A tale of two OS updates: iOS and Android

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Apple and Google love their mobile operating systems. They do their best to convince users that their way of implementing features is better than the competition. Of course, therein lies a fundamental difference. Apple uses iOS on its own handsets and iDevices but Google practically gives away Android to hardware manufacturers -- to every company which wants to utilize and modify it.

It's no secret that Android is a fragmented operating system and some even call Android's status quo device fragmentation. This has serious implications for accessibility. Apart from manufacturers' attempts to replace Google-branded apps such as Contact and Clock with their inaccessible ones, future updates of the OS which might enhance access reach users with huge delays. And while that's a big issue for the first major update after one purchases a handset, it's not clear at all if the cellphone will even get the second major update after that.

The following might serve as a good example. This post indicates that only 14 days after iOS 5.1 was released, 61 percent of users had upgraded to it. And this is not even iOS 5.0 which has kept about 18 percent of iOS users. However, with Android 4 (ICS) we get a different ppicture. Today and more than 3 months after its release, only 2.9 percent of those who have activated their Android handsets have received ICS, and Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) vastly dominates the world of Android with a 63.7 percentage point. What I can conclude from all of this is that Android's flexibility comes with a heavy price tag both for developers and for visually impaired users. It remains to be seen how Google wants to tackle this Pandora's box.



Submitted by Daniel Angus MacDonald on Saturday, August 15, 2015

<p>while all that is true, google play adition, android one, and nexus devices are the only android handsets which google has complete control over. people on the eyes free list, have immputt in TalkBack, and their&#39;s a new screen reader called chime plus, with potential. as a proud user of both iOS and android, they both have their advantages and disadvantages. android has more betas of both operating systems and apps, more customization, and more inovation, with Samsung leading the chargeon inovating. iOS largely remains unchanged after so many years. VoiceOver hasn&#39;t been majorly updated in years with new features which impact productivity, though iOS 9 changes that, I&#39;m a beta tester, that&#39;s all I can say, and vocalizer expressive is the only tts you&#39;ve got. if you like cuwstomization, a plethora of tts options, beta testing, and constent inavation and/or change, then android is what you want. if you like VoiceOvers prodictabillity and stagnation unless your a beta tester, then iOS is for you. they both serve different accessibility markets, and what you go with is ultimately left up to individual users choice.</p>

Submitted by Darrell Bowles on Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A year ago, I made the switch from apple, to android and while some of the reason were plane defiant, others to me at the time had there basis in logic.
1. I would not have to use a manager to put things on my device, and my device would be treated like a normal drive.
2. I didn't play a lot of games on my phone, so I figured why not.
3. Talk back and even samsung's screen reader had advanced considerably, so I tookt he plunge and droped it.
What I have found is that android does has improvements to it's os, but one of the things I MIssed almost right away was Braille Screen input. I adapted, by using dictation, and yes, in this regard, google has siri beat.
Also, the ability to make alexa for example your default assistant was pretty cool, and being able to run your choice of screen reader if your phone let you was also cool.
The problem that I found was that all of the so-called android for the blind sites were never updated.
The only list that I know of that is still active is the eyes-free list, but again, android access has not been updated in years. Actually, the website is gone, so that would not be a resource for blind people to access anyways.
Moving away from that, another issue I had was that the phone or phones that I used, either A would not turn on the speaker automatically without an ap, a minor anoyance, or B, would have the keypad dial numbers as soon as you pressed them. The problem with this is that if you were not entirely sure of the layout of the key pad, you could very easily fix numbers. This is in android P. The solution that I found was to turn the typing mode in Voice Assistant, to the non-quick typing setting. While this let me use the pad, I had to turn quick typing on to have the regular keyboard back. Now, I could have used an ap for the phone, but wich one and where?
For the person who complained about games in his post, don't hold your hopes out for android. Even games like king of dragon pass will not be made accessible. When I brought up accessibility to the developers, they said that there were no plans to make it accessible, and no money set aside for that either.
I got a new IPhone a couple weeks ago, and while my reasons for coming back are not necessarly because I'm in full agreement with everything Apple does, the one big reason was the number of aps that are accessible to us.
The new Voice Dream scaning ap for one, not to mention seeing ai, and others, make it possible for us to do things with a phone, that we just can't do with android.
Some would argue that there free aps can work, but I personally was not able to have success with them.
While there parts of the android OS that I enjoyed, to come back to apple, and to use it aand to be brought back to something that I probably should have never left in the first place well, it's quite humbling.

Submitted by Amir on Friday, June 14, 2019

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

In reply to by Darrell Bowles

And thanks for having revived my now 7-year-old Applevis blog post! Hope it breaks some sort of record -- at least Applevis-wise <smile>!
Seriously, as I also have access to a Pixel 3 XL for testing purposes, I was thinking about posting a new article to compare the status of accessibility on both iOS and Android. But I'm seriously worried about the backlash -- from the Android side of the pond -- and my very own inability to address it here in a timely manner.
Suffice it to say that, IMHO, Apple, despite some recent ups and downs, is still ahead of the game in many obvious and not-so-obvious ways.

Submitted by Trenton Matthews on Friday, June 14, 2019

OO, an update to this blog entry here? That'll be nice for sure!

I have a Galaxy S10E in Pink as of this posting, where I'm happy with Samsung's choice of gesture set for its own "Voice Assistant" screen reader (similar to "VoiceOver" ones,) and the fact ya can "mute" speech with out needing to turn off the screen reader entirely, which "would be" excellent" for Braille users! (If "BrailleBack" was actually "good...")

Besides Voice Assistant, only screen readers I myself use on Android these days, are "Voice Assistant" and the other screen reader (where it definitely has its "phan base",) is called "Jieshuo," or "Commentary," or "TalkMan," whichever name you prefer... (It goes by all 3 of them!) Commentary "doesn't" have a built-in "Braille Screen Input" feature (like VoiceOver,) though it is the only screen reader where ya don't have to "suspend" it when using either "Soft Braille Keyboard" and "Advanced Braille Keyboard." There's also a built-in "VirtualScreen" feature, for applications on Android which do not work with the screen reader directly. The Android version of "King Of Dragon Pass" could possibly be "playable" that way for exaple, though I myself haven't tried.
To learn more and/or download Commentary so to not clutter things up here, visit either
for its "official" news channel, and
for its "official" support group.

BTW, the "Shine Plus" screen reader either doesn't exist anymore, or at least isn't available in North America. It hasn't been updaded since March of 2017 as far I can remember.

Getting back to that Galaxy of mine I mentioned earlier, once it is paid off, I will be buying my firstIPhone, though will be getting an "IPad Mini" first before then, replacing my "IPod Touch6th Gen."

I am honestly more of a "Chrome OS" and "Chromevox" phan boy when it comes to "Google" products, especially since the "Chrome OS Accessibility Team" is the more "cooler" bunch of Google's world. (And also the more "responsive" bunch of Googlers when it comes to support!) ,
With the "controversial" "clipboard access" changes coming to "AndroidQ" and"SD Card changes" coming to "AndroidR" in the future to "most" Android phones, it's a good time to switch on over to the "Apple Side" in my view, especially once IOS/IPad OS 13 arrives to the public!

To wrap up this long post, I can't believe I have been primarily an Android user since September 2014, going all the way back to Android 4.2.1 on a "Hisense Sero 7 Pro" tablet. With IPad OS 13 coming out soon, the "Desktop Class" Safari browsing among it, plus "external drive" support? I am truly gonna have an awsome journey ahead of me!

First and foremost, I truly enjoyed reading your blow-by-blow post.
The S10 is, IMO, the best Android handset out there at the moment especially as far as accessibility is concerned. It's interesting that you bring up the topic of Voice Assistant as I, too, have been impressed with it. I also like its multi-finger gestures though the fact that Samsung has the poorest update record among Android manufacturers makes me hesitant to consider it as a serious contender to iOS devices. Personally speaking, I prefer almost everything my iPhone XS Max offers to what the S10 provides -- the latter is a great device, but Android's third-party app accessibility support isn't quite up to the job -- courtesy of Google!
Admittedly, however, Samsung has done a great job with Voice Assistant compared with Google and its more or less lackluster efforts with Talkback. I like pure Android and the Pixel experience, but Google's rather half-baked efforts at making TalkBack a more feature-rich screen reader is a serious and pesky showstopper. It's 2019 and TalkBack still can't properly handle HTML stuff via Chrome and Web Views, it doesn't provide a way to copy/handle text outside edit boxes, offers no multi-finger gestures, and its over-all Braille support needs a comprehensive overhaul.
I've also heard nice things about Commentary, but until it becomes more widely available and offers better English translations, I'd rather not try it. Some of its features are also paid and I'm not sure how dedicated the developer is to its future.
Like you, I'm also looking forward to all flavors of iOS 13. I've never owned an iPad, but it seems to me that it's really becoming a compelling device and Apple knows how to entice all of us.
Finally, I should mention that, yet again, it's 2019 and the fact that we can't find the so-called Googlevis of the Android world indicates how accessibility is defined outside the proverbial walled garden. I'm aware of email lists and user groups dedicated to Android accessibility. But without a professional website and a dedicated community of users, app reviewers, podcasters and testers, the accessibility experience won't be modernized.

Submitted by Igna Triay on Friday, June 14, 2019

Google, in this instance though there are surely other examp;es... When it comes to accessibility, they do it, parden my language, half assed. Its like, they start, see, o, its working fine, then they drop the ball. However, accessibility is an ongoing commitment, not something you can just start and leave. I'm not saying google is bad. I'm not saying they succk in accessibility. What i'm saying, is that they need to step it up. A lot. If they keep half assing accessibility as they do now... they will never progress and make devices better for blind people.

You're very welcome!

Commentary is in the Play Store, under the "Talkman" name, though has issues starting for some after installing it. As for its upkeep, there's been betas every 2 days, though translations I feel right now, is what holds it back the most. Let alone for many of the features, you either need to pay (at the time of Yuan conversion to the US Dollar,) its around "15.00" for "1" year, or "45.00" for "3" year licenses. And then there's the problem, with main dev only speaking "Chinese," thus an English translator who speaks Chinese helps out with that. No way for an "automagic" way of "creating" license keyes for now either.

As for a comunity site for Andoid like "this one?" Well...


It depends on which "section" on the site you're looking at, where the "Audio Tips" and "app directory" gets the most updated, though in no way its as complete as the one here.

Yes, Google is indeed "split" in how they do things there. I'm for sure possitive, that Braille display support is much better on Chrome OS right now than Talkback's ever was. Why ya think Amazon's "Voice View" screen reader on their Fire tablets,
gotta major "rewrite," that's including their own "Braille Display" support! And also being able to "select text" from "anywhere!"

Submitted by JeffB on Saturday, June 15, 2019

I'm going to switch to Droid once the Google Pixel4 comes out. I will have my iPod for games and Seeing AI and I also know that I can always come back to Apple at any time.
I wanted to get a Droid but the support for iPhones and being my first smart phone is why I chose Apple and there are a lot of things I love about my iPhone and a lot of things I don't. I've been doing my research and I'm expecting the switch to be a little frustrating more so than my first iPhone.
If Apple releases an iPhone this year with touch ID that may tempt me to stay but I want to see what it is like with an Android phone. I want an assistant that is actually smart my Google Home is way smarter than Siri. I want touch ID and although I never tried face ID the idea of it just makes me shudder.
My 6 S is already starting to heat up alot despite getting a new battery and using the proper charger that came with my phone. I'm debating if I should get the Pixel air 3 or wait until the 4 and if anyone has any feedback I'd love to hear it. The truth is I'm bored with my iPhone.

Thanks again, Trenton.
I'm also aware of the issues affecting the Google Play version of Commentary. But the fact that we have to pay someone without knowing their company or their objectives for the future makes me a bit nervous. With that said, I'm tempted to see if I can contact the developer or the translator for more information.
As for Inclusive Android, you rightly mentioned that it's not nowhere as polished and comprehensive as Applevis, and it's indeed the case to the extent that many first-time Android users prefer to go to the Eyes-Free list.
Finally, I've also heard nice things about Amazon's Voice View, but didn't know that they've come this far! Just wondering why Google doesn't want to pull their act together when it comes to filling the gap with TalkBack.

Submitted by Ekaj on Saturday, June 15, 2019

I booted up my MBA earlier today and came right to AppleVis as I usually do. I found this blog post and wanted to comment. First off, thank you for it. I've never used Android but I think posts like this one are very useful. The other thing I'd like to say is that a few years ago when my brother was giving a presentation comparing VoiceOver on his iPhone to the screen reader in Android, the moderator had to activate the Android screen reader. Keep in mind that this moderator is sighted and my brother is blind. I fully recognize that things most likely have changed since then, and I'm not trying to bash Android. If it works better for some people than iOS, that's great. For me, the iPhone is where it's at. I have found the triple-click home gesture to come in quite handy a number of times with sighted friends and family. But jumping over to the "other side" for a moment, I like Chromevox and the fact that it works well on my Mac. Sometime I'd like to try out Chromevox Next, but I don't think it can run on Mac computers at this time.

Submitted by Trenton Matthews on Sunday, June 16, 2019

Greetings all!
For those who wish to not join the higher-traffic "official" Commentary/Jieshuo Support group (and you speak English,) check out
created by Sarah @ke7zum , for an alternate place to talk about the screen reader. Noono (the main English translator,) also frequence said group.

No, that wasn't a "typo" in the "subject line..." Thanks to some "PayPal limitations" beyond the Chinese/English developers' control, the price for each license has gone up by "3" US dollars.
Thus, the price for a "yearly" license
is now "18.00," while the "3 year" license is now "48.00," again both in "United States Dollar" amounts.
(Fluctuation of the "Chinese Yuan," still applies.