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Apple’s Launch Event… A Blind View

Apple’s new range of devices has once again caught the imagination of the public at large, but what should blind and partially sighted people think of the new iPhones and Watch?

On episode 48 of Double Tap Canada the guys were joined by blind blogger and tech enthusiast Scott from Boston (who likes to be called Kayaker for some reason) to discuss Apple’s new announcements.

The team started off with a discussion around the new Apple Watch Series 4. The new Watch comes with a larger screen despite the form of the watch remaining the same size. The design follows Apple’s new style of bezel-less design which allows the same size of device but a larger screen within it. This could be beneficial to those who have partial vision as the larger screen (around 32% larger) could help someone see the watch face easier, especially if you use the larger text size options in the accessibility menu. The new version of the Watch also comes with enhanced health capabilities such as improved heart rate detection and also fall detection which alerts an emergency contact if you fall over and don’t respond to the Watch alerts in a reasonable time. The Watch also has an improved speaker which Apple claims is 50% louder and also much clearer. There were no notable accessibility improvements to speak of in the new Watch operating system WatchOS5 however Steven Scott felt it important to say that he felt it was the most “truly accessible smartwatch” out there in the market as it has buit-in Voiceover screen reading capability, Zoom functionality and other accessibility features. Tim Schwartz said of the new Apple Watch Series 4 that it was the “best watch for accessibility” while Shaun Preece said “this [the watch] seems like the star of the show for me”.

Listen to the special episode of Double Tap Canada right now

Apple also launched three new iPhones at their event and the teamwork, quite frankly, unsurprised. Especially as most of the details of the new phones had been leaked out well before the event. Apple Apple announced two new flagship phones – the iPhone Xs and the iPhone Xs Max. Both phones were identical aside one having a larger screen than the other. This doesn’t follow the convention of previous standard and plus size phones where the larger ones usually had a killer feature to persuade you to make that choice (and spend more money to the bargain). However this time they focused on both having the same features. These features included a very bright and vibrant OLED display which some partially sighted people report on social media is better for their eyesight as it is not as the light emitted from OLED screens is softer than that of an LCD screen such as the ones found in the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, as well as iPhones prior to the X. There is also four speaker stereo sound which promises a rich listening experience – great for movies and watching Youtube, but of course essential for listening clearly to Voiceover. The new range of phones from Apple in the “X” range also feature wireless charging – great for quickly topping up the battery on your phone without having to fiddle with a small cable that you may have already mislaid. Two key points that the team discussed which could be really good or really troublesome for blind people are Face ID and the loss the of the home button. The new design of the “X” range means the screen is the entire size of the phone, which is why you won’t find a home button. This means that now you have to use Face ID to get into the phone. The good news is the feature is fully accessible with Voiceover and blind users haven’t been reporting too many issues – no more than sighted people for sure! However the lack of home button means that you have to learn some new gestures to get into the phone – something we will be reviewing thoroughly in future episodes of Double Tap Canada.

The third phone to be released came as a welcome surprise to the team despite their initial reservations. The iPhone Xr features all of the same as the flagship phones but it has an LCD screen  instead of OLED. The size of the phone is most interesting as well as it is larger than the iPhone Xs and smaller than the Xs Max. The team agree that this might be the best option for blind people if the screen is not of interest to you.

Listen to the entire episode for all of our analysis, as well as a quick discussion on the best food to eat while watching a tech event!

If you would like to join our conversation or share your views please do email feedback@ami.ca

Double Tap Canada is on air Thursdays at 8PM ET on AMI Audio and is available as a podcast.

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