When I spent a few hours with the Apple watch on April 8th 2015, I jotted down notes about the Apple watch’s physical description, general overall points, low vision and speech features, hearing, and Siri.
Some Initial Points
In a recent podcast of mine looking at the click wheel on the iPod nano 4/5th generations, and the touch screen access on the iPod nano 6/7th generations, VoiceOver access on the Apple watch has far exceeded my expectations.
It is important to note that the Apple watch is a companion to the iPhone and is designed to work in conjunction with the phone.
This is the first truly accessible main stream smart watch for people who require various types of accessibility options such as large print, speech output, mono audio etc.
Now on to my notes:
Physical Description of the Apple Watch
- The Apple watch is Rectangular in shape with rounded edges.
- With the Apple watch on your left wrist, holding your arm in front of you: Left edge: directly across from digital crown, speaker slit, and directly across from “friends” button, microphone slit. Right edge: round Digital crown at top, and oval side (friends) button at bottom. Top face: touch screen with the screen ending at the curved sides. Back face: raised convex housing in the middle which contains the magnetic charger plus the sensors. Two pin holes on either side near where the bands connect to allow the bands to be detached by pressing in on them. I.e. the bands fill like they have slotted in to the Apple watch rather than being attached on either side by band pins.
- During my brief play with the Apple watch, I did not have the opportunity to set the watch up itself: either using the Apple watch and the Apple watch app on the iPhone. In addition, I was more looking at the low vision and VoiceOver experience when navigating the interface, rather than using the apps which are accessible.
- The Apple watch feels very very nice in the hand, like a smooth square peace of glass.
- The Digital crown was extremely easy to turn/press, and the friends button just as easy to press. The digital crown does not click when turned, but has a very smooth action. The digital crown itself is bevelled. In actual fact, rather than turning the digital crown around with two fingers, I just found myself using one finger on top of the digital crown to move it.
- Easy to connect the magnetic charger to the Apple watch. The side of the charger that connects to the Apple watch has an indented edge and the magnet moves the connection to the correct place. Not a hard connection click, quite gentle.
- I only had an opportunity to look at the leather loop band and the rubber band. The leather loop band felt quite nice, but had some difficulty in doing it up due to the fact that I had to put it on my wrist and then do it up. The rubber band wasn’t a problem putting on as with the leather loop as it was more a point of sliding the band through to get to a point where you could put the pin through, and then tuck it in to the slot on the band to hide the end.
- The touch screen of the watch is the full face of the watch and stops as you come to the curve around the edges: very easy to identify, and certainly had no problems using gestures on the face of the watch. i.e. didn’t go off the edges when using gestures.
- Much preferred the wait of the Apple watch over the Apple Watch Sport. The sport is quite a bit lighter. I just prefer a bit of weight on my wrist.
- As far as using the glass surface on either the Sports or the Apple watch, it didn’t really make any difference in performing gestures.
- For me, the 42 millimetres Apple watch was a good size, and did not feel to big on my wrist. You can tell the size difference between the 38 and the 42. It may be better for low vision folks to perhaps use the 42..
- If you take the Apple watch off your wrist and put it back on again, you have to enter in a security pin on an on-screen keyboard.
- When the watch screen locks after 5 seconds, a gentle bleep sound can be heard.
- To unlock the watch screen, tap the screen, move your wrist or press the digital crown. This will make the clock face appear (and if VoiceOver is on, speak the time). Pressing the digital crown again will bring up the app screen.
- Just in case your worried, no the watch will not speak after you wake it up unless you actually touch the screen with a finger.
- Pressing the digital crown twice will switch the user between the app screen and the last app used.
- The Apple watch alarm function can do vibration only, not just sound/vibration if you mute sound. I think this will be a great feature as I currently use a silent vibrating alarm on my iPhone so I don’t wake up my partner.
- There is no “home click speed” as found on the iPhone to adjust the rate of press of the digital crown. This would be useful for those folks who may have trouble pressing the digital crown twice or 3 times within the default time period.
- Taptic feedback felt fine, not to hard or soft: discrete.
- I Was able to pair the Apple watch to my JamBox speaker, but not to my current Beats Wireless headset: I’m assuming that the firmware needs to be updated. In fact, writing these notes the day after the demo play, it was confirmed that the Apple watch works with the current beats wireless headsets.
- You can enable VoiceOver or Zoom when setting up the Apple watch via triple pressing the digital crown for VoiceOver or two finger double tap for Zoom.
- VoiceOver or Zoom can also be toggled on via the Apple watch app, but advisable to turn it on via the watch during the setup process.
- You can tell what accessibility options are on within the Apple watch app, and course toggle them on or off.
- On the Apple watch itself within the Settings panel, you can turn on VoiceOver, Zoom, reduce motion, and on/off labels.
- The Apple watch app has lots of functionality once watch is paired. To access accessibility, General, Accessibility. Using the Apple watch app felt much like you using the Settings screens on the iPhone. Of course fully accessible with VoiceOver.
- On the Apple watch app, have more accessibility options to work with: grey scale, transparency, bolded text, mono audio, stereo balance, and the access short-cut (besides VoiceOver and Zoom of course).
Low Vision Features
- Zoom can be activated by triple pressing the digital crown as set up by the watch app. Two finger double tap on watch screen during setup to turn on Zoom.
- Zoom comes on at 500%, and can go up to 1500%.
- Zoom can be also toggled on and off by two finger double tap.
- Zoom magnification adjusted by two finger double tap and hold, then drag up or down to adjust magnification.
- When Zoom turned on, can drag two fingers around the screen to pan the screen or you can use the digital crown to move across and down the screen in a grid pattern.
- Not in the accessibility setting screen, but can access dynamic text.
- One of the clock faces is X-Large for large numbers for the time.
- Whilst the background can not be changed, the foreground colour can be modified.
- Don’t forget as well: grey scale, transparency, reduce motion, bolded text, and on/off labels.
- VoiceOver can be activated by triple pressing the digital crown.
- When you turn on VoiceOver via a triple press of the digital crown, VoiceOver takes about 3 seconds to come on. When turning VoiceOver off via the triple press of the digital crown, VoiceOver turns off immediately. Good to note here that the Apple watch is a watch, not a full blown iOs device.
- As on the iPhone, using VoiceOver was very responsive on the Apple watch: no lagging when using gestures.
- Basic navigation of VoiceOver on the Apple watch: 1 finger flick left or right to move by item,, 1 finger drag around screen, 1 finger double tap on an item to activate, two finger flick back to the left to move back to the previous screen (of course you can press the digital crown to go back to the app screen), 2 finger double tap and hold/drag up or down to adjust volume, and 1 finger flick up or down adjust options within an app. You can also do a two finger split tap if you need to. Scrolling the digital crown does not appear to affect VoiceOver.
- To perform a deep press, 1 finger tap and hold: brings up clock faces (when on the clock face) or additional controls within an app.
- When at the Clock face, two finger flick down for Notifications, and two finger flick up for Glances.
- VoiceOver on the Apple watch does not have any three or four finger gestures, and there is no rotor function.
- The default speech rate that voiceOver came on with on the Apple watch was a comfortable speech rate. The speech rate can be changed in VoiceOver settings via the Apple watch app.
- VoiceOver does duck music and other sounds.
- VoiceOver on the watch does have screen curtain. However, it is not activated by a gesture, but can be toggle on or off via the Apple watch app on the iPhone.
- VoiceOver supports 14 languages, and has US Samantha, UK Daniel, and Australian Karen. They appear to be the full enhanced versions of the software synthesisers. Us Alex is not available.
- If you take the watch off/put it back on again the pin number keypad appears: with the pin code on the watch to unlock, VoiceOver is in standard typing mode: i.e. 1 finger double tap on each of the keypad numbers.
- When waking up watch from pressing the digital crown or touching the watch screen, VoiceOver will speak the time. Pressing the digital crown again will take user to the apps screen.
- Volume of the watch is reasonably loud in a quiet room, suggest Bluetooth head phones for out and about use.
- VoiceOver on the Apple watch does not support the use of refreshable Braille display as this is seen as being part of the iPhone Braille support.
- All of the inbuilt apps in the watch are fully accessible, including the Activity and Workout apps. As this is a full version of VoiceOver with its gesture set modified for the watch, accessibility to other apps will depend on how they are developed as it does on the iPhone. I.e. this is not just text to speech on the watch, its VoiceOver.
- There are VoiceOver sounds as with VoiceOver on the iPhone. I found these more noticeable when using VoiceOver through a Bluetooth head set or speaker.
- Using the watch with VoiceOver felt very much like using VoiceOver on the iPhone. .
The Apple watch supports:
- Mono audio., and
- Left/right stereo balance.
We might all remember the Siri demo held earlier this year where Siri did not speak. This is still the case, Siri only displays text on the screen. However, if your using VoiceOver, this text will be read out loud.
- You can use Siri to turn VoiceOver on or off, and launch apps.
- When you raise your wrist, you can say “hay Siri” followed by your instruction.
- As with the iPhone with the Home button, you can hold in the digital crown and give Siri instructions.
- You can use Siri to dictate emails or messages.
- Sometimes I noticed that VoiceOver would not speak the resulting text from Siri automatically, I had to use VoiceOver gestures to read the text.