If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Thursday 26 January 2012

Of interest to iPhone users?

Recently I had cause to record a meeting. I started up the Voice Memo app on my iPhone 3G and two hours later I switched it off. When I checked the phone later, there it was - a voice recording of 1h 48m 0s. But it wouldn't play. I clicked (sorry, tapped) the 'play' button, it turned into a 'pause' button and a progress bar appeared. Just as you would expect, except that the progress bar ran from 0.00 to 0.00 and no sound came out. I recorded a short memo (should have entitled it 'me coughing') and that played back fine. Off to Google, then ...

Turns out it's a common problem. The solution which worked for most people on the forum I was reading, and which worked for me, was as follows:

1. Go to http://www.macroplant.com/iexplorer/ and download the program iExplorer. This allows you to read the contents of the iPhone memory (also works for iPad and iTouch) as if it were a normal external drive, and copy, move, rename etc. files as required. There are separate versions for PC and Mac.

2. Connect the iPhone to the PC and Launch iExplorer.

3. Go to Media and then Recordings, and your files will be there. There will be two files per recording, both with the filename of the date and time, such as 20120116 184403. One will have the extension .m4a, and the other .mov. You need both of these, although I don't understand why. Don't be surprised at that. Copy them to a convenient folder on your PC.

4. For me, the .mov file (200+MB) played fine in Quicktime Player. The .m4a file, still almost 100MB, was silent in any player I tried it with. A lot of people save the .mov file as an .mp3 to make it more useable. I may do this.

No matter - I have the file I need, and I can listen to my saved copy. There are a lot of other possibilities with iExplorer, such as file management directly on the phone device, using the phone as a USB pen drive, and so on. It's free, it's a small download, and it doesn't have any annoying toolbars and popups that so much 'freeware' comes with.

Highly recommended. No connection except as a satisfied 'customer', of course.


  1. "There will be two files per recording, both with the filename of the date and time, such as 20120116 184403. One will have the extension .m4a, and the other .mov. You need both of these, although I don't understand why"

    You don't need both files Richard.

    Your voice memos are originally recorded as quicktime .mov files, and then the app converts them to .m4a files afterwards. If the conversion process is interrupted, switching out to another app (iPhone 3G, no multitasking) or switching off will leave an incomplete .m4a file. A 2 hour .mov file would take some time to convert so I suspect that you closed down the app without first stopping the recording and giving it a couple of minutes to finish conversion?

    Whilst on the subject of mobile phones, this is what can be done with a laser, a PC and acouple of projectors.


    1. In was sure that someone would come along soon who actually had a clue. Thanks. That's probably what I did. I was quite surprised how long it took to download the files to the PC via the iPhone cable - several minutes, so your explanation makes sense. Big files don't like to be rushed.

      Thanks for the explanation. And that clip is effin brilliant.

  2. Richard, thank you. Seriously.

    I picked up the Caterham last November and stuck the iPhone to the windscreen to video the very first journey, but the file never appeared. I've just installed iexplorer, and there it is.

    So not only have I retrieved a precious file I thought I'd lost, you've also solved the mystery of what was taking up that 3GB of missing space...

  3. Excellent tip, thanks! I've not used the VoiceMemo function yet, but it's nice to know in case I ever do...

  4. Patently, glad to help. I trust we will see the video clip on your build blog before long!

    JuliaM, it was the first time I had used the VoiveMemo app (apart from mucking about) and I was pretty impressed. I had it in a pocket and it picked up my voice and anyone within a few feet very well. In the meeting, some people - the people I wanted to record! - were perhaps 20 feet away and I will need to do something to boost the volume to get what they were saying, but the recording was clear enough.

  5. Doesn't iTunes come into it somewhere? I'm a confused newly converted Android Gingerbread user....

  6. My original plan was to sync the phone and see if the recording was visible in iTunes, but then I read in a Mac forum (more like an Anti-Apple forum) that this could wipe the recording from both. And I always seem to lose stuff in iTunes anyway. So I went for the iExplorer option first, and it worked.

    Android is a mystery to me. Not even sure what it is.


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