Speech Training Apps: A Head-to-Head Comparison & Giveaway
Speech Trainer 3D by Smarty Ears and Speech Tutor by Pocket SLP both model articulation of English sounds as a tool for speech pathology. At first glance, they are nearly indistinguishable: both cost under $10, feature an animated head in profile and front views, and are made by leading SLP app developers. What's the difference? Here's a head-to-head (pardon the pun) comparison of the apps.
Speech Trainer 3D: $7.99 USD
Speech Tutor: $9.99 USD
Both apps are universal for iOS devices; not available on Android.
Speech Trainer 3D: 24 consonant sounds and 7 vowels (no diphthongs or rhotic vowels), presented in IPA format (good for professionals, difficult for laymen).
Speech Tutor: 20 consonant sounds with 2 versions of /r/ (bunched and retroflex). Missing /w, h, zh, y/ from the consonants and no vowels. Sounds are represented in conventional spelling.
Speech Trainer 3D: The lateral image is a sagittal cross-section of a head (like a plastic classroom model) with animated lips, teeth, tongue, velum, and larynx demonstrating the sound. The front view is a realistically animated young man's head, much like looking at a therapist giving a model.
Speech Tutor: In profile, the model is a life-like animation of the nose, mouth, and neck with a translucent cheek, making the tongue, teeth, and palate visible. The tongue, lips, and jaw move to produce each sound, though there is no animation of the velum to show the difference between oral and nasal sounds, nor is there a larynx to show voiced vs. voiceless productions. An animated puff of air illustrates the airflow on aspirated sounds. The front view consists of lips and a chin with translucent skin to see through to the teeth and tongue.
Speech Trainer 3D: Using this app in landscape orientation turns on the camera and creates a split-screen, allowing users to compare their production to the model - a unique and useful feature in this app as this therapy is often done with a mirror. Each sound has step-by-step instructions on how to produce it while highlighting each area of the anatomy. The instructions may be a bit complex for younger users and include movements that are difficult to consciously control (e.g. "the passage that leads to your nose must be closed"). The app also offers paired audio and text of each sound in a few sample words.
Speech Tutor: The app features a text-based overview of voice, place, and manner of articulation when you touch "Basics". Pressing "Description" brings up information about the phonetic symbol, articulation, age of emergence and mastery, and tips for eliciting each sound. There is a palate diagram for all but bilabial sounds, showing a transverse view of the palate and the location where the tongue touches it to create the sound. A highlight of this app is the option to record the user's production and play it back along with the target - this is great for self-monitoring and feedback. There is also an option to select the speed of the production: slow, medium, or fast.
Speech Trainer 3D: The app starts with a short video introducing the purpose of the app, which can be skipped by touching it, and leads you to a screen to select consonants or vowels. A sliding bar at the top shows all the phonemes; a faint blue line above the phonetic symbol indicates which sound is selected. In general, the app is easy to navigate with all options visible on the screen.
Speech Tutor: Navigating this app can be challenging; the home screen is dominated by ads and links and only the icons on the bottom row will get you into the app. The function of the icons is not immediately obvious: an arrow brings up the palate diagram, and the phoneme menu is found by touching the stacked drawers. A plus is that the target sound is printed on the screen to remind you which animation is loaded.
Both apps are quite good with unique features and flaws. Speech Trainer 3D has more sounds and an innovative way of viewing the user next to the model. Speech Tutor has a large amount of text-based information and a more realistic visual model, but it's missing sounds. Speech Trainer 3D offers an audio demonstration of production and words containing the sound, while Speech Tutor allows the user to record his own production and play it back. Both apps work well for children and adults engaging in articulation, apraxia, or accent therapy.
Which app do you prefer? I have a free copy of Speech Trainer 3D to give away to someone who comments on this post. Winner will be selected at random next week.