Android Accessibility Vs iPhone (transition discussion)

Hi, I noted that within the forum post regarding creating an Apple ID, a couple of the responders including he original poster had transitioned from Android to IOS. I'd like to have a good honest discussion on this because it interests me. Let's try and thrash this out a bit for fun with these questions: 1. Why did they make the transition at all? Android is meant to be a lot more configurable and has many more options for sophisticated users. 2. What advantages did Android offer? 3. How is the transition going if applicable. Are there things you miss about Android and it's accessibility implementation and what could be done with Android to make it better.


android vs. iphone

I've been a user of android for about two years. After receiving an ipod touch last year, I made the decision to switch to an iPhone almost immediately. The only reason I haven't done so yet is because my carrier doesn't carry the iPhone, so I'm locked in a contract. When it's up, I will be switching carriers, and getting an iPhone. I first want to say that android is a very viable accessible phone. Unfortunately, not all android phones can be upgraded to the newest version, unlike IOS. This is part of the problem for me. I'm using an older model, and it's running android 2.1, which is much older than the newest version. However, I've heard demonstrations of the newest version, and the accessibility is great. The problem is, most carriers don't carry phones that contain the newest version. This is actually because of the fact that android is so open-ended. The companies that manufacture the phones often don't allow for them to be upgraded to a newer version of android. Also, most of the companies making these phones change the stock apps on the phones. For example, a friend of mine has a completely different contacts app than I do, and hers is totally inaccessible. So, the open-ended platform works to our disadvantage in this case. I really didn't find any advantages to using an android over an iDevice, except perhaps the fact that you can download different home screens. Since I like the home screen on the iDevices, this really isn't a big deal for me. Android does make it easier to access certain settings. For example, I was able to put a toggle on my home screen that turns wi-fi on and off. But this isn't enough of an advantage for me to stick with android. I think Android, when running the newest operating system, is a very viable solution. But getting a phone running this is difficult, and getting one that hasn't been altered by the manufacturer is even more so. Unless you get google's nexus phone, you can pretty much assume something on the phone will have been altered by the manufacturer. I also think that apple makes it easier for people to make their apps accessible. I've found a lot more accessible apps on IOS, and more developers seem to be open to accessibility on IOS than on android. This is probably because apple makes it so simple to do, and it doesn't take them long to do it. Overall, I think they're both usable and good options. Apple just happens to win for me.


I transitioned from Android to iOS about 2 months ago; I'll do my best to answer your questions. 1. I made the transition for a few reasons, and I'll do my best to list them all. My main reason was Android accessibility, or the lack of it. As many of you may already know, accessibility on Android isn't what it is on iOS. While the Eyes-Free team is working hard on TalkBack, I wasn't a huge fan of it and don't feel it integrates as well as VO does. Granted, it's usable, and there are accessible apps. But I was literally astounded when I made the switch and realized how many apps I now had access to. For example, I absolutely love playing games, and there were very few games on Android that worked with Talkback. Another reason is that the platform changes so fast, and many phones end up getting left behind. This happened to me twice. My first Android will forever be stuck on 2.1 Eclaire, and my most recent one is stuck on 4.0 ICS. Granted, I could root my latest Android (an Xperia Pro) and install a custom ROM; but when I read what all was involved in that process, it literally made my head spin. I did successfully root my first phone, but that process was simple compared to what would need to be done with the Xperia Pro. There are many people who have successfully managed it, but to be honest, the process was intimidating and not something I was willing to try. The phone was too expensive for me to unknowingly do something to brick it. 2. As you mentioned in the first question, Android offers more customization. For visually impaired users, we were able to choose from several TTS engines and voices, which is something I still miss on iOS. We had access to apps that would make changes on our phones that only jailbreaking will permit on iOS (tethering is one that comes to mind). With Android, there's more freedom to customize your phone exactly how you want it, with very few limitations. 3. I didn't honestly expect the transition to be as easy as it was. There were a few issues toward the beginning, mostly to do with the fact that I got frustrated with my slow typing speed. But that has improved, and will continue to improve, over time. There are minor things that I do miss about Android. I miss the customization, the ability to have whatever TTS engine I wanted, and the use of a Qwerty keyboard (although I don't miss this as much as I thought I would). For Android to move forward in accessibility, it needs to be something Google takes seriously, and at the moment, that isn't happening. It's even evident in the apps Google releases for iOS. Many of them have major accessibility issues.

I didn't realise the fragmentation problem was such a big one

This is the advantage of asking these questions. Many blind Android users tend to assume that IOS is for simple people and that the eyes-free talkback solution is better than VO. It is interesting to read from both of you that it is in fact not. My only experience of anything google is using Chrome OS with a little samsung chromebook I bought for £200, roughly 300 dollars US. It's alright for browsing and actually good for what it is, but I can't imagine using it for much more than that as the screen reader is really a browser extension called Chromevox. Back to Android, I suppose the various TTS engines are specific to Android versions as well, so that even if you can install whatever synthesizer you want, if android is updated to a newer version, the TTS may break. Is this the case or do Google work with developers? I'd like to thank both of you for answering though, this is useful for us to know about, considering that many of us jumped to IOS when the 3Gs came out.

It is really interesting that

It is really interesting that you think Google doesn't take accessibility seriously within Android. This isn't how many of the totally blind Android users I have come across make out. To them, IOS is weak because people flick to elements, don't learn the screen apparently and other such lameness. From the demos I have listened too from Mike origo and others, it seems very chatty to me. IOS seems to speak what you need to know in the right order. Android makes me think of very early Window-eyes if that makes sense, overly verbose. It's interesting that the IOS apps aren't as accessible as they could be, do you think it may be down to them not caring because they want the VI community on Android, or do you reckon it is an oversite? AGain, thanks for the comments and replies. It would be good to keep this discussion going with others who have done the reverse also, gone from iPhone to Android. I only started this thread because it was genuinely interesting that people were switching from Android to IOS rather than the other way around.


I disagree that people generally flick in IOS. I know a lot of people who just touch the spot on the screen where an element is located. I'm not going to say that I never flick, flicking does help, especially when you've never used an app, and don't know the layout. Another advantage to flicking is that sometimes in an app, there are buttons that are really small, and hard to find. Flicking assures you will find those buttons. You can drag your finger around and find them, but if an app is cluttered, finding something tiny can be difficult and time-consuming. That being said, I rarely flick in apps that I am familiar with. I never flick on my home screen, or in any apps I use often. I've learned the layout of those apps, and just touch the part of the screen where I know the element I want is located. I actually think it's a problem that android doesn't have a similar thing to flicking. It is useful, especially in the beginning. I can actually flick about 5 times faster than I can drag my finger to hear icons. Plus, when you flick, there are sound effects that help you learn where the location of something is on the screen. I can learn the layout of an app in a minute or two with this method, and then I don't need to flick anymore. Flicking is also useful if someone has trouble moving their finger in a straight line, while dragging. This is something a lot of people don't think about, but it's an issue that does exist for some people. I also don't think IOS is just for people who are simple. I'm actually extremely tech savvy, and like complex things. I just think IOS is more intuitive, and user-friendly. After experiencing both platforms, I think IOS allows you to get things done, and android is good if you want something you can heavily customize. Most of the customizations aren't particularly necessary, but they're fun for some people.

Thanks for the response

Thanks and I hope I didn't offend folks with the flicking discussion. I am similar to you in that I try to learn the screen as much as possible. The comment regarding IOS being for simple people wasn't really a dig either. I've known some Android users, sighted ones specifically though, who seem to dislike Apple's IOS because it's not customisable enough. Personally I don't mind all that much, for me, IOS is fine for what I use it for, but I am prepared to give any platform a try - it's in my nature to geek out on stuff now and again. Thanks though for the response and sorry if I offended anyone.

no offense taken

No, I didn't take any offense to it, I was just pointing it out. I think it's silly that there's so much argument between android and IOS users. Android users make statements like that, and use them as a way to say negative things about IOS. I've heard IOS users do the same thing. I honestly think both platforms have there place, and are both usable to the blind community. I do think Apple may have an edge, because any phone can update the operating system, and all iPhones are the same out of the box, there's no tinkering of them by a manufacturer. But it's really all up to user preference. I have some sighted friends who prefer IOS, and some who prefer android. It seems that a lot of the customizations people want by using android are mostly visual. This isn't always true; like I said, you can have a totally different home screen, and a few other things you can't change on IOS. But it seems to me that a lot of the customization people seem to want is about the look of things, rather than the usability. I would still like an easier way to toggle wi-fi, blue-tooth and other things of that nature on IOS. Maybe we'll see that in the next release, even if it's just a siri feature.

TTS voices

You're right about TTS engines possibly breaking. It doesn't happen all the time, but occasionally. For example, Loquendo Susan worked well on Android versions 2.2 and 2.3, but once 4.0 came out, Susan was no longer supported. The SVox voices also seem buggier after 4.0. The Acapela voices are awesome though, and there are so many of them that it's pretty easy for Android users to find one they like. When I first got the iPhone, I tended to flick, but now that I've gotten more accustomed to the phone and the apps I have, I tend to remember where things are on the screen. There are still times I flick, but not as often as I did at first.

flicking in Android

Hi, I would just like to point out for the sake of fairness that, Android does indeed allow you to flick left or right to elements on the screen. You need to be running jellybean 4.1 or higher for this feature though. In my opinion, that's the biggest downfall for accessibility on Android. Users have different experiences depending on the phone, and version of Android they're running.

I finally got around to trying a Nexus 7

I finally did get around to having a little play with a nexus 7 at a store. So much for my interest in the Android platform, it has vanished. Basically, I asked to try out one of the nexus's they had on display. I was able to get talkback on, ran through the basic tutorial well enough, then attempted to brows the internet. No joy, the talkback screen reader didn't even announce the page elements. So, I restarted the device and my partner told me that "chrome wasn't responding", though there was no speech at all. I walked away. I'm done with that platform as a result. Since then, I read that you have to enable scripts to be used within the browser to work with HTML views. Not good enough! If Google can't be bothered to offer this info during it's tutorial or at least whenever one enters the browser with talkback enabled, that's not accessibility - it's irritation. So, Android isn't an option at all in my view. Even the group posting mentioned in another thread demonstrates that Google can't even be bothered to get there own web apps doable with it so what does this say? I know, Android users will hate this response but I really did want to try that nexus and if it was good enough, i'd have bought. Never mind, least I had a go.