Tag - Accessibility
As it does every year, Apple has announced the winners of the 2016 Apple Design Awards for student and professional apps made for iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS -- the first year that all four platforms offered awards. An emphasis this year was on apps that were compatible with multiple languages as well as being accessibility-friendly. One student-made app, Dividr, was already available on the iOS App Store, and offers a twist on the rapid-runner scenario by allowing the character to be split into two that can be controlled independently to help pass more blocks and gather more coins. Among the other honorees were creative writing tool Ulysses for Mac (and now iOS), video collaboration app Frame.io for iOS, and music creation app djay Pro for iPad.
In addition to iOS 9, Apple has updated its iTunes program for OS X to version 12.3 to support the new iOS release, tweak some aspects of the "love" rating, improve iTunes accessibility with VoiceOver, and add support for two-factor authentication for Apple IDs -- along with the usual "improvements to overall stability and performance." While any changes or fixes to the paid Apple Music service or its relationship to iTunes Match are not mentioned, fixes for Up Next and Recently Played are included.
On Thursday night, the American Federation for the Blind (AFB) honored Apple with the Helen Keller Achievement Award for its various technologies that enable blind or low-sighted people to use iOS devices on par with what sighted people can achieve. Specifically, the AFB singled out VoiceOver, Apple's narrative software that describes the on-screen display as users pass over it, as "world-changing" and "transformative" for people with visual disabilities.
Yesterday, Apple posted four new videos to its site and YouTube channel showcasing additional tent-pole features of the Apple Watch, including handling phone calls, interacting with Siri, music playback, and Maps usage. Last week the company had posted a general overview tutorial video, along with shorter ones focusing on Digital Touch, messaging, and customizing the watch face. The videos reveal minor details of the various operations previously not publicized.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, in a reply to a London Apple Store worker who asked about increased accessibility in the company's latest projects, reportedly said that Apple Environmental Vice President Lisa Jackson has been tasked with helping Apple increase its focus on accessibility. "In every product we do, we want it to be accessible for everyone," Cook said, adding that the Apple Watch will gain some accessibility features over time in addition to the ones it has now.
Music discovery app Pandora has announced an update to its iOS app, featuring a new design and additional components. Pandora allows users to create personalized music stations that play their preferred music. The latest version (v5.7) offers a refreshed design that improves the ease of shaping a station, including a new Personalization icon for quick access to one's history, and being able to "un-thumb" a song previously marked "up" or "down" by re-tapping the Thumb icon.
Upward Spiral Software has released its text-to-speech software, TalkButton, for OS X. Capable of speaking text within Microsoft Word as well as in Pages, Preview, TextEdit, a web browser, and more, TalkButton reads text aloud for those interested in an audio interpretation due to vision impairment, learning disabilities, or multi-tasking. Users can control the speaking voice based on gender, accent and language, and the speech audio can be paused, repeated, accelerated, and recorded via iTunes. In addition, TalkButton can echo keyboard presses, meaning that a user can listen to each character, word or sentence as it is typed to ensure accuracy. Compatible with OS X 10.7 or later, TalkButton is priced at $30 with a free 30-day trial.
Complex mouth-based controller for quadriplegic console gamers, QuadStick, has succeeded in reaching and surpassing its Kickstarter goal of ten thousand dollars. Composed as a single joystick, four sip-and-puff sensors, a lip position sensor and a push switch, the controller outputs to both USB and Bluetooth, and then into gaming hardware. QuadStick will be compatible with PCs, Android devices and PS3s, and with the addition of an adapter, Xbox One and Xbox 360 as well. Controller configuration is available,with pre-arranged setups built in. Users can use its straws to shift between different control methods.
A provider of wireless web access products, Datawind, has announced the release of three new affordable Android tablets and 'phablets' -- the UbiSlate 7Ci, UbiSlate 7C+, and UbiSlate 3G7 -- starting at $38. The UbiSlate devices are powered by a Cortex A8 1GHz processor, theoretically of the same calibre as the original iPad from 2010. Containing 512MB of RAM (twice that of the original iPad), its 4GB flash storage can be supplemented up to 32GB through its microSD card slot.
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French show carries on with iPhones
Following a prolonged power loss in a French TV studio, the crew was able to use a combination of limited studio lighting and a number of iPhones to continue taping the Saturday episode of talk show On n'est pas couché ("We're Still Awake"), using the resulting footage in the first edited episode. The Plus-model iPhones used for the impromptu shoot completion were either iPhone 6 Plusses (which shoot in 1080p) or 6s Plus models (which can shoot in 4K). The decision to use the iPhones to complete the show was made after a power outage at France 2's studio stretched to more than three hours. http://bit.ly/299wqDt
Scrivener for iOS to arrive in late July
For some long-time Scrivener users, to quote Paul Simon, "these are the days of miracle and wonders." As it marks its 10th anniversary in business, developer Keith Blount has announced that the long-awaited iOS version of his creative-writing tool Scrivener is to be submitted to the App Store, following strong praise from beta-testers. The program, expected in late July, will sell for $20 and work with both the iPad and iPhone. When we interviewed Blount last January, he added that Scrivener 3 for Mac would follow along shorty afterwards. http://bit.ly/2901XLE
WhatsApp now handles over 100M calls daily
WhatsApp is celebrating that it is being used for over 100 million calls every day. In a brief notice, the Facebook-owned messaging platform advises the voice-calling feature it rolled out to its users last year now deals with an average of over 1,100 calls initiated per second. Earlier this year, it increased the security of its calls and other messages, by introducing end-to-end encryption on all platforms. http://bit.ly/292HqCX
Adele's '25' album now streaming
Recording artist Adele has "pulled a Kanye" after saying that her current album "25" would not be available for streaming. The seven-month-old record, which has yielded a number of hit singles, is now available for streaming on all the major streaming services, such as Apple Music and Spotify, as of today in most major markets, with worldwide distribution to come. Reportedly, the singer had demanded streaming be limited to paid subscribers -- a condition that has hurt some streamers with artists, who aren't paid royalties for free or trial listens . Apple pays performers its normal royalty rates during its free trial, avoiding the issue -- and having repeated success in both signing up exclusives and placing those exclusives into the top of the charts. http://ti.me/28U7NOu
SanDisk iXpand case has battery, storage
A new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s case from SanDisk appears to be the "holy grail" of accessories: a stylish and protective case that offers both extra storage as well as the option of extra battery power as well. The iXpand Memory case offers either 32GB, 64GB, or 128GB of additional storage incorporated into the case, and an optional add-on battery pack (sold separately) adds up to an extra day or more of charge. Through the associated iXpand app, camera photos and videos can be automatically stored on the extra storage, optionally password-protected, The cost for the case is (in order of storage capacity) $60, $100, and $130. The battery pack's release data has not yet been announced, but the add-on should retail for an additional $30. http://bit.ly/291epHu
Fifth Hong Kong store to open June 30
The 46th official Apple store in what the company calls the "Greater China" region will open at 10AM local time in Hong Kong's New Town Plaza in the Sha Tin district on Thursday, June 30, according to a new page on Apple's retail website. Despite slowing growth due to economic turmoil in China, the country is still Apple's fastest-growing market. The new story will be the fifth for Hong Kong, a lucrative market for Apple thanks to the high concentration of wealth there and a thriving "gray" market. Normal store hours for the new store will be 10AM to 10PM every day. http://apple.co/291diaT
Apple Music bug bites very short songs
There appears to be a reproducible bug in the current version of iTunes -- version 12.4.1, running on OS X 10.11.5, both the current non-beta versions of the respective software -- that causes a streamed song to become "stuck" in endless buffering if the streamed item just before this happened was 60 seconds or less in length. The problem appears to stem from code in iTunes that signals the next track to start downloading one minute before the currently-playing track is done, and thus songs shorter than one minute don't trigger the download. Locally-stored music is unaffected by the bug, and the problem does not appear to exist in either the macOS Sierra developer beta or versions of iTunes earlier than 12.4, and does not affect the iOS Music app at all. http://bit.ly/291cN0l