Monday, July 6, 2009

The Accessible iPhone 3GS

An iPhoneWhen the iPhone 3GS was announced on the 8th of June there was much excitement in the accessibility world. The new iPhone would sport significant accessibility features, including a built in screen reader, and these features were announced on stage at MacWorld alongside the “regular” features. That’s a great boost for the profile of accessibility in general, which is always a good thing.

Accessibility features for the iPhone 3GS include:

  • VoiceOver screen reader localised in 21 different languages.
  • Voice Control offering spoken commands, also in 21 different languages.
  • Zoom on iPhone lets you magnify the entire screen up to 5 times normal size, and move around to view any portion of the screen close up. All the usual gestures such as pinch, flick, etc. will still work when the screen is zoomed.
  • White On Black offers a high contrast reverse video screen display.
  • Mono Audio will route both audio channels into both earbuds, for those with hearing problems.
  • Speak Auto-text voices the iPhone’s automatic correction and completion options so you don’t have to look away from the keyboard to use them. This can be used with or without VoiceOver and Zoom.
  • Assignable Ringtones let you use ringtones as an audible form of Caller ID for selected contacts.

There’s also an Accessible HTML User Guide available but it’s limited so you can only view it using the iPhone - any other web browser is automatically re-routed to the download location for the PDF user guide. I can’t see any reason that Apple would make the HTML guide unusable for the rest of us, but it’s a pity.

So the iPhone 3GS has now been in people’s possession for a little while - what are the reactions?

I can’t find much written on the net yet by people using the Zoom, Voice Control, or other iPhone accessibility functions but what I did find seems realistically positive.

Resources for iPhone VoiceOver users are already appearing at a great rate. Holly Anderson has produced a list of VoiceOver Compatible iPhone Applications, and there’s a Google Group/Mailing list for iPhone VoiceOver users which is very active.

Still wondering if the iPhone is for you? CNet’s iPhone Review includes all the features, even touching on accessibility. They awarded it 4 out of a possible 5 stars, with the comment “Excellent”.

Now I’ve written all that I’m coveting an iPhone 3GS of my own, even though I have my perfectly functional iPod Touch and don’t need a mobile phone. It’s tough writing blog posts, I tell you!

Here is an audio podcast about the new accessibly features of the iPhone 3GS:

iPhone 3GS Accessibility