Otter vs. Fireflies: Which one is best for you?
You probably found this post because you are evaluating Otter.ai or Fireflies.ai for your meeting requirements. If you are looking for deeper insights into which one is better suited to handle your needs—you have come to the right place.
Taking shorthand notes or relying on your memory to jot down the minutes of a meeting is labor-intensive—and also distracts you from actively participating in the conversation. That’s where automated transcription tools like Otter and Fireflies come in handy.
Automated note-taking apps are a big part of the digital revolution that’s shaping the future of work. Both Otter.ai and Fireflies.ai are great tools for transcribing your meetings into written notes.
While Otter and Fireflies share a lot of similarities, they also have some not-so-obvious differences between the products, their benefits, and the types of customers each of them serve. And that’s exactly what we will cover in this post.
If you don't have time to go through the entire post, here’s the TL;DR version of the post:
Otter is a great speech-to-text transcription app to improve individual productivity
Fireflies is a better fit for teams who want to transcribe audio-only meetings
Each of them offers features that can boost your productivity and collaboration
Both of them lack a few capabilities that can enrich your meeting experience
Let’s move on to the longer version of it.
Otter vs Fireflies: The obvious differences
Otter is mostly a note transcription tool that enables you to “generate rich notes for meetings, interviews, lectures, and other important voice conversations”—in their own words.
Fireflies, on the other hand, is a meeting recorder app to help you “record, transcribe, and search across your voice conversations.”
While both brands position themselves as AI-powered meeting assistant apps, it would be fair to categorize Otter in the productivity app segment since its flagship features are speech-to-text note transcription and dictation.
Otter offers subscription plans for individuals, small businesses, and professionals in the education sector. Their pricing also reflects the price-sensitive niches—they offer a free forever plan while the paid subscription begins at $8.33/month/user.
Otter is aware of the surge in demand for note-taking apps in today’s remote-first world, which is why it’s pushing itself aggressively in the business sector. Lately, Otter has started positioning itself as a collaboration-friendly, enterprise-ready, deep-learning voice assistant that frees you up from taking notes during business meetings—even if you are not attending a meeting!
It does so by scanning your Google or Outlook calendar for Zoom sessions, automatically signing in at the scheduled time, and producing a transcription once the meeting is over.
Despite all the efforts, however, Otter is still best known for its transcription abilities and not the host of team collaboration features it has added recently.
Founded in the same year (2016) as Otter.ai, Fireflies is rapidly gaining steam as a great addition to a host of meeting management apps such as Calendly, Evernote, and Hugo. Fireflies has an AI meeting assistant bot—Fred—that records, transcribes, and lets you search your audio-only meetings.
Unlike Otter, Fireflies markets itself as an automated meeting recording and transcription app, targeted mostly at businesses that have a host of team meeting requirements. For example, Fireflies offers a wide range of features that facilitate cross-team collaboration.
But it refrains from implying that it’s a productivity app for individual use cases—although nothing stops individuals like freelancers or solopreneurs from using their free plan.
Their paid plans start at $10 per month per user. They also serve the education sector, but the majority of their users are from the business world. Both Otter and Fireflies integrate with all major meeting conferring tools such as Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and Skype.
If you are wondering which of these two is best for your needs—don’t worry. We have only scratched the surface of the differences between the two.
So far, it’s clear that both Fireflies and Otter operate in the note transcription and meeting assistant space. Let’s understand what those terms mean before we dive further into the weeds of both apps.
How is a transcription tool different from a meeting assistant?
For a casual observer, there isn’t much difference between a transcription tool and a meeting assistant. After all, both are capabilities that help you make the most out of meetings. However, there are subtle nuances that can make a world of difference to your everyday use cases.
What is a meeting transcription app?
In general, a transcription app is usually an AI-powered, automated speech and language technology that records and transcribes spoken conversations into written texts. Often, a meeting transcription app will automatically identify and attribute the speakers based on their voice so that it’s clear who said what in a recorded conversation.
A transcription tool offers the following advantages:
Saves time from manually transcribing meeting notes
Offers a convenient and cost-effective way to convert audio into text
Generate most accurate and consistent transcriptions than humans
Helps you focus on the meeting conversations instead of jotting down notes
Lets you record the minutes of the meetings for easy recall and review
Boosts productivity and offers scalability in transcribing frequent meetings
Otter.ai began as a pureplay transcription app and later evolved to include other collaborative features like conversation summaries, editable texts, real-time annotations, and advanced search capabilities.
While old-school speech-to-text apps demand that you upload a pre-recorded audio file for you to generate transcription, modern tools like Otter automatically transcribe notes in real time once you start recording the conversation. You can, however, import external audio or video files to Otter for your transcription needs.
Otter competes with other apps like Dragon Speech Recognition (from Nuance), Threads, TranscribeMe, and Rev which take care of the transcribing part of a meeting.
Many of these apps don’t necessarily have collaborative features baked into their services—they just do the one job of transcribing really well. Rev, for instance, is a famous transcription platform that charges its services by the minute.
Thankfully, Otter.ai has broken out of that mold and now it offers features that help you with some level of collaboration.
What is a meeting assistant app?
A meeting assistant app’s job isn’t merely to transcribe audio into text—although that’s a fundamental feature of it. Besides helping you record and transcribe conversations, a meeting assistant app usually also helps you with other things before, during, and after a meeting.
Some meeting assistant apps also help you create a meeting agenda template before a meeting starts, take notes during the meeting, and give you a succinct post-meeting summary of the meeting once it’s over.
Here are some advantages that a meeting assistant software offers:
Eliminates the need for costly third-party meeting transcription services
Reduces up to 40% of time spent on meetings and frees up 11-18 minutes of follow-up activity per meeting
Ensures data integrity by making sure everyone has the same transcript as a common reference point
Boosts individual and team productivity by improving everyone’s meeting experience
Creates meeting highlights, action items, and meeting summaries to easily refer back to key points and follow-up activities
Avoids the chances of a meeting’s context diverting to other channels like emails by keeping the meeting data intact in a single app
Offers meeting performance and analytics data to help you improve your meeting outcomes
You can say that meeting assistants are a step ahead of transcription apps because they offer collaboration-friendly features and contextual insights. While a transcription app is a productivity tool to make an individual’s life easier, a meeting assistant app accommodates the larger needs of a team.
Now that we have scratched the surface of the differences between Otter and Fireflies, let’s look at which one suits your use case.
How to choose between Otter and Fireflies?
The answer to the above question is another question—what exactly is your use case? If your needs are very specific to transcribing meeting notes, look for apps that don’t offer a lot of features around team collaboration. That way, you can save money and avoid buying tools that are crammed with features you will not use.
But you would need more than just transcripts if you work closely with others in a team, want them to review meeting notes, or want specific action items recommended after each meeting. In order words, you would need a meeting assistant app like Fireflies.
Here’s a comparison table that explains the difference between Otter and Fireflies at a glance:
Now let’s do a step-by-step comparison between Otter vs Fireflies to understand the different capabilities that they offer respectively.
1. Product functionality
Almost all the apps in the transcription business today are powered by AI capabilities—and frankly speaking, none of them are perfect. At the same time, AI-powered apps are far better in accuracy than a human’s ability to transcribe dictated notes in real time.
Otter does a great job of accurately transcribing voice notes accurately into written texts at a good speed. No matter if you are dictating notes through Otter.ai’s mobile app or on a laptop without a mic—Otter identifies different speakers clearly. The few mistakes it makes during the real-time transcription are when multiple speakers speak at once, which—honestly—is expected of all apps (or even humans).
Otter.ai also has a clean and user-friendly interface that you can start using even if you haven’t used a voice-to-text transcription app before. Once you create an account with Otter.ai, you can start recording a conversation on the desktop browser or directly in-app.
You can play the recordings at different playback speeds, edit the transcription for accuracy, or save the transcription to your organization’s storage drive. You can also import and transcribe external video and audio files to Otter.ai for transcription.
It’s fairly simple to start using Fireflies.ai. Once you set up your account with Fireflies.ai, you first have to invite Fireflies to attend your meetings. When a meeting begins, Fred (the AI bot) will start recording the meeting and Fireflies.ai will email the meeting recap (i.e., the full transcript) to you.
Of course, you can change the settings in Fireflies to either skip calendar events that you don’t own or allow Fred to email the meeting recap to everyone.
Once inside the Fireflies.ai dashboard, you can find all your transcripts under the Notes menu. You can download or share the transcript, invite your colleagues to add comments, create soundbites, and playback the audio meeting at different speeds.
Although transcribing isn’t its only feature, Fireflies.ai’s transcription quality is pretty top-notch. Just like Otter.ai, Fireflies also transcribes audio files that you upload to it.
Fireflies.ai also offers nice add-on features like the ability to search across your transcripts, create topic trackers, and filter your notes by keywords or sentiments. Fireflies makes it easier for you to collaborate with others by allowing you to invite people from within or outside your organization.
Going by the product functionality, Otter.ai and Fireflies.ai are horses for the courses. While Otter’s strength lies in close-to-accurate transcriptions, Fireflies takes it a step further by offering post-meeting recaps and other collaboration-friendly features.
Both Otter and Fireflies lack some features that are table stakes when you need to collaborate cross-functionally and have an internal workflow to support it.
Fireflies and Otter both give you full transcripts, but they don’t offer a quick, automated summary of the transcript.
Otter.ai offers a functionality called Highlight Summaries that’s generated when you manually highlight certain parts of a conversation and add them as part of your summary. It’s a bit like highlighting a sentence or a paragraph in Kindle ebooks. To be honest, it’s still a manual process that could have been handled better with automation.
Summary notes are critical if you rely heavily on frequent meetings to exchange or document ideas on a daily basis. For example, if you have five sales reps in your team who make 15 calls each day, it’s impossible for others in the team to go through each call thoroughly to understand what went on in that call.
Meetings can be pointless if they don’t offer you coherent outcomes. While Fireflies and Otter are great to record and transcribe meetings, they don’t offer you the analytical capabilities to improve your meeting management or other related tasks.
A conversation intelligence software beyond recording and transcribing calls. Conversation intelligence helps you analyze meeting conversations, automate the data entry to CRM (or other connected tools), and pass information to relevant stakeholders.
A conversation intelligence software is not the same as standard call recording software or cloud meeting solutions—like Zoom or Google Meets. And it certainly is not the plain vanilla notes that you transcribe and record with tools such as Otter.ai or Fireflies.ai.
Conversation intelligence also offers ways for you to coach and train new employees by helping them access specific points in a conversation. It helps you bridge the alignment gap between different teams in your organization so that everyone has access to reference the same data and be accountable for their roles.
All businesses exist to fulfill the major two goals: to serve customers and drive revenue. Generating revenue is a common denominator that fuels both of those goals—and deal intelligence is what helps you build predictable revenue.
Deal intelligence might sound like a sales-heavy use case, but it’s not. Generating revenue is a top north star goal for all organizations and it’s something that can’t happen unless all teams are aligned for it. And what better way to align teams than using conversation insights to tighten their cross-team collaboration–right?
Deal intelligence helps you optimize your revenue operations, improve transparency and accountability across all teams, close the collaboration gap between them, align all your business metrics for the common good, and maximize customer value.
Tools like Fireflies.ai and Otter.ai are far from offering deal intelligence capabilities because of their deep focus on capturing and transcribing meeting notes. If you are interested in maximizing the utility of meetings to improve revops, you should look out for a deal intelligence platform that lets you capture and analyze important activities across all stages of a deal.
Both Fireflies and Otter offer playbacks of audio recordings, but it would have been nice if they also offered the capability to create playlists. Otter.ai stores all your recordings under its Folder menu while Fireflies.ai saves them as individual files under Notebook. However, searching for transcripts under a particular topic can get messy when you have a huge stash of files.
On the other hand, the playlist capability helps you organize transcripts under relevant audio listings that you can find and listen to when you need to revisit a certain meeting discussion.
Just like how Spotify lets you organize your favorite songs with playlists, the playlist capability in a meeting recorder software helps you curate topical recordings under the same roof and easily find them when you need them.
Here’s an example: if you are in HR, you can create a playlist to curate all exit interview recordings that you can go back and listen to if you are trying to investigate the increasing attrition rate in your organization. Playlists are similar to creating folders in Google Drive, DropBox, or Microsoft OneDrive.
In Avoma, you can create various playlists, add new recordings to them, subscribe to the playlists others have created, and access meeting notes from within a playlist. You can also make your playlists private to a few people, share your playlists with others, or let others subscribe to your playlists voluntarily.
Both Otter and Fireflies are priced reasonably. They both offer free forever plans with limited capabilities and go on to offer custom pricing for large enterprises. Otter.ai’s paid plans start at $8.33/user/month while the team plan is priced at $20/user/month.
Fireflies.ai’s Pro plan is priced at $10/user/month while its Business plan comes at $19/user/month. Like the majority of all SaaS businesses, the price is higher for both tools if you are on a month-on-month subscription.
It’s tough to conclude which one is better when it comes to pricing, although Fireflies.ai offers a better payoff for the kind of features it packs in this price range.
The biggest thing that both of them are missing is the lack of advanced features that can help you do more with less. For the kind of pricing they have, both Fireflies and Otter offer niche features for very specific use cases. But neither Otter nor Fireflies provide end-to-end meeting management capabilities.
You can’t bank on them for advanced use cases like summary notes, keyword tracking, playlists, or conversation intelligence—which means you have to buy a handful of third-party tools to do those jobs in between.
As your meeting and collaboration requirements go up, you will end up buying a variety of other apps which will sharply inflate the overall software budget. Using a dozen apps also means you will have to spend extra admin time or risk losing data across all of them.
If you want a sustainable solution to managing your meetings at a reasonable price, Avoma might be the right choice for you. At $15/user/month, Avoma’s Starter plan offers almost every feature in Otter and Fireflies—and then some.
Highly accurate real-time transcripts
Built-in rich note editor
Notes synced to calendar events
Shared agenda and notes templates
Smart bookmarks during live meetings
Instant notes from transcript highlights
Automatic audio and video recording
Wide-ranging integration with all conferencing apps
Topic alerts and notifications
Speaker and talk-time detection
If you want your meetings to contribute to your organization’s revenue, consider using Avoma for its high ROI and feature-rich capabilities.
Currently, both Fireflies and Otter are raising multiple rounds of funding to expand their organizational and product capabilities. They both are reliable vendors to work with if your current needs are limited to recording and transcribing meetings.
Otter and Fireflies are niche SaaS tools—they will work only as hard as you do. They both resemble the garbage in, garbage out the style of data processing.
Like Bill Gates once famously said:
The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.
All this to say—you can’t expect Fireflies and Otter to turn your meeting transcripts into cohesive insights.
While Fireflies and Otter might have some limitations in their product offering, they are fast catching up to improve their product features and capitalize on bigger markets.
Otter and Fireflies work well as long as you want to get transcriptions for your conversations, or if you want to repurpose a recording into a blog post, etc. Right now, you can use them to turn simple audio conversations into text, organize your brain dump sessions for future access, or repurpose a call recording into a blog post, and so on.
Both Fireflies and Otter don’t offer a robust future-proofing of your meeting requirements. Except for the few use cases we discussed above, they both aren’t flexible and scalable to accommodate the needs of a growing company. If you are a rapidly growing SaaS company that depends on making the most out of your meetings with customers—for example—it’s not enough to just convert audio meetings into text files.
You would need powerful analytical capabilities to run sales post-mortems, deep dive into user research interviews, and apply sentiment analysis to identify churn signals. In short, you would need a conversation intelligence software that takes raw data and refines it into polished insights that can help you take informed actions.
Both these tools (as of now), aren’t scaling to other organizational functions such as any intelligence or inputs that your product teams or customer success teams could use.
And even if you wanted to use their transcriptions for other use cases, their existing capabilities don't offer enough flexibility for that. If you are in a phase where you are outgrowing your current system for managing meetings, you need a tool that leverages data to facilitate cross-functional collaboration—and at scale.
Otter vs Fireflies: The final verdict
Both Otter and Fireflies are great tools in their individual capacity. The sheer number of customers and the ratings they have across review platforms is a testimony to that.
So, which one should you choose?
If you are a small team or an individual and are looking only for transcripts—go for Otter.
If you want transcripts+integration to your CRM, Calendar, and productivity tools like Slack then go for Fireflies.
NOTE: This blog originally appeared in the Avoma blog.