Smart Phone Showdown Braille User Considerations

Note from Penny Forward

This is an email we received from one of our supporters Scott Davert. We value all your thoughts and ideas, and thought uploading this as a blog post was the best way to share this information. This came about as we were preparing for our “Financial Sense¢: Smart Phone Showdown,” event we had yesterday.

 

Letter

Hello Penny Forward.

I wanted to contribute to this topic with some thoughts of the Android VS. iOS discussion. I’ll primarily keep my points to braille access after the next paragraph, as the more general considerations are certainly things that others can cover.

First, I started evaluating a Pixel 7 in January of this year and have been an iOS user since 2011. The initial set up for a new user seems much more solid with TalkBack when compared to iOS. I was very happy to see a comprehensive tutorial on the use of TalkBack. The best part was that the tutorial was interactive in nature, so this helped me get set up without too much trouble. I did find that swiping left and right across the screen sometimes did not pick up all elements. For example, while swiping through Accessibility settings during set up, I was unable to exit this screen without using the back gesture.

However, the gesture for activating the back button had yet to be presented as part of the tutorial. The swiping left and right with one finger gesture also seems to sometimes be inconsistent when using the operating system.

Braille is one area of Android where there are significant issues, but it can still be used to some extent. Some of the challenges include lack of Bluetooth support for the Humanware NLS E-Reader, Brailliant BIX series, Chameleon, and Mantis. The Mantis can be connected as a Bluetooth keyboard, but braille will not display. I’m unsure about the connectivity options for the Zoomax model, as my research center does not have one. The above mentioned  devices are supported over USB as of TalkBack 13.1. All other models on the market right now appear to be working through Bluetooth on Android. The reading experience on Android is also more challenging on iOS. Unlike iOS, Android requires that you turn pages in books manually. There is no way to have the pages turned automatically. This exists on iOS, but is not functioning in iOS 16.5 due to a bug impacting some applications. This is expected to be addressed with the release of iOS 16.6.

The amount of commands available to a braille display user on Android is significantly less than what is offered on iOS, as is the number of applications which support braille fully. There is also no way on Android to customize braille display keyboard commands like there is with VoiceOver. Android does offer more USB support for braille displays and does not require that an AC connector or a dongle be used to make the connection on your phone. iOS requires a $40 accessory and the displays must also be plugged in to electricity. Finally, features for braille users are only now starting to be added to TalkBack. As an example, it will apparently be possible to select, copy, cut and paste text from braille keyboards starting in Android 14 which should be released in the fall. When I started testing iOS 4 in 2011,this was already a feature on my iPhone 4. It may be worth noting that the NLS E-Reader, Brailliant BIX and  Chameleon do not support these functions from iOS 16 onward, though there are still workarounds available on iOS. Hopefully, Humanware will address these issue at some point soon, as it’s been a bug filed repeatedly with them since last summer which continues to be unresolved.

Regarding captions, it has been my experience that the Android side offers more accurate dictation and thus, also more legible captions.

The difference is that Android requires you to download an app called Live Transcribe, while Apple has the feature on all iOS 16 and later models. What I can’t recall is which countries support live captions and winch do not. The Apple version requires you to use iOS 16 and have an iPhone newer than the 8, while Live Transcribe works at least as far back as Android 10. In either case, for braille users, utilizing this functionality is still a challenge. However, if you have enough vision and wish to use captioning, it may be worth considering Android for this feature depending on your use case.

As I’m sure will have been pointed out numerous times prior to now, there are Android phones that cost significantly less than Apple products. Though there are iPhone SE 2 models on Ebay available for the cost of a mid-range Android device. As someone who has worked in the field of adaptive technology for over a decade with many individuals who depend on braille, I’m confident in saying that iOS has a lot more to offer a braille user than Android. It’s my hope that as Android continues to upgrade, that it will one day be as productive, or even more so,, for users of braille displays. There are many other advantages and disadvantages to each operating system, but the same way you are all limited on time, so am I. I continue to watch the progress of Penny Forward and am so happy to see it continuing to grow! I was introduced to this informative group through Facebook.

 

Thank you for giving me the financial education I never was able to get when I was young!

Scott Davert

 

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