UPDATE: American Printing House for the Blind (APH) has issued a warning that there are connection issues for the Mantis and Chameleon braille displays after upgrading to iOS 14.4; and recommend that you turn off automatic updates and do not upgrade until a resolution has been found:
The basic issue is that once you upgrade to 14.4, as soon as you lock your iPad or iPhone with the Mantis or Chameleon connected, the braille display will not automatically reconnect once you wake the device back up. You can force it to reconnect by leaving the terminal and reconnecting from there but then you won’t get braille. The only way to get braille back is to toggle Bluetooth on the iOS device but the issue will happen again as soon as you lock your device or it goes to sleep.
Another way that this issue can manifest is if you don’t lose your connection but use the braille display to wake up the iOS device, you can successfully wake it up and regain your connection but you will stop receiving braille. Regardless of how the issue appears, it is best to avoid it altogether by not upgrading to 14.4.
We are currently unaware of whether this issue is specific to the two braille displays mentioned in the APH warning, or if other braille displays are also effected. If you have any information on this, please let us know by posting a comment below.
It's incredibly disappointing that braille users have been hit yet again by a bug that significantly impacts upon their ability to use Apple hardware.
A review of our bug tracker shows that more than 80% of the braille-related bugs we have reported have been rated as either serious or moderate. This compares to 45% for all other bug categories. 36% of the braille-related bugs were rated as serious, compared to 8% of bugs for all other categories. However, not only does our bug tracker highlight how braille-related bugs are more likely to be significantly impactful for braille users; it also indicates that they typically take longer to be resolved by Apple.
It's time for this to change if Apple is to stand behind its stated commitment to accessibility.
Apple continues to demonstrate that its internal testing and prioritisation of braille support is simply not up to the task. If they can't change this internally, then they need to contract an organisation such as APH or Blind Institute to handle testing; and for Apple to put in place better mechanisms for acting on the information that comes from that testing And from the reports of braille users themselves.
If it can't do better by its customers who use and rely on braille, then Apple's recent announcement that its executives' bonuses will Be tied to their performance with respect to accessibility and the company's other core values would seem to be nothing more than meaningless public relations ‘fluff’.
ORIGINAL POST: Apple has today released iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4, which–alongside the usual bug fixes and under-the-hood improvements–bring a new Direct Touch accessibility setting, support for recognizing smaller QR codes in the Camera app, as well as the option to classify Bluetooth device types in Settings.
When navigating to Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver > Rotor Actions you will now find a new section named Direct Touch Apps, from where you can enable Direct Touch on an app-by-app basis. This should remove the need with apps such as Flicktype to enable Direct Touch each time you use the app (or, in the case of Flicktype, its keyboard).
To complement this new setting, Apple has also added Direct Touch to the list of items that can be added or removed from the VoiceOver rotor at Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver > Rotor.
For those unfamiliar with Direct Touch, it's a way in which developers can tell VoiceOver to ignore touch events in part or all of an app's screen so that the app can handle those touch events directly. Examples include virtual instruments, exploring a map by touch, interpreting touches and gestures in a game, and so on.
For owners of a HomePod mini and a newer model iPhone equipped with a U1 chip, this update to iOS and the HomePod software update also released today introduce a new Handoff experience when transferring audio between the two devices. AppleInsider describes how the new Handoff works:
As you bring your phone near the HomePod mini, the light atop the speaker will start dim and small and slowly start to glow brighter and brighter as it gets closer. Simultaneously, your phone will start vibrating. The vibration increases in intensity as the devices move closer together.
As you start bringing them together, a status bar will appear at the top of your phone's display. It shows an icon of the HomePod mini, the name, and the location of the device. You can tap it to manually pass over your audio or continue moving the devices closer. Once you do bring the devices close enough, the light will flash on the HomePod mini and your audio will transfer from your iPhone to the HomePod or vice versa.
Once it does transfer the audio, a new card will pop onto your phone that shows the large album art, currently playing track, audio controls, and an AirPlay button for rerouting audio.
If you have a HomePod mini and a U1-equipped iPhone, please share your thoughts below on the new handoff experience for VoiceOver users.
Our testing suggests that no pre-existing accessibility bugs have been resolved in iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4.
Aside from the aforementioned issues with Mantis and Chameleon displays, we are aware of one new bug for blind and low vision users in these releases.
- When composing a message in a new conversation in the Messages app and using Braille Screen Input, VoiceOver does not speak words deleted if deleting by word with 2-finger flick left. This behaviour does not appear to occur when composing a reply to an existing conversation or in other apps or across the operating system.
As we always stress, we can make no claims on the completeness or accuracy of our testing. We are only a small team, and it is simply impossible for us to test all devices, configurations, applications, and use cases. Accordingly, to help us ensure that the information on this page is as complete and accurate as possible, please let us know in the comments of any fixes; enhancements; or regressions that you find in your own use of iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4.
iOS 14.4 Release Notes
iOS 14.4 includes the following improvements for your iPhone:
- Smaller QR codes can be recognized by Camera
- Option to classify Bluetooth device type in Settings for correct identification of headphones for audio notifications
- Notifications for when the camera on your iPhone is unable to be verified as a new, genuine Apple camera in iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max
This release also fixes the following issues:
- Image artifacts could appear in HDR photos taken with iPhone 12 Pro
- Fitness widget may not display updated Activity data
- Typing may be delayed and word suggestions may not appear in the keyboard
- The keyboard may not come up in the correct language in Messages
- Audio stories from the News app in CarPlay may not resume after being paused for spoken directions or Siri
- Enabling Switch Control in Accessibility may prevent phone calls from being answered from the Lock Screen
How to update
iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 are available via Over-the-Air Update (Settings > General > Software Update) via Finder on a Mac with macOS Catalina or later, or via iTunes on a PC or Mac with macOS Mojave or earlier.
Before updating, we strongly recommend making a full and complete backup of your device (either locally or in iCloud, depending on personal preference). This will ensure that, in the unlikely event that something goes wrong during the update process, you will have a current backup on hand in case a device restore becomes necessary. Also, if using OTA update, we recommend plugging your device into a power source for the duration of the download/installation process, so as to prevent the unlikely event of your battery going dead during the update.
More information on how to update the software on your device is available on this Apple Support page.
As always, we look forward to hearing your thoughts on these updates. Do you like the new features and changes? Let us know by adding a comment below.