Perhaps the most time-saving key on the Android keyboard is the microphone, but using it is more hassle than it's worth when certain words just refuse to be recognized. More often than not, these words are contact names. Luckily, there is a way to trick your phone into recognizing even the most tongue-twisting of names. If you're tired of your phone turning "Demonte Jones" into "Demon's bones," just teach it to recognize the latter as the former. Granted, this might be a problem when you're texting a friend the location of a secret item in your favorite MMORPG.

Screenshot_2013-06-10-15-08-05 Screenshot_2013-06-10-15-08-12 Screenshot_2013-06-10-15-37-20

The instructions are pretty straightforward:

  1. Open up the People app and find your desired contact. Load up their information and hit edit.
  2. Scroll to the bottom and tap Add another field and select Phonetic name.
  3. Entering text by voice, say the name of the person in the Phonetic name field.
  4. Rinse and repeat for as many contacts as necessary.

If Google's stock People app isn't installed on your phone, you may be out of luck. I just made the jump to a HTC One, and HTC's version of the app lacks the "Phonetic Name" field. Keep that in mind if you run into a dead end.

Phonetic names can also be added via Gmail's web interface (though if your phone doesn't support the field in the first place, this doesn't help much). There is space available for both first and last names.

Gmail4 Gmail5

Making these changes does not guarantee success, but it should nudge voice recognition in the right direction. Unfortunately, each contact can only have one phonetic name, so there's no way to insert multiple entries if your phone happens to think your girlfriend's name sounds like something different depending on the time of day.

Thanks to brassiron for the tip.

Bertel King, Jr.
Born and raised in the rural South, Bertel knows what it's like to live without 4G LTE - or 3G, for that matter. The only things he likes sweeter than his tea are his gadgets, and while few objects burn more than a metal phone on a summer day, he prefers them that way anyway.

  • Andrew


  • Stephen Foust-Christensen

    Unfortunately this really messes up the ordering of the contact within the People app.

  • douglasaharry

    I could have used this info months ago. That's one thing that always bothered me, my friends are ethnic and have non standard names, Google never worked.

    • John O’Connor

      I am now officially jealous since I am "ethnic" with a standard name. ;-)

  • Mastermind26

    That is outstanding! I have many non-English friends that just made it a headache to try and spell out (and IMPOSSIBLE to accurately speak out).

  • Primalxconvoy

    Another thing you can do is change the first name to something that the phone understands. My friend's wife is Japanese but even his Japanese iphone won't recognise her name. After changing her name to "wife" and moving her first and last name to the last name section, he's had no problems.

    My gf had got an irregular spelling of a standard name. Even though my keyboard has learnt this, voice recognition hasn't. I could change her name to the regular spelling but my solution was simpler; just disable voice recognition and wait until someone else fixes Google's usual half-baked offering.

  • Bruce Ray

    I just figured out that on my GS3, adding a phone-etic name makes the contact show up in a very strange order in the list. For example, I have a contact with last name Comeaux (no first name), phonetic name shows up in Google Contacts as Last name then First name - so I put in Komo for last name. Now, Mr. Comeaux shows up in the "K"s rather than the "C"s. I checked, there's no Sort By Phonetic name selection - only First, Last or Last, First. I guess it's worth it to not have to do mouth contortions to get it to recognize Cajun names - but it's weird looking in the list.

  • RitishOemraw

    HOLY CRAP!!! I wanted this like so many times when I tried voice actions.....never knew this existed!

    Thank you AP.....this is why you are the best imo!!!
    Learning these small and exciting things months after it is available.......its sooo awesome!
    Android jsut has to many cool features to learn all at once!

  • Simon Belmont

    Oh yeah, I remember noticing this a while ago. It's a good idea.

    Ironically, though, Google's voice recognition has been spot on recognizing my contact's my names. Even some of the non traditional ones.

  • mr.klee

    The most fun part about this is adding a phonetic name that's actually a description of the person. So you can have Google Now call your boss/wife/best friend although your contact details list them with their name.

    • OmniWrench

      I'd actually like both, which I don't think google contacts currently supports. I have a few frequently used contacts who need this phonetic name tweaking for voice dial to get them correctly, but I'd love to be able to have voice-dial-recognized aliases (the alias field seems to be ignored by voice recognition) as well as phonetic names, so I could do either "call wife" or "call Demonte Jones" and have it call the same person (assuming I was married to Demonte Jones that is...).

      • John O’Connor

        Who isn't married to demon's bones after this article?

  • Tarun

    Folks, a much better and accurate way of doing this is using an app called Voice Speed Dial by Cyberon available on the Play Store. It allows you to record a name in your own voice to link to any/every contact. It also allows you to record a command in your own voice for every app. To execute, just click on the widget and speak the name you've recorded and it will dial the number or open the app.. It's really good!

  • http://www.toysdiva.com Toys Samurai

    I wish it could just record my rendition of the name by voice.

  • http://www.toysdiva.com Toys Samurai

    I entered a phonetic name for my wife's contact record, but when I tried to use Google Now to call her, even though it recognized the phonetic name, it failed to locate the contact record. Instead I got a google search result instead.

  • Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf

    I found that several months back and got all excited, but it didn't seem to do anything to help voice dial difficult names, so I thought it maybe hadn't been fully implemented. I didn't try using voice input to enter the phonetic names though! I'll have to try that soon and hopefully it will help!


    gSpeechSMS is a smart App that helps compose and send texting through voice - check it out on Google Play. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.glovantech.gspeechsms

  • imtoomuch

    This is a great article! Thanks for the tip.