Welcome to the June 2015 edition of AppleVis Unlimited, our monthly series which aims to highlight what’s new and noteworthy in the accessible app landscape. Below, you’ll find a recap of the best content posted to AppleVis - from new app entries, to app updates, to podcasts and blogs. For easier navigation, the major sections of this post are at heading level 3, and each individual item is at heading level 4.
New and Noteworthy App Entries
Cord - Chat with short voice messages (Free)
Cord is incredibly simple, incredibly fast voice messaging that lets you chat with one friend or shout to a whole group of friends. You can save the messages you love and the rest will disappear. Cord is a whole new way to talk on your phone again.
- Tap a message to listen. Hold to reply.
- Listen fast. No message is longer than 12 seconds.
- Use the mic button to send to friends or share on the web.
- Create a group and chat with multiple friends.
- Old messages disappear forever.
- Favorite a message to save for as long as you like.
- Get started now. Sign-in with your phone number, Facebook or Google+.
Current Version: 1.6 (June 18, 2015)
Read the AppleVis iOS App Directory entry for Cord - Chat with short voice messages
Visit the App Store page for Cord - Chat with short voice messages
Listen to a podcast demonstration of Cord - Chat with short voice messages
NewsPlaya (Free with In-App Purchases)
NewsPlaya - the News App that Talks.
NewsPlaya subscribes and collates all the stories from your favourite sources. It then reads these aloud to you in a number of realistic voices. NewsPlaya is ideal for commuting, working out or simply relaxing at home.
Current Version: 1.0.3 (June 24, 2015)
Say Shopping is a voice-enabled shopping app created for the blind and visually impaired. Simply tell Say Shopping what products you want to buy, and the app will help you find the best options from Target.com. Say ‘buy’ and have items delivered directly to your door. The innovative design of Say Shopping makes online shopping easier and more enjoyable than ever.
Current Version: 1.1.2 (June 26, 2015)
Voice Dream Mail (Free with optional in-app subscription)
Voice Dream Mail works by speech and touch, so you can efficiently go through your email inbox without having to use your eyes.
How It Works The app reads your email out loud using text-to-speech. You control it using the entire screen of your iPhone or iPad as a touchpad. For example, swipe right anywhere to advance to the next email, and swipe down to trash.
Why It's Efficient Once you learn the handful of gestures, you will be able to triage your inbox very quickly. You know what to do with most emails after hearing the sender and subject. Because all commands can interrupt reading, it only takes a few seconds to handle each email. Plus, you can gradually increase speech rate: most people can listen at a higher speed than they can read visually.
Current Version: 1.0.1 (June 21, 2015)
Notable App Updates
BlindSquare (US $29.99)
BlindSquare uses GPS and the compass to locate you. It then gathers information about the surrounding environment from FourSquare. BlindSquare has some unique algorithms to decide what information is the most relevant and then speaks it to you with high quality speech synthesis.
When you start the app, it will start telling you the interesting places and street crossings around you. By changing the radius, you can limit the area you are interested in. You can also search by search term or by category. You can select an interesting place from the search results and perform the following tasks:
- Get contact info (address, phone number)
- Open twitter feed or restaurant menu (if provided)
- Make a phone call
- Start tracking the place (BlindSquare will assist you by repeating the distance and the clock face direction)
- Start your favourite navigator for turn-by-turn instructions (TomTom, Navigon or Apple Maps)
Current Version: 3.00 (June 5, 2015)
Changes in Version 3.00
BlindSquare 3.00 brings several new features and enhancements, including support for indoor navigation and use on the Apple Watch:
- NEW: BlindSquare now supports BlindSquare BPS (Beacon Positioning System), an indoor navigation system based on iBeacons. It is currently available at a few places only, but will hopefully become available at more venues soon. See more: http://youtu.be/9jH-Bdjmgb4
- NEW: 3d sounds. If you use a stereo headset with BlindSquare, you will now hear the alert sound played from the direction of the POI that is being announced.
- NEW: BlindSquare now supports the TransitTimes+ public transport app
- NEW: If you use BlindSquare on an iPhone 6 or 6plus, you can check changes in elevation. Based on your device’s barometer, the GPS-Info screen shows your elevation compared to when you started BlindSquare. There is also a button letting you reset your elevation to the current reading.
- CHANGE: Optimized to use less memory
- CHANGE: Updated Open Street Map data, more intersection information available in some areas now.
- FIX: Resolved a timing issue in the Audio Menu that made it harder to select the intended item.
- note: You can control BlindSquare‘s Audio Menu from your Apple watch. Start BlindSquare on your phone, swipe up with two fingers to bring up your glances, and double-tap the Pause button. Double-Tap again to activate an Audio Menu item.
Keeping up with friends is faster than ever. * See what friends are up to * Share updates, photos and videos * Get notified when friends like and comment on your posts * Text, chat and have group conversations * Play games and use your favorite apps
Current Version: 33.0 (June 24, 2015
Summary of Changes in Version 33.0
While it is impossible to determine what changes have been made from Facebook's release notes, our testing has found that Facebook 33.0 includes a major accessibility improvement for VoiceOver users: in the News Feed, VoiceOver no longer says "Dot" or "Dot Product" when reading the period separators between items in a story. While this change may seem minor to non-Facebook users, those who use the Facebook app regularly will no doubt appreciate this improvement.
Hangouts - free messaging, video, and voice (Free)
Use Hangouts to keep in touch. Message friends, start free video or voice calls, and hop on a conversation with one person or a group. Say more with photos, stickers, and emoji.
- Include all your friends with group chats for up to 100 people.
- Say more with status messages, photos, maps, emoji, stickers, and animated GIFs.
- Turn any conversation into a free group video call with up to 10 friends.
- Call any phone number in the world (and all calls to other Hangouts users are free!).
- Connect your Google Voice account for phone number, SMS, and voicemail integration.
- Keep in touch with friends across all your devices.
- Message friends anytime, even if they're offline.
Current Version: 4.0.0 (June 29, 2015
Summary of Changes in Version 4.0.0
Hangouts 4.0.0 is now fully accessible to VoiceOver users.
Twitterrific 5 for Twitter (Free with In-App Purchases)
The first app of its kind on the App Store, Twitterrific is the award-winning, elegant Twitter client that’s easy to understand and a delight to use.
Browse both mentions and direct messages directly from your home timeline. Customize fonts, avatar sizes, image thumbnails and more via the theme panel.
Quickly respond to tweets, change accounts or view conversation threads with minimum of effort using gestures. Rich media support including multiple images & Twitter animated GIFs. Robust VoiceOver support means Twitterrific is accessible for users with vision impairments.
Current Version: 5.12.1 (June 28, 2015)
Summary of June 2015 Updates
Twitterrific's two June 2015 releases include a number of new features, improvements and bug fixes. For VoiceOver users, version 5.12.1 includes the following improvements:
- Improved VoiceOver support on Apple Watch
- Provides more detailed glance information
- Improves summaries of listed notifications
- VoiceOver now reads quoted tweets
Additionally, some may welcome the new option (introduced in version 5.12) which allows one to move the tab bar to the bottom of the screen; this may be found in Settings> Bottom Tabs in Portrait.
USA TODAY for iPhone (Free)
All the USA TODAY content you love in a sleek new design, updated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on your iPhone and iPod Touch.
Current Version: 2.6.0 (June 22, 2015)
Summary of Changes in Version 2.6.0
Version 2.6.0 includes fixes for VoiceOver and articles, Apple Watch, Facebook sharing, as well as other bug fixes.
Recent News and Views
Apple Music and Beats 1 Launch with the Release of iOS 8.4
By AppleVis | June 30, 2015
Apple has today released iOS 8.4, bringing with it Apple’s new music streaming service and the usual "under the hood" fixes and enhancements.
The focus for this release has clearly been on making sure that everything is in place for the introduction of Apple Music and Beats 1. Consequently, we were not surprised to hear from Apple that it includes no accessibility-related changes or fixes.
Apple Releases OS X 10.10.4 with Networking and Other Improvements
By AppleVis | June 30, 2015
Following the release of Apple Music and iOS 8.4, Apple has today released OS X Yosemite 10.10.4 to the public.
According to Apple's release notes via MacRumors, OS X 10.10.4 includes the following bug fixes:
The OS X Yosemite v10.10.4 update improves the stability, compatibility, and security of your Mac.
- Improves networking reliability
- Improves Migration Assistant reliability
- Addresses an issue that prevented some external displays from functioning properly
- Improves the reliability of upgrading iPhoto and Aperture libraries to Photos
- Improves reliability when syncing photos and videos to iCloud Photo Library
- Addresses an issue that could cause Photos to unexpectedly quit after importing some Lecia DNG files
- Resolves an issue that could delay outgoing email messages in Mail
AppleVis Launches Apple Watch App Directory
By AppleVis | June 27, 2015
We are pleased to announce the launch of the AppleVis Apple Watch App Directory.
Posts to the site and on social media suggest that the number of people in our community who own an Apple Watch increases daily, so we are excited to now offer everyone the opportunity to share information about the accessibility of Apple Watch apps.
Guide: 3 ways to possibly speed up your text input with a braille display in iOS 8
By Scott Davert | June 26, 2015
Ever since iOS 8 was released last fall, users of braille displays who have used the braille keyboard for text input have had varying degrees of success. Some users reported the delay in text input to be minor, while others, like myself, found it painfully slow. It's true that the older the device, the more sluggish it will be, and it's also true that some people are just faster braille typers than others. However, there are a few settings you can change to decrease the lag time between when you type something on the braille keyboard versus when it shows up on-screen. It also partially explains why some users are more annoyed with it than others. There are a total of 3 settings that I know of.
Are VoiceOver Users on iOS Receiving the Short End of the Stick Compared to their Sighted Peers?
By AppleVis | June 24, 2015
Recently, Clara Van Gerven published an article on the National Federation of the Blind website entitled, “The Sighted Guide to VoiceOver”. In the article, the author, a sighted assistive technology specialist, undertook an experiment to use only VoiceOver on her iPhone for forty days. That any sighted person, even an assistive technology professional, would undertake using only VoiceOver for forty days is to be commended, as one cannot even begin to imagine the amount of frustration the author experienced being sighted but having to rely only on speech.
In the article, the author asserts that the built-in iOS keyboard is “a pain to type on,” even for expert users.
Apple Watch Review: A Device I Don't Need but Wouldn't Want to be Without
By Michael Hansen | June 18, 2015
I told myself that I didn’t want an Apple Watch.
I told my family and friends that I didn’t want an Apple Watch.
I wrote and tweeted about how I didn’t want an Apple Watch.
And yet, after learning that Apple Watch would include a comprehensive set of accessibility features, I enthusiastically pre-ordered one bright and early on April 10. Now that I’ve had some time (just over a month, to be exact) to use and work with the Watch, what do I think?
A Week’s Worth of Reminders of How Accessibility Sits at the Very Heart of Apple’s Ethos and Practice
By AppleVis | June 18, 2015
During the past week there has been a series of small reminders of how accessibility sits at the very heart of Apple’s ethos and practice.
The first of these came in one of the videos shown as part of the keynote presentation at last week’s Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC). Featured prominently was a piano app for the iPad being developed by the Ludwig Project, which will seek to bring music to the hearing impaired by enabling them to sense music through vibration.
Workflow App Wins Prestigious Apple Design Award Because of its Outstanding Accessibility
By AppleVis | June 9, 2015
Every year at its Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC), Apple celebrates and acknowledges through its Apple Design Awards the mobile and desktop apps which raise the bar in design, technology and innovation.
Presented in a ceremony that traditionally follows the WWDC keynote presentation, it was tremendous to see the Workflow iOS app winning one of these prestigious awards this year because of its accessibility with VoiceOver. In fact, two members of Apple’s Accessibility Team were invited onto stage to demonstrate just how well the app works with VoiceOver.
Recap of WWDC 2015
By mehgcap | June 9, 2015
WWDC 2015: Watch Some Music While Apple Goes Bug-Hunting
Today was Apples annual World Wide Developer's Conference keynote. This time each year, the world gets to preview the hardware and software coming out of Cupertino. We traditionally see the next iterations of iOS and OS X, and maybe a new service or cloud-based offering. This year was no exception: iOS9, OS X 10.11, watchOS 2.0, an updated Apple Pay, and the all-new Apple Music were all shown off with Apples usual flare. If you'd like, you can watch the keynote presentation here. Once you've seen the presentation, be sure to check out this musical summary of the announcements!
iOS/OS X: Bugs, Brains, and Battery Most of you will recall that last year's release of iOS8 wasn't exactly smooth. There were a lot of bugs throughout the OS, from VoiceOver, to wifi, and beyond. Patches came out, but failed to fix many of the issues. There was even that one time Apple accidentally disabled cellular calling on many iPhones with a bad update! The whole iOS8 experience left a sour taste in peoples' mouths. OS X didn't fair much better, with users experiencing several bugs that affected wifi, bluetooth, Notification Center, mail, and more.
My Apple Watch Diary: To Speak on Wrist Raise or Not
By David Goodwin | June 5, 2015
When I first saw mention of the Apple Watch having a ‘Speak On Wrist Raise’ option for VoiceOver users, my immediate reaction was that this would be one of those ‘set it and forget it’ settings. However, this is not turning out to be the case.
For those of you who don’t have an Apple Watch and are unfamiliar with this option and what it does, it simply has VoiceOver automatically speak the Watch screen when you lift your wrist (which most commonly results in the time being announced). Essentially, it takes things one step further than the ‘Activate On Wrist Raise’ option found elsewhere in the Watch settings, which controls whether the Watch display wakes when you lift your wrist. Actually, it’s supposed to be smarter than that might suggest, in that it should recognize and require the combination of both the lifting and the turning movements typically indicative of somebody looking at their watch.
My Apple Watch Diary: Straps and Watch Orientation
By David Goodwin | June 4, 2015
Watch, you might be excused for wondering at this point what else I have left to say on the topic … or, at least anything left to say that’s based upon personal experience. Before its release, I gave my reasons for not buying one. However, I was back within a few weeks to report that my inner-geek and it’s curiosity had ultimately won out, and that I had ended up buying an Apple Watch Sport, only to then return it.
The decision to return the Watch felt right for me at that time (see my previous post mentioned above for the reasons). However, it was suggested that I had not given the Watch enough time to prove itself to me and find a place in my daily routine. It was argued that the nature of the Apple Watch means that it takes time and some experimentation to truly determine how it can best work for you and complement the use and experience of your iPhone.
So, here I am again. Back this time with a stainless steel Apple Watch and a couple of bands (a Milanese Loop and a Leather Loop).
Armed with my previous experience and some insights into that of others, I intend to approach things a little differently this time around. I want to come to the Watch with more realistic expectations of what it can do. I am also going to try to be a little more patient and understanding about the things that it cannot do … or at least the things which it cannot currently do very well. I am sure that Apple might argue that some of these are actually things which the Watch was never intended to do. After all, it’s an accessory to an iPhone, not a replacement for one. Not only do I personally need to recognize this distinction, but it’s something that I am hoping more third-party developers will come to terms with as their Watch apps mature and evolve over time.
This Month in Podcasts
Apple Watch 101: Discussion and Detailed Description of Straps
In this episode of his series of podcasts looking at the Apple Watch, David Woodbridge discusses and gives a detailed description of the straps and bands which are currently available from Apple.
Quick Tip: Restoring a Single File From a Time Machine Backup on Mac OS X
In this podcast, Carlos Taylor gives a walk-through of how to restore a single file from a Time Machine backup when using VoiceOver.
Using the Native Twitter App on an Apple Watch
In this podcast, Khalfan Bin Dhaher demonstrates using the native Twitter app on an Apple Watch.
Khalfan shows us how to read your Twitter timeline and top trends; retweet; reply to tweets; and compose new tweets.
A complete list of all podcasts posted to the AppleVis website in the past month can be found at www.applevis.com/podcasts