Compatibility between Mac and iPhone and BrailleNote Touch and Polaris, differences advantages or disadvantages

Braille on Apple Products

Goodmorning all,
next week I will ahve the possibility to see and taste a Braille Note Touch from HUmanware and next MOnth I will see a POlaris. As some of you told that you use these devices, and as I'm thinking about buying something and as they are expensive enough I must be sure before making a decision, I would like asking you how do you think with them related at compatibility between these devices and Apple devices, above all with Mac, but with Iphone too, but avove all with Mac. Is it possible to transfere files form Mac into these devices and what about format of files, etc.?, And betwwen Brialle Note Touch and pOlaris, there are differences, vantagges or desvantages?. Many thanks in advance, and have a nice day. María



Submitted by Justin on Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Well, for one thing, these devices run android, and the apple devices run their own OS' so I'm assuming you're going to run into conflicts with certain aspects. I'm not trying to disuade you from a notetaker any more, but I personally don't see the need nor the point of having one of these anymore. Think of it, you can just have a macbook pro or air, with the keyboard. Or an iOS device iPhone/Ipad/etc with an external Bluetooth keyboard, and it's cheaper than buying a braille device with a braille display. My argument is that I can do everything on a mainstream device that I can do on a braille blindness specific expensive device, and don't see the need on getting a notetaker. The specs look good, but in my opinion, that's it. I've never really looked at the new generation of notetaker devices from Hims/Humanware, but if you're looking for a quiet typing experience, go for the hims devices. I had an old braille note, and the braille keyboard was so loud in class/etc, that I had a hard time with it.

Hi Justin and all.
many thanks for your answer.
I agree with you about the thing taht, when is possible, I prefer a normal device and not a blindness device, infact, I have an Iphone and a Mac, and I' really very happy and for normla things I prefer use them, however for me, personally, Braille Display with notetaker is an exception. I need it and I couldn't live without it, for 2 reasons: notetaker I need and I use as a "pencil and paper" I mean, not to write when I write for people, because, in this case, I prefer the computer, but when I write on my oen, when I ahve to take notes, with a Perkins keyboard I write faster and when I nedd to see my notes, I prefere a Braille display ON the other hand, Braille display for me is necessary for reading. I need reading in on a Braille display when I need concentration or when I read books in other languages, I only like voices when they are human voices and I never could study with voices, I aolwas need and I need still now, Braille.
About possibles interferences betwwen these diveces with Android and Apple devies, I'm afraid of it too, of course my dream would be a tablet with a Braille display which runs with Ios, something as the "april fisch" of this year here on Applevis, do you remember?, I believed it completely, I though taht it was true!, it would be my dream, but if it doesn't exist, this with Android perhaps is the only alternative.
However, I only wnat this device to take notes and above all, to read in every possible format: rtf, pdf, word, etc. of course, for emial, internet, etc I prefer my Mac and my Iphone, of course.
Many thanks again, and goodnight.

Submitted by Justin on Wednesday, June 5, 2019

I'd say for your needs get something simpler. I think you don't need a braille note touch, get something like the refreshabraille display from APH, if they still sell it. It's a few years old, and you can connect it to your mac/iphone. It has simple note taking ability on it too which for you is a bonus.

Hi Justin and all,
I wrote to Aph a couple weeks ago asking for this device, but they answer me that it's not sold yet, now they sell TrialBraille, but it havs only 14 cells, and they are not enough for me, to read. I though about something as Seyka Mine too, but it read only files on txt, and, as I receive everyting (books, things in the office etc.) in word, rtf or pdf (which I convert to rtf) I think that, the fact to be obbliged to convert everyting in txt is so boring. For this reason, I didn't wnat to exclude something more actual and modern as Braille lNOte Touch or POlaris because I think taht this idea to have something like a tablet with a Braille dislplay is the future. Infact, do you remember the news which was posted here on Applevis as "april fish" this year about something called "Braillepad" which would be an Ipad with a Braille display, of course, if it would be something real, it would be my drealm, I really believed in this "April fish" and I was really very disapointed when I descoverd that it was only a joke.
But, as I said, as someone here told that used Braille Note Touch and POlaris, it would be interested to know something about the compatibility between these devices and our Apple devices, for example, with Icloud, and in geenral, with everything.
Have a nice day.

Submitted by slj on Thursday, June 6, 2019

Hi Maria.
For studying where you have to read, write and edit different kinds of file types, I do understand that a simple Braille display with simple note taking features might not be what you need. For editing large files in Braille, searching big files, read organised notes etc. a Braille display connected to a Mac computer, iPad or iPhone simply won't work.
Now I don't know if you ever have tried a Braille display connected to an iPhone. If you haven't, then it's difficult for me to explain the difference between the Braille Note Touch and the Polaris. Then you properly need to see what I'm talking about for yourself before it'll start to make sense. The Braille Note Touch:
The Braille Note Touch is simply a tablet with a build in Braille display, touch screen and a Braille keyboard. You can either write Braille directly on the touch screen, which is great for them who find that to be easy, or you can cover the touch screen with the Braille keyboard. The Braille keyboard is very noisy in my opinion, and I find the touch screen difficult to type on. However, the touch screen is great for navigating apps etc.
Navigating the Braille Touch is in my opinion quite weird. It feels like navigating an iPad with a Braille display connected. I find it difficult to keep track on where I am, and it doesn't really feels like a note taker for me, but rather just a tablet, which I don't find great for notetaking etc.
If you are using other languages than English, you might run into huge issues depending on the language and the Braille table. If English is the only language you need, then you'll be fine.
However, that's only my opinion on the Braille Note Touch, but I hope you'll give it a try and see it for yourself.

The Polaris:
The Polaris is lighter, smaller, and it feels much more pro in my opinion in all ways. It doesn't come with a touch screen.
So, if you want a solution which works with most apps on Android, then go for the Braille Note Touch where you can navigate the apps with a touch screen. But if you want a notetaker which really works great and solid for a notetaker and can do Android apps as well, then go for the Polaris.
More about the Polaris:
There are two versions: The Polaris with a 32 cell Braille display, and the Polaris Mini with a 20 cell Braille display. I have the Polaris Mini, which is great for my needs, but I think you might need the large version for a number of reasons.
The Polaris works like the older Notetakers, where you have menus, shortcuts etc. without a touch screen. However, it does also support Android apps, which works in a way which I currently don't know how to describe. The best example I can come up with is like how screenreaders navigates on websites.
All the standard apps and features works with menus and shortcuts like the older notetakers, which I think is the important thing for you when studying.
Please note that the Polaris have USB and SD card slot for easy connection. The Polaris Mini only supports Micro SD, where the slot is behind the battery which is simply crap. However, the Polaris Mini only have USB C and Micro HDMI. The USB C port is, in my opinion, a really great choice when it comes to charging the device. So both versions have pros and cons. But I still think you need the large version, so you have a normal SD card slot, normal USB ports, normal HDMI port if needed, an LCD display which is great for pairwork with sighted people etc.

Using Polaris together with Mac and IOS:
Please note: I have no experience with Braille Note TOuch together with the Mac and IOS.
Using a Polaris as a Braille display with an iPhone works just great. You can use the ctrl and alt keys, on both sides of the spacebar on the Polaris to swipe left or right to scroll through the icons. You can of course also use the display panning buttons, but that'll take forever when there are multiple displays of text. There are of course standard Braille commands for swiping as well, but I find the control and alt keys very useful when using the device on IOS.

Using the Polaris with a Mac:
Using it as a Braille display:
Someone, properly Apple, have seriously screwed up. Therefore, the following two things do not work:
1. You can't connect the Polaris as a Braille display via USB to the Mac. It simply won't work. However, Bluetooth works.
2. The previous display panning key does not work for some strange issue. It simply goes forward instead. This issue annoys me so much that I don't use the Polaris as much as a Braille display as I wants to. I don't understand why this small extremely annoying issue get fixed. Other than that, the connection is extremely relyable and stable.

Transfering files and documents between a Mac and Android devices:
As you might know, both the Polaris and the Braille Note touch runs on Android. I don't know why, but that won't play nicely with Finder on the Mac. I don't know if it's Apples or Googles fult.
If you wanna transfer files between your Mac and Android notetaker, you need to use a program called Android Transfer. This program is a bit difficult to use, and is not an easy solution for transfering files in my opinion. It can be done if it's seriously needed. This is the reason for I'll highly recommend you to transfer via an SD card, which would be easiest on the large version of the Polaris. Trust me, you won't like a Polaris Mini, where you have to poll out the battery, take out the micro SD card, put the micro SD card into an adapter and put it into your computer or card reader. This is simply crap. I have experimented with other solutions such as cloud systems, but I haven't found any solutions which easily integrates with the build in notetaker on the Polaris.
So, to keep it short: It works, if you are willing to use an SD card. I will highly recommend you to have your stuff stored on multiple SD cards anyway. If the Polaris, or Braille Note Touch crashes, then you won't loose your important documents.
You can also write documents on your Mac computer and then read/edit them on a Polaris afterwards. However, I can't speak for English since this is not my main language, but, depending on what language you use, there might come some issues regarding to some special letters and characters. There are workarounds to this, which I'll of course talk more about if needed.

I'm not sure on what else to tell. Feel free to ask if you have more questions. I'm not on this forum very often. Therefore, feel free to send me an email if you need a faster answer.

Submitted by Mitchell on Thursday, June 6, 2019

Hello María,
As someone who has used both a BrailleNote Touch and a Braille display connected to an iPhone as my primary drivers in school, I have had some experience with both.
The main issue with using a standalone Braille display (mine was a Brailliant BI 32 for reference) were the many bugs that plagued both my Brailliant and iOs's handling of Braille. On the iOs front, the Braille cursor remains unreliable, especially in long documents where it tends to jump more than a paragraph at a time' and there were times when the Braille would not even pan when the Brailliant was connected.
However, comparing the usefulness of the Brailliant to the Braillenote Touch as a Braille display, the Touch performs much more reliably, and does not randomly disconnect from the device. For what the Brailliant tries to do, and I hope that other similarly priced Braille displays like the Focus 40 do better) it doesn't do it as well as the BrailleNote Touch in its primary function: braille display.
While I would agree with SLJ regarding that the Polaris is probably better than the original Touch (I've hearn mixed things about it myself) as it has a much better processor and specs, the Touch Plus, the only version available now, runs on a more updated version of Android (Android 8.1 vs. Android 5), and the specs are much better. I every not had difficulties using the Touch, and it seems to be a lot less buggy than the Braille on iPhone.

Goodmorning, SlJ, sorry, because I don't know your name. Many many tanks for your detailled explanation Yes, of ocurse, I think that I will ask you some questions, because everything that you tell me is really very interesting, but, sorry, which is your Email adresse?, if you want, you can write me to many thanks and have a nice day:

HI again,
this morning I forgot something that I find important too. The differences (regarding support, contact in case of problmes, etc.) between Humanware and hImps. Personally I trust a lot in german enterprises (for example, Helptech, the enterprise of my actual Actilino), and American or english enterprises. I know for example, that hUmanware has a support deppartment and they answer you very fast when there is a question. However HImps I don't know, of course, it can be good but is not said that everyone must speak english and as POlaris is not sold here, I think that if I would have a problem, it would be a little bit complicated. IN each case, as I said, next week I will see NOte Touch, and in July, hopefully, POlaris.
Ah, another think: I think (but it's only an idea) that perhaps in Canada, England or USA (so in "Humanware area" there are more people who use Apple devices, and so it could be that the compatiblity between these devices and Apple would be better, however in Asia (so Himps Area) perhaps people are more adresed to Android.
Perhpas it's an stupid thing, but there are only my reflecions.
I found really very interesting everyting which you told about Sd Card, and devices ad USB to be recongnized by Finder, and so, I have to make proves.
<many thanks again:

Submitted by slj on Monday, June 10, 2019

Hi Maria.
I'll send you an email right after i have written this post.
I'm glad you find my answers helpful.
1. Regarding support and which devices you can get in your country:
Do you need Braille in English only, or do you need Braille and support in your own language as well?
If you need Braille in your own language, then I'll recommend you to stick to devices you can get in your own country. Then you can properly get Braille in your own language as well, and get the right support in your own language from the dealer. However, I don't know how things are in your country.
However, if you only need Braille in English and you are okay with English support only from Hims, then you'll be fine. Hims is really great when it comes to give support.
It will surprise me if there are no German dealers of the Polaris products from Hims.
2. Regarding IOS and Android compatibility:
Braille is really not good on Android compared to IOS, so this is not the reason for the differences. Personally I have not had many dropouts on the Bluetooth connection, but I don't have much experience with the Braille Note touch on IOS, so I can't speak for that.
Using those two devices as a Braille display on IOS will work for sure, since it's the IOS device which controls how things works, and not your Braille device. I think it's more the differences between those two devices, Braille in your own language, support for dealers in your country if there are any and the build in functions for your needs which matters.
I think it'll be difficult to make the final decition before you have seen and tried both products.