Switching to Android full-time – an experiment

A few weeks ago, I decided to conduct an experiment. I wanted to determine if Android 4.2.2 “Jelly Bean” was finally ready for me to switch to full-time, away from an iPhone.

Background

I’ve been an iPhone user for four years, ever since the original iPhone 3G S came out with VoiceOver support in June 2009. What Apple did back then was revolutionary, completely opening up a wealth of apps and services to people with vision impairments without the need to purchase extra assistive technologies at prices that were again the amount of the phone they were supposed to make accessible. Instead, VoiceOver, the screen reader for iOS, was bundled with the operating system for free.

At the same time, Google also announced first steps in accessibility for Android. But this paled by comparison, offering little more than a command shell for the Android platform with some speech output.

Later, TalkBack came about and gave at least some access to Android apps in Android 2.x. However, this access was still very limited compared to Apple’s model, as Jamie Teh points out in a blog post.

In October 2011, Android 4.0 AKA Ice Cream Sandwich came out, and compared to what was offered in previous versions, was a big step forward in terms of accessibility. Not quite there yet, as this AFB review spells out, it offered touch screen access for the first time, more than two years after Apple came out with VoiceOver, and with a model that still left a lot to be desired.

The biggest step forward came in June 2012, when Google announced Android 4.1 AKA Jelly Bean. With it came a revised model of touch screen access, called Explore By Touch, that closely resembles the model Apple, and now also Microsoft, have employed. Similar gestures allow for easy transition between platforms.

We had just started work on accessible Firefox for Android, and Jelly Bean meant that we had to add quite some magic to make it work. But we did, and the warm reception and good feedback from the blind and low vision community has been humbling and inspirational!

So when with Android 4.2, and especially the 4.2.2 updates, the gesture recognition seemed to solidify and become more reliable, I decided that it was time to give Android a serious chance to replace my iPhone as my regular smartphone device. I was also inspired by this MACWORLD podcast episode, where Andy Ihnatko talks about his switch from an iPhone 4S to an Android device, not from an accessibility, but from a general usability point of view. After all, Android has matured quite a bit, and I wanted to take advantage of that and finally use Firefox for Android full-time!

First steps

So on the 23rd of March, I got my shiny new Nexus 4. I decided to go for a Google phone because those get the latest updates of Android fastest. Moreover, they come with a stock user interface, nothing home-grown like the HTC Sense or Samsung Galaxy devices have. On my partner’s HTC One, for example, a TalkBack user cannot even use the dial pad to enter a phone number.

The hardware is quite OK. The phone feels solid, the glass surface on the front and back feel smooth and pleasant to the touch. The phone quality is a bit muffled both on the sending as well as the receiving end. My best friend who has a slight hearing problem had trouble understanding me. The speaker on the back also leaves a bit to be desired, esp since the speaker in the iPhone 4S that I am used to is quite good. I also found out during the course of my testing that I have occasional problems with Wifi connections becoming very slow, download rates plunging or downloads breaking up alltogether. Deleting and re-adding the access point entry seems to have, at least temporarily, fixed the issue. This is also being discussed lively in the Android project issue tracker, so is nothing specific to my device alone.

I was betrayed of the initial setup experience. No matter what I tried, the gesture that was described in the Jelly Bean accessibility guide for both the Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 devices, didn’t work. TalkBack would not start at all. So my sighted partner had to do that setup for me. We could then turn on TalkBack. After an update to Jelly Bean 4.2.2, we could also enable the quick button and gesture sequence to turn on TalkBack while the phone is running regularly. This experience did not leave that good of an impression with me.

Setting up accounts was a breeze. To be more flexible, I got my calendars and contacts off of iCloud and store them in an OwnCloud installation at my web space provider’s server. I didn’t want to go the Google Contacts route because of recent announcements that left me uncertain whether this would be supported across platforms in the future. For OwnCloud, I installed a CalDAV and CardDAV provider software from the Play Store that works like a charm with the Nexus 4.

However, some of the stock apps like Calendar don’t work that well with TalkBack, or at least not if one is used to the excellent support of Calendar in iOS.

BUMMER! Calendar works signifficantly less good with TalkBack than the Calendar app on iOS does with VoiceOver.

Multi-lingual input

Because I am writing in both English and German frequently, I wanted a way to quickly switch between these two input languages. The problem with one is that, if I write the other language, the auto-correct will often try to deduce German words out of English vocabulary, or vice versa. Fortunately, this is as convenient as on iOS once set up. In Languages and Input Settings, with the stock Android keyboard, one needs to disable the System Language checkbox and then enable the languages one wants to have supported. Next to the space bar, there is now a new button that cycles through available languages.

BUMMER: iOS does announce the new language switched to, TalkBack doesn’t.

This can be a real productivity killer if one uses more than two languages frequently.

The next problem arises with German umlauts. Sighted people long-tap the a, o and u characters for the ä, ö and ü characters, and s for the ß character. TalkBack users have a big problem here, since neither TalkBack nor the alternate screen reader Spiel allow for keys to be long-tapped. On iOS, when in touch-typing mode, one touches the letter in question and leaves the finger there, taps the screen with a second finger, and can then double-tap and hold to simulate a long-tap on the letter, and finally choose the relevant special character. Since iOS 6, a German keyboard with dedicated umlaut characters is also available, and on the iPad, even the ß character has a dedicated key.

On Android, the stock keyboard does not come with such extra keys, and accessibility does not allow to bring up the umlauts. Alternative keyboards from the Play Store such as the SwiftKey or the “German keyboard with Umlauts” app offer no accessible keyboards. It appears that accessibility is tightly integrated with the Android keyboard alone. Asking around in the community did also not yield any positive result on this matter.

BUMMER! No umlauts for blind users on Android! This also is true for accented characters in French, Spanish or other languages.

Text editing is another problem that lags behind terribly in Android if you do not use an external keyboard. On iOS, one can control the cursor, do text selection, do editing functions such as cut, copy and paste. On Android, there are gestures to move by character, word, or paragraph, but there is no way to select text or bring up the editing functions of a text field in a controlled fashion. I do not want to have to always use an external keyboard!

Moreover, if you do not swipe, but use the one-finger exploration method, it depends on where on a text field your finger lands, where the cursor goes once you double-tap. Unlike on iOS, where it always goes to the beginning or end first, or indicates where the cursor goes once you touch a text field’s contents, on Android there is no such speech feedback.

BUMMER! No controlled or advanced text editing is possible with TalkBack.

Apps

If you|d like to read up on some of the stock apps and their TalkBack support, or lack thereof, I would like to point you to Kiran Kaja|s excellent Nexus 7 reviews part 1 and part 2. Here, I would like to add a few impressions of apps I use regularly.

But before I do that, I would like to point out one big common denominator: Unlabeled graphical buttons. They are everywhere! This includes Android apps stock on the device, but more so many apps from the app store. This is the more bewildering considering that the Android app compilers even warn developers of missing contentDescription attributes, which are used to give accessibility labels to image buttons or image views. One developer who I contacted with a request to add those, said in his reply e-mail, paraphrased: “Oh I got those warnings, but always ignored them because I didn’t know what they meant. Oh yeah I know TalkBack, but always thought it useless. Now I know what this is all for, and you’ll get the buttons labeled in the next update.” So there is a warning, but the compiler does not indicate what this is used for, and that ignoring this warning basically means excluding a potential group of customers from using one’s app!

Twitter: There were several Twitter clients mentioned in the comments to Kiran’s posts above, and even Plume, the one considered most accessible, has several unlabeled buttons in the New Tweet screen, leading me to try three different ones before I found the one that sent my tweet. I guess “accessible” means a much lower bar in much of the Android community compared to others, or?

App.net: Another social network I use frequently.There are two clients out there that are quite popular: Dash and Robin. Both added accessibility contentDescriptions upon my request and are fully accessible.

WordPress: I found several unlabeled buttons in the UI of that app. Since it is open source, I decided to go in and fix them myself. I found that the current trunk version has a much revamped UI, using a component that adds accessibility by default, so the next version will actually be much nicer for free. I had to add only a few contentDescription strings to buttons that don’t take part in this new mechanism.

WhatsApp: Works except for some buttons that aren’t labeled. Because the layout is very similar to the iOS version, I figured out quickly that the right one of the text field sends the message, the left one adds media.

Amazon: With a few exceptions, works as well as the iOS version.

Push notifications on the lock screen: One thing I dearly missed when I started using Android was the fact that new notifications were not pushed to my lock screen immediately, and didn’t wake up the device. i am so used to the workflow of tapping a push notification to act on it from the lock screen that this really felt like a serious drawback. Fortunately, there is an app for that called Notification Lock Screen Widget. The instalation has to be done by a sighted person, since it requires adding a widget to the lock screen, but after that, it works quite well with TalkBack. One double-taps the notification one wants to act on, then finds the slide area and unlocks the phone. App is opened, one can reply or do whatever is necessary.

The camera

Yes, this blind guy talks about the camera! I use it quite frequently on iOS to take shots of stuff around me, sometimes even to send them to social networks to ask what something is, or if the milk has reached its due date yet. Since iOS 6 and on the iPhone 4S, I even use panorama shots frequently. VoiceOver gives me instructions if I hold the camera too high or too low, if I’m turning too fast or too slowly. If I want to take a picture of a person, face recognition tells me if a face has moved into the camera view and where the face is located. Once it’s centered, I can take a shot, and these are usually pretty good I’m told!

BUMMER! None of the above is possible with the Camera app on Android. I can take pictures, but panorama or facial recognition is not possible.

Once I’ve taken photos, I may want to re-use them later. In iOS, this has been a no-brainer for ages. VoiceOver tells me what orientation the photo is in when I’m in the gallery, if it’s a photo or a video, and when it was shot.

BUMMER! The Gallery in Android is totally inaccessible. There is onlya Cancel button and a blank screen, nothing more.

I also use ABBYY TextGrabber to do optical character recognition on letters or other written stuff. On iOS, I can easily take a snapshot and have it recognized. The result is usually also pretty good.

BUMMER! TextGrabber on Android, although usable with TalkBack, suffers from the above mentioned inaccessibility of the camera and gives bad results in 50% of the time, and no result in the oter 50%. A sighted user can achieve similarly good results on both iOS and Android, so this is clearly a shortcoming in the way the camera cannot be accessed.

I also use LookTel Money Reader on every travel to the U.S. or Canada to recognize different bank notes.

BUMMER! The Ideal Accessibility currency recognizer only works with U.S. money, not with Canadian, Euros or British pounds.

Scrolling in lists

In iOS, when I have a list of a hundred tweets in Twitterrific or TweetList, I can simply swipe through and read them continuously. This is not possible on Android. Swiping in TalkBack only gives me the elements currently visible on the screen. In order to continue reading, I have to stop my flow, do the gesture to advance a screen, then touch at the top most list item, and continue reading by swiping right. The alternative screen reader Spiel offers continuous swiping in some lists, but I found that this does not work reliably everywhere. For me, this is a huge productivity killer. It interrupts my flow every 6 or 7 items, breaks concentration and is a distraction. it requires me to think about where to put my finger next i norder to not miss anything.

BUMMER! No continuous reading of long lists is possible in a reliable fashion. TalkBack doesn’t offer it at all, Spiel only in some limited lists.

Navigation and travel

I travel quite a bit, and also like to find out about my surroundings. The Maps application in iOS 6 is a magnificent piece of software in accessibility terms. I’ve never had such accessible maps at my finger tips. When walking, I get announcements spoken to me of upcoming cross roads etc. Previously, one would have to purchase expensive extra devices like the Trekker Breeze to get some of this functionality. Alternatively, one can also use Ariadne GPS to get some more features tailored towards the needs of the visually impaired.

BUMMER! The Maps app on Android only offers limited navigation capabilities. Maps themselves aren’t accessible at all.

And if I want to go somewhere in Germany, I most often will use the German railway company Deutsche Bahn. They offer apps for both iOS and Android, one for looking up travel routes, one to purchase and store electronic train tickets to later show to the on-board service personnel to have them scan it. Information about seating and when and where to change trains is all accessible on iOS. Of course, finding routes, too. Standard date and time pickers are being used, and everything works just nicely.

BUMMER! While the Tickets app looks like it could be equally accessible on Android, the app for finding one’s travel route doesn’t allow a TalkBack user to specify a departure or arrival date and time. Because Android does not offer a standard date and time picker, or at least I’ve never seen one anywhere, the company decided to use an animated spinning wheel to adjust the values for date and time. This custom view is totally inaccessible, and there is no alternative method of input. I contacted the railway company with this problem, and they said they’d look into it, but the only way I see that this can be solved is by using an alternative UI if TalkBack or another screen reader is being detected. Until then, there is no way I can find my travel routes using just the Nexus 4.

eBooks

On iOS, ever since the first iPad was announced in February of 2010, the iBooks application has been a fully accessible eBook reader. Along with Apple’s iBooks, it supports ePub and PDF. In iOS 6, PDF support even got raised to a level almost comparable to that of ePub and iBooks. One can review text, read it on a refreshable braille display, even in grade 2 if one so desires, find individual words and review them, etc.

More recently, Adobe Reader on iOS also became accessible by supporting the relevant protocols within the UIKit framework.

Kiran already hints at it in his post, and even the Bookshare GoRead application does not improve the situation. The only way one can consume eBooks on Android is by letting them be dumped into one’s ears through the speech synthesizer in chunks. No way to rewind, no way to review words or phrases. No way to read on a braille display. It’s basically like listening to an audio book on a cassette player with broken rewind and fast-forward keys.

The screen where the eBook content is being displayed is a total black hole for TalkBack. Nothing there.

BUMMER! eBooks are close to inaccessible! And there are no APIs to support developers to improve the situation. While other platforms offer rich content display/editing, Android doesn’t.

Braille

Braille support needs to be installed separately via an application from the Play Store called BrailleBack. It is new, as new as Jelly Bean itself is. My braille display isn’t supported yet. However I’ve opened an issue against BrailleBack and even provided some info about my display, so in hopes that BRLTTY will support it soon, Brailleback also will.

On iOS, the display is fully supported right out of the box.

In conclusion

If I replaced my iPhone with the Nexus 4 full-time at this point, I would be missing out on all “BUMMER!” items above. It would be like stepping back a few years in accessibility, but taking the knowledge with me that there is something out there that offers me all these things.

Despite my desire to use Firefox for Android on a daily basis, meaning whenever I open a web page on a mobile device, I am not prepared to do that for this big a sacrifice. I am also not prepared to constantly carry two phones around with me except when I know I’ll be working professionally with them at my destination.

In short: The experiment, tailored towards my usage patterns at this point in time, has failed.

However, I will keep the Nexus 4 and use it for testing, because it is so nice and fast. And I will use it to keep close tabs on future Android development. Android 5.0 is around the corner, and I will definitely check against the above points when it is released to see if any of these items have improved.

This experiment has also led to some conclusions regarding Firefox OS accessibility which you all will hopefully see the results of in a few months! So stay tuned! :)

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Comments

42 Responses to Switching to Android full-time – an experiment

  1. Martin Courcelles says:

    Great overview of the present Android accessibility issues. it’s unfortunate that Google’s solution seems to be sort of the “gum and “string” style. As you say, hopefully 5.0 will solidify the accessibility features.

  2. starwed says:

    I know there have been many projects that create custom Android distributions — have there been any that attempted to make it more accessible? (I guess that still wouldn’t help any third party apps.)

  3. crister says:

    Just curious. How has the Mobile Accessibility package evolved as every new update of Android and solutions like talkback have gotten better at built in accessibility? I used to be a mobile Speak Pocket user way back in the day on an old HTC TYTN since I traveled internationally and at that time, it was by far the best accessible solution. I held on to that phone as long as I could since WinMo7 was not an option and I wasn’t yet convinced with the early iPhone voiceover results. When I finally decided to upgrade to a new phone and OS, I was seriously debating between Android and iOS and ultimately went for the 4S (which I’m very happy I did). For as much as code Factory touted MA, Android didn’t seem mature enough even with so-so accessibility from their software. I’m probably going to go with an iPhone 5 or whatever new phone Apple puts out later this year, but I would consider a tablet running Android if the accessibility gap wasn’t so wide.

  4. Mark says:

    I appreciate this very good explanation of the current state of things in accessible android phones. I don’t have the money to test these kind of things on a maybe and if I had spent that kind of cash on a phone that couldn’t even do a ‘say all’ I’d be very upset. I would very much like to use android at some point as I feel it is a more open environment than is IOS. I will continue to follow the reviews and hope to some day buy an android phone.

  5. This is something I’ve been trying to explain to Android enthusiasts. I understand, and share in that enthusiasm. And I do believe that Android will catch up with iOS sometime around 2014. But right now, iOS is still the more practical and usable platform, with the highest level of “polish”.

    There is obviously a very high level of attention to detail at Apple, and it is apparent even in the least expected of places. Even the software APIs are polished. Everything they do becomes a solid foundation for the future. There are no “half done” projects, or patchy projects. Everything is taken seriously, from the smallest feature to the largest. The worst company in that regard is Microsoft, where every year new APIs and Software products render obsolete the previous year’s APIs and Products, and everything you learned becomes irrelevant.

    This is why Apple is such an inspiring company for me.

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  8. Amir says:

    Mega thanks, Marco, for your all-out review and analysis.
    One more point I’d very much like to bring up here is lack of a truly multilingual TTS engine on Android. And by “truly multilingual” I mean a TTS which can automatically switch to a new language on webpages, in emails and messages, and in different applications. While I’m not a big fan of VoiceOver’s Vocalizer (provided by Nuance) when it comes to intonation and sylabification, it does the auto-language switching elegantly. With Android such a thing doesn’t happen even if you purchase and install Acapela or install the currently-free Ivona. That’s a truly big “BUMMER” here!
    Looking forward to your updated analysis after Android 5 is released.

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  12. Thanks for this review. Did you try google chrome instead of firefox too on android? I’m using chrome on my desktop, and indeed, chrome is less accessible than firefox is (I use nvda with both browsers, so I can compare). But I’m still curious concerning chrome, android and accessibility. Thanks for testing.
    Sincerely, Katty

  13. Marco says:

    Katty, I only used Chrome to download Firefox. Its explore by touch support is far inferior to Firefox’s. Also, so are other features such as the quick navigation gestures.

  14. Ted Drake says:

    This was the biggest surprise for me:
    “This experiment has also led to some conclusions regarding Firefox OS accessibility which you all will hopefully see the results of in a few months! So stay tuned! :)”

    I did not expect Firefox OS to be accessible. I just assumed it wouldn’t have a screen reader since it was HTML based. This is great news.

  15. Dan Mathis says:

    I would like to give props to you marco for your work on firefox in android. However, some of us to use android on a daily bases when need to for work as well. I am not a coder so very detailed editing commands for me is not neded. Some of your points I agree wiht but pdf and epub files can be read with different apps like PDF tp speach reader and epub files moon pro or ideal reader beta. Again, I am a android user who hs used android for a long time even when it was back in 2.1. So h:), ya its come along way and still has some room for improvement, being android user that is a unspoken “theme we know that exist. Keep in mind VO is a closed screenreader and talkback runs on a Open sorce, so yes while it would be nice to have talkback at the level where vo is google just recently took accessibility seriously.”

  16. Ben Juan says:

    Have you tried Google Goggles for recognizing things you made photos of yet? Also I think there is some OCR API somewhere in Android, that e.g. the Google Translate app uses.

  17. Brad says:

    This is a very biased report!

    I am an IOS user and I don’t believe that you gave this thing enough time to really write up something on it!

    i struggled with my Iphone for about three months and could have deemed it as something not useable, but after about four months or so, I got used to the gestures.

    I am starting to believe some of the Android users that say the IOS fans are cultic!

    I believe that the fact that the Android devices are different from each other probably has something to do with it, and thus, it is not fair to say what you said given the fact that you only used the one device.

    That is is simple humble opinion!

  18. Marco says:

    I didn’t mention it explicitly, but I have been using Android devices for Firefox testing for over a year now. How else should I have been able to test progress in Firefox for Android accessibility? So I did have prior experience before getting the Nexus 4. ;)

  19. Tom says:

    Great post, thank you. I was wondering, why did you want to switch in the first place?

  20. Marco says:

    Hi Tom,

    as I point out in the last paragraph of the “Background” section, I wanted to have something to regularly use Firefox for Android on, and also maybe to have something fresh. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the iPhone 5 compared to the 4S, when it came to the speed and reaction of VoiceOver. I felt that Apple’s evolutionary step was too small, and the Nexus 4, and my partner’s HTC One have quite some more powerful hardware there. Also, the slightly bigger screen makes a difference, in iOS 6, the German keyboard is pretty much cramped together so that on the narrow 4s/5 screen, it sometimes happens that one hits the wrong key because they sit so close together horizontally.

    But as I said in my conclusion, the experiment showed that the time isn’t there yet. I skipped the iPhone 5, but I will definitely get the next generation that Apple will come out with in the summer, to replace my 4S, even if it will have the same form factor as the 5.

  21. Rod says:

    I am an iPhone user since 2009 and love it. I am also curious about Android and have access to my wife’s Galaxy S3 running Jellybean 4.1. For pedestrian travel, The S3 currently has my favorite GPS app. It’s Nearby Explorer developed by APH. However, I do prefer Navigon on my iPhone when using GPS in the car to assist the driver. I love being the navigator. Smile

  22. Joe Orozco says:

    Thank you for a well-written post. I think we’re all in agreement that we want both platforms to work well if for no other reason than to give people choices. I myself would use Android if I were a sighted user, but things being what they are, iOS gives me the strongest return for my money. It’s truly awesome to be able to visit any public forum and apply the same instructions to fix an issue with my iOS device.

  23. Dan Mathis says:

    Last comment, keep in mind while Marco has done a review on talkback and android accessibility, talkback is updating at neck braking speeds “just recently the web navagation” and “page review” where murged in to one gester. Give it time and talkback will get where Vo is currently. Also Vo and tlakback can never have the same gesters because of patent conflicts between google and apple. So talkback will never have a rroter do to the chance of beeing sude. I not sure what Marco uses his device for but I do use android for work and play ;). Just to let people know google’s eyes-free team is debating if talkback will be able to label buttons or not. So stay tuned to the androi world and buckle your seat belts, its going to be a fast and furious ride in accessibility land. :), I am glad to be at the for front and be able to put into talkback suggestions and see some show up.

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  25. tim kilgore says:

    I used a galaxy s3 for about 5 months. I’ve found that the accessibility on the s3 is not as intuitive
    as on the iPhone 5, whichI am currently using. The interface on the iphone is more consistent.
    It simply is not on the android OS — at least not yet. Those are just my thoughts and I’m certainly not trying to bash android or its users because for some people, the android OS is all that some people have to work with.

  26. Arnaud says:

    Great experiment and great post, thank you !
    Last year I have designed an usability test to compare the accessiblity of basics fonctionnalities on iOS6 with an iPhone 4S and on Android 4.0 with the Google Nexus.
    Like you pointed out really clearly, Apple is really in advance in term of accessibility.
    What do you think of the speech recognition on iOS ? And did you try S-Voice or Google Search in English and/or in German ?
    Thank you

  27. Marco says:

    Arno, voice recognition was not really an objective for me. Dictation on Android is totally broken if TalkBack is active: It starts reading back what it recognized as you’re still talking, totally crashing your ability to talk straight. I could have mentioned that, but since I linked to Kiran Kaja’s post, who pointed this out quite clearly, I felt it unnecessary to repeat him.

  28. Priti Rohra says:

    To add to Marco’s findings above, I would like to add that even though continious reading menu has been added in Jelly Bean it is far from being effective. Specially on web pages it is eratic & works well on device’s native screens.

  29. James Mannion says:

    Thanks for your review Marco. I currently am experimenting with the same hn. I want to have android be just as accessible as IOS is and I hope that leveling of the playing field is not achieved by IOS sliding backwords in IOS 7 either. I love what IOS does for me in accessibility, but in many ways would prefer to be an android user. If it were not for accessibility I am pretty sure I would be an android user. Android accessibility is just clearly not as polished and does not have as solid of a framework to work as well. The time and date tickers are a prime example. The comment about IOS users being cultic is really just the answer the Android fan boys throw at it because they can not give a good argument when the issues are pointed out. I use both devices and android would be primary for me if the accessibility was as good. How is that cultic? Others at least point out where talkback does not yet do what voiceover does. I really just want talkback to provide just as good of accessibility. So I want the android fan boys to stop bashing people in my position an acknowledge the issues and please raise the bar.

  30. James Mannion says:

    I wanted to further comment on the issue noted in the post concerning date or time selection in an app that was noted as being one of the barriers for the author in switching. It appears what it comes down to is that there may not be a standard type of control provided by the Android system for this like there is in IOS. There definitely are accessible methods of doing this thogh on Android, therefore and app developer can choose to make this accessible. I agree it would be better if there were a good standard if it were also accessible. Of course on any system developers can ignore standard controls. The Amtrak app uses a method that has edit fields for the date and time fields and a button on either side of the field to advance or decrease to the next or previous value in a range. It’s a fantastic way of doing it. One can do direct entry or click forward or back.

  31. Kerri says:

    Hello. First, allow me to thank yo for this insightful, in depth review of the accessibility pitfalls and highlights of Android. Though the openness of Android is advantageous, I see it as a disadvantage as one must purchase a Google made phone if they want/need the latest upgrades to Talkback et al. That could be problematic if a newly blinded individual seeks a phone and maybe does not have access to information for whatever reason.

  32. Marco says:

    Hi Kerri, The situation has gotten a little better with the recent announcements of versions of the Samsung Galaxy S IV and HTC One phones with the Nexus experience. At first, these will be available in the U.S. only, but I’m hoping that they will be rolled out in other countries as well.

  33. Shiela says:

    Hi Marco, great review of your experience! Have you tried Android’s Goggles? Maybe this app can also influence your experience with Android? For me it seems quite promissing for their first step towards object recognition… What do you think?

  34. arun kurkute says:

    Marco, sincerely, it is insightful write up. thanks.

  35. slj says:

    Hi.
    thank you very much for this detailed post regarding to accessibility on Android.
    I have a few experiences with android. I have had a nexus 7 tablet, but soled it because I didn’t had time to play around with it. I wanted a phone instead have to cary both a phone and a tablet with me while traveling.
    I have bought a Samsung Galaxy mega which just came out a few weeks ago, and it seems to work very well with Talkback.
    The thing I like in android is that you can always replace things if you don’t like them. like, if i find something in the Samsung Galaxy apps which aren’t accessible, well, replace them. :)
    You mention those issues with the keyboard. The keyboard which is installed on my Samsung Galaxy mega does give me the option to hold a finger on a letter, which activates a pop up, and I can then slide around with one finger to choose between special characters. I don’t have enough experiences yet with Android to know if you can install the same keyboard on your phone, but I would just tell you how it works on the new Samsung keyboard just for your information, if that could help you.
    it was a big chance for me to buy the Samsung galaxy mega, knowing that it doesn’t come with a stuck android. I have heard it’s possible to install a stuck version of Android on those phones, so I took the chance to buy the phone, which I haven’t regret.
    For me, Android is something which I have to get used to, just like all other new kinds of operating systems. Just like Windows 8, mac, the iPhone which I have used sinse 2009 and now Android. I don’t have more to say because I don’t have much experiences with Android yet, but we all have to remember not to say that this and this don’t work or this and this is not accessible, just because we don’t have enough experiences or haven’t got used to it yet. I hear many people say Android is not accessible, but most of the time, it’s simply because they don’t know how to use it.
    Again, thanks much for this epic post. my biggest issue is that I don’t know where to find the latest about Talkback accessibility. :)

  36. slj says:

    Hi Marco.
    I forgot to ask if you’re planning to update this blog post when you get more experiences with your Android phone? There is an app called DarwinReader which reads Daisy books and EBooks. I also hear that Googles EBook reader which I don’t remember what’s called is accessible. It would be awesome if you wanna update this post as Android becomes more and more accessible.

  37. Poonam says:

    Hi Marco. Thanks for your amazing post. I am struggling between the Android and Iphone, not sure what to buy. Most people are telling me to go for an Android and I have always disliked Apple for its elitist. Having recently lost my C5 which worked with Nuance Talks, I am now using the very basic Nokia phone for only calling. The situation screams to be rectified, so I am planning to go for an Android Grand, but after your post, I am now totally confused, wondering if I should just stick to never using anything but the calling feature on my Nokia forever, and avoid blowing bucks on these Iphones and Android phones, as it is such a crazy market. So my question is, should I wait for 4 months, save up for an Apple or buy the Android, which I can just about afford now?

  38. Marco says:

    Hi! Since I wrote this post, Android 4.3 has been released with some small improvements, but nothing that got my problems addressed or improved the usability and efficiency in any way. Moreover, all the apps I was having problems with have been updated, but not with accessibility fixes. I have since given up on switching to Android as my main day to day mobile device. Instead, I am getting one of those new iPhone 5s once Apple ships it some time in October.

    Yes, it is a matter of taste, and also a bit of politics, but if you ask my personal opinion, I’d go with an iPhone. it has the superior accessibility, and iOS 7 re-affirms that, and I trust Apple more than Google with regards to the data they collect from me. Android 4.3 has a difficult to opt out feature that always tracks your location so Google can sell you to advertisers more easily who then give you location-based recommendations. Apple are not in the business of selling ads, they are in the business of selling hardware. And to me, that sounds much better. But again, that’s my personal opinion.

  39. Pingback: The Model T Syndrome Revisited | The New Hofstader.com

  40. Dam Mathis says:

    Hi, let me say I love firefox, its my browser of choice for android, second, no one has brought up that 4.3 which runs on my Samsung galaxy S3 has made great strives in text editing. Now you can slect text char, or the whole text and have it deleted quickly. You can even cut and paste thinks to the new context menu of android. I will say that the galaxy S3 does not come with 4.3 so you guessed it, I rooted the device and installed a custom rom on it. Also, now we can label buttons and even edit what was label if an app so changes the button. Now one pointed out the web scripts have under gone a change for the good, netflix was fixed in 4.3, I can now sign-in, listen to a move and even use the seek bar to skip through a movie. Also to point out in 4.3, seek bars or slider bars are now are very easy to work with just double tap and hold then drag your finger left or right. I have an Iphone5, I can tell you its starting to annoy me to know end with IOS7. Hmm. some times finger taps are not properly regisored so it two finger double taps instead of one finger double tap. Serie to a backward step, no clicking to let you know she is working, she has gotten slower at answering your questions. Google now kills her so many ways.

  41. Steve James says:

    My thanks to Marco and all the other contributors for their insighful comments. I am completely new to Smartphone use, and indeed will not even get my phone until tomorrow! I really don’t have a lot of money, and basically the only phone I could afford which gave me any functionality at a price I could afford is the Motorola Moto G Android phone. It does seem virtually identical to my daughters Nexus 4 but about half the price, yet the build quality and hardware do not seem to be compromised. I am registered blind, but I do have a tiny point of vision in my left eye, and I was amazed to find that when my son got a new Moto G at christmas I was actually able to use the screen albeit in a limited fashion. On reading all of the accessibility blurb for the Moto G it does seem to have a higher functionality than Marco describes, and I’m wondering if things have indeed moved on especially as Google themselves now own Motorola and seem to have put a great deal of work into this phone. I will extensively test it over the next couple of weeks and post my conclusions. I am also very thankful that Firefox is available for this new phone as it is my browser of choice.

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