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Text to speech is not a new concept. There are several popular text-to-speech apps on the App Store, but none really incorporate all of your personal updates or work as an independent RSS feed aggregation quite as cleanly as Voice Brief. This is a very well designed app that really goes the extra mile in having a personalized feed of the information you want delivered to you with minimal effort on your part.
I want to start by addressing the fact that this is a 235Mb download - it's big, really big. However, the developer notes this is particularly because all of the embedded voices are high-quality, and this also ensures that only your news & info will be downloaded on your data plan, with no unessential downloading while running the program.
To begin you'll want to add your feeds. Your options are from your on-device calendar, online stock or weather feeds, your unread Gmails, Twitter and Facebook feeds. As well, it offers the ability to search for and subscribe to any number of RSS feeds, to read your favourite news sources, or blogs. Adding new content sources is dead easy, no confusion, super simple.
Here's where I found my only serious issue. I'm a huge proponent of Google Reader. I keep dozens of feeds organized within it, and I really need any RSS app to be able to pull those feeds. Voice Brief has no way to import Google Reader in any way. I don't like the idea of having to re-subscribe to each of my favourite news/blogs. Also, being able to load or read previous-read, or on-device emails. This isn't a huge issue, just inconvenient.
Once you've added everything to your feed, the app works great. As with any text-to-speech program, you'll get some mispronunciations, especially with nicknames and twitter-speak. It really shines reading the weather, email and news updates. Sometimes its best to see a video of it in action, for that visit the demo video page, on the developer's website. All four included voices sound decent, with ine American Male, two American Female voices and one British Male. Anything with full-text sounds great through this app, and while I don't drive, it would make a great way to catch up on the news during the morning commute. Maybe I'll use it in the shower?
I don't think $1.99 is too much to ask; this is a well-developed app that functions pretty much as promised. The developer also promises that all March 2011 profits will be donated to the relief efforts in Japan, so if you're going to pick it up, you might as well do so this month.