a while but has stepped into the limelight again since Apple introduced the “Siri” virtual assistant for the iPhone 4S. If you don’t have Apple’s latest, you can turn to Vlingo to transcribe messages, conduct Web searches and make calls through voice commands. Learning the app’s voice prompts takes some getting used to, but Vlingo rewards you once you get the hang of it. Having the app read your messages to you could be invaluable in the car, for example, and Vlingo will even update your social networks for you — though it doesn’t have the same personality and snark as Apple’s offering. For those who want more integration, there’s the $20 Vlingo Plus — one of the apps offered for free to BlackBerry users who were hit by the recent network outages. Free, for Android, iOS and BlackBerry.

— Hayley Tsukayama