Camera apps for blind users

Camera apps for blind users:

[Image of camera icon]

[Image of camera icon]

If you are interested in the companion podcast to this piece, it is available from: The 22 Point website and addresses the same topic but contains slightly different info.

 

Last week we looked at camera apps for low vision users, concentrating on features like large buttons. This week, the main focus is on Talkback, however one of the most popular photo apps for blind users currently actually has neglected to label any of its buttons, so even then it’s not cut and dried.

So, the main criteria I used for a good, blind useable camera app are:

Talkback compatibility – Only five of the 36 apps (I added Back Camera Selfie to the list from last week) had all buttons labelled, another seven had some buttons labelled and the rest either had buttons you could access but which weren’t labelled, and some you couldn’t even get to the buttons, so the best Talkback accessible apps were:

“Smart Selfie” (more on this shortly)

[Image of Open Camera]

[Image of Open Camera]

“Open Camera” – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.sourceforge.opencamera

Standard camera controls (choice of camera / video, flash, focus, iso etc) with an uncluttered interface and a large (easy to find) shutter button make this a good option for general photography. Most controls, including shutter can be assigned to the volume keys.

[Image of Camera Awesome]

[Image of Camera Awesome]

“Camera Awesome” – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.smugmug.android.cameraawesome

No volume key support but tap anywhere on screen to shoot ability make Camera Awesome a contender as well. There are a number of buttons on screen at once. Although most are small they are on a black background so easier to see if using some sight. The app also offers a number of post processing effects.

[Image of Google's default camera]

[Image of Google’s default camera]

“Google Camera” – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.GoogleCamera

Similar to Open Camera has the standard features, not quite as many options as Open Camera, although the shutter button takes up the whole bottom of the screen so is about 6.5x2cm on my Note 2.

[Imstacamera - no controls to see here (there is another icon added to your apps to edit app settings!]

[Imstacamera – no controls to see here (there is another icon added to your apps to edit app settings!]

“InstaCamera” – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=longwell.instant.camera

having no buttons to label means no unlabeled buttons!  InstaCamera works by snapping one or more pictures as soon as you start the app, and then exiting.  Two launcher icons are installed with the app – one to launch the camera, and one to launch the settings.  The settings are accessible and include options such as whether to automatically focus and whether to remain in the camera app after taking pictures, in which case additional pictures can be taken simply by tapping the screen (double tapping with Talkback).

ProCapture, Binoculars, Camera Zoom, Camera ICS, ProCam and Cymera all had some buttons labelled (particularly the shutter) but others unlabelled.

Useable without sight – I scored this seperately to Talkback, as for many apps, having them set to ‘auto’ mode (generally the default) for flash, focus, exposure, white balance etc may reduce the need to access some of the buttons, as long as the shutter button (hardware or software) can be used (or in the case of 15 apps, tapping anywhere on the screen can be set to take a photo). This meant that 19 of the apps were theoretically useable without sight while I would rule out the other 17. Camera Zoom FX was the first one I tried which had the option of voice control, so you could say “Cheese” to take the photo, however this wasn’t setup by default and the controls weren’t accessible to set it up.

Face recognition – One of the most sought after camera features by blind users, only three of the apps tested not only recognised when a face was visible, but gave the user audible feedback about it, and we can thank the “selfie” trend for all three:

[Image of Selfish]

[Image of Selfish]

“Selfish”  – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bengigi.selfishfree

lets you set the number of faces and number of images to take. It has the option to give face centering instructions, though I found this generally didn’t say anything.

[Smart Selfie - works really well, not sure why preview is so small though]

[Smart Selfie – works really well, not sure why preview is so small though]

“Smart Selfie” – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.aidedesk.smartselfie

Works really well and advises whether to move the device left, right, up, down, back or forward to get in shot and centred. Strangely I found the preview only takes up about a quarter of the screen.

[Image of Back Camera Selfie]

[Image of Back Camera Selfie]

“Back Camera Selfie” – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fueneco.backcameraselfie

Breaks my rule of not using ad supported only apps.  Otherwise it works similarly to Smart selfie, though more responsive. While the preview is full screen, there is a large instructions panel in the middle which gets in the way if you wish to visually see the subject during the photograph as well.

In practice, for a blind user, I would recommend:

For photos of people: Back Camera Selfie works best, although set to a very low resolution by default. Although its buttons aren’t labelled, the resolution is announced on its button although after pressing it you need to explore down the right hand side of the screen to find the different resolutions (highest at the bottom of the list). Smart Selfie has more labelled buttons so try both and see which you prefer.

For DSLR type photography: With the same caveat as in last week’s article – that until Android 5’s Camera2 API is more widely adopted, there is only a certain amount of DSLR capability available in most apps. For now the app with the most functionality accessible is Open Camera or Camera Awesome.

For the simplest photography, I’d recommend Google camera for traditional ‘point and shoot’ as it’s large button is easy to get to. Alternatively I quite like InstaCamera which doesn’t use any buttons. It has a seperate ‘settings’ app which lets you setup how it works, and when you launch the main instacamera app, it simply takes it’s photo and exits (or can be set to stay in camera mode and you tap (double tap with Talkback) the screen to take additional photos). You can set it to take multiple photos initially although it does not have a setting to automatically pick the best (A Better Camera, one of the low vision recommendations has such a feature, however it’s buttons aren’t labelled in order to set it up).

Android Games for Talkback users

NOTE: This is no longer the current version of this list! Since making this post, and then updating it, I have decided to create a permanent page with an up to date list of accessible games here: https://22point.wordpress.com/games-for-talkback-users/

Following on from my recent post about Android low vision games (https://22point.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/low-vision-games/), I thought I would follow up with one for Talkback users as well – of course low vision or even fully sighted users can enjoy these games just as much!  I’ve roughly categorised them below, but aside from that they are in no particular order (ok I may have included RapiTap! first, but if you enjoy this blog, please do support me by at least trying it and hopefully buying the full version!).

 

Board games:

 

RapiTap! (Accessible game)

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=au.com.twentytwopoint.rapitap

$2.99 with free version available

Tap targets fast and avoid decoys.  A reaction based game which offers options from full screen, to a 10×12 grid

 

Talking Stones:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=woodsideapps.stones

$3.91 with Free version available

Match 3 type game with heaps of features and bonuses.

 

Accessible Memory:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=hu.gersoft.accessiblememorypro

$2.16 with Free trial available

Memory game with lots of options, different themes (remember colours / numbers etc).

 

Simple Simon

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.simon

Free

Simon memory game. The four buttons (8 in advanced mode) simply say button, so require a bit of practice to remember which button is which sound, otherwise it works with Talkback.

Blind-Droid Minesweeper

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mirwebsistem.sapper

Free

Accessible Minesweeper game (Each square is either empty or has a number in it signifying the number of mines in adjacent squares – try to clear all the squares without blowing up the mines.

 

Accessible Minesweeper

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=es.eucm.blindfaithgames.minesweeper

Free

Another accessible minesweeper game by e-UCM who also made Eyes Free Golf.

 

Chess

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=mkisly.chess

Ad supported (no full version available).

Accessible chess game. Does require knowledge of where to place pieces (alternatives are visually highlighted but no talkback hint).

 

Tic Tac Toe (Another One!)

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.escogitare.tictactoe

There are many Tic Tac Toe games, this one by Escogitare at least is accessible with Talkback, and yes it’s called Tic Tac Toe (Another One!).

Dice world

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.saddlellc.diceworld

Free.

Dice World! Bringing the world together with dice games! Not just one dice game, but Six different games! Farkle, Yatzy, Balut, Threes, 1-4-24.. and PIG! Challenge your friends or random opponents to any or all games!
•100% Talk Back Accessible!

Word / Number games:

Hanging with Friends

$1.99 or free with ads

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.zynga.hanging

 

7 Little Words

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.blueoxtech.sevenlittlewords

Free (In app purchases available, also includes flurry Analytics) Join letter groups to make words which match clues to form the 7 words.

 

One number Down:

 

Free

Given a list of nine numbers, work out which one from 0 – 9 is missing as quickly as possible.

 

VanPuzzle

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.van.puzzle02

Free

A sliding puzzle – 15 pieces in a 4×4 grid. Unscramble to put the numbers in order. Works well with low vision too. Numbers are about 28pt.

 

SpellStack

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ananse.Helena

Free

Spelling game against friends or the computer

 

Trivia Crack

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.etermax.preguntados.pro

Also a free version available

TAKE A CRACK AT OUTSMARTING YOUR FRIENDS IN THIS AWARD-WINNING TRIVIA GAME!
Trivia Crack is the international smash hit game that pits friend against friend in different categories to determine who has the most trivia knowledge. And it’s FREE! Each of the six categories (Science, Entertainment, Art, Geography, Sports and History) has a corresponding character, and the game is won by being the first to obtain all six. Give Willy the Wheel a spin and let chance decide which category you get!

Quiz: QuizUp

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.quizup.core

Free

A quiz game you can play with friends.

 

Exercise games:

The Walk

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sixtostart.thewalk

$4.99 (on special for $2.99 at time of writing – 21 May 2014) A cross between an adventure story and a pedometer, this ‘game’ encourages you to walk and as you do, you slowly unlock the story.

 

Zombies Run

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sixtostart.zombiesrun

$3.99

By the same people as “The Walk”, Zombies run is an audio game you listen to as you run / ride an exercise bike or do any kind of cardio – you are a ‘runner’ for one of the last outposts of humanity after the zombie apocalypse strikes!

 

Adventure / Role Playing games:

Choose to survive

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.volchok.lonesomeNovember

Free

Fun turn and text based strategy / combat game.

 

Ampersands

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.danjb.ampersands

$1.82 with Free demo available

Clever set time RPG game.  Four unlabelled buttons (to Game, Shop, Inventory, Statistics) but everything else works well.

 

Totally Random Hero

(Link currently down – waiting to hear back from author about whether this is permanent or temporary), hopefully temporary, this is one of my favourites.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.htk.game.trhlite

$1 or free trial of first 7 levels

A text adventure with dragons and warriors, wizards and badgers.

 

Colossal Cave Adventure

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ecsoftwareconsulting.adventure430

Free

A classic text adventure game where you move around, using objects you find and seek your fortune.

 

Detectives Choice volume 1 (and others by author)

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=detectivesChoiceV1.toucher

$3 or free sample.

Detectives Choice is one of a group of text adventure games created by Delight Games. Different games have different settings and themes from detective to the moon to zombies.

 

Lighthouse Battery (and others by author)

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=lighthouse.demo

$0.99 or free demo

One of a number of text adventure games created by Better.Apps

 

Blindscape

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gavinbrown.blindscape

free

an audio narrative story game about a man in an authoritarian society who wants to escape his life by ending it.

 

Freeq

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.psychicbunny.freeq

$5.46

An audio adventure game about eavesdropping and meddling with the future.

 

Codename Cygnus

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.reactivestudios.codenamecygnus

First few levels free then in app purchase Interactive Audiobook / Audio game. Sometimes doesn’t read screen immediately (swiping left or right prompts it).

 

Simulation games:

AudioSpeed


https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ticonblu.audiospeed

$20

Fly your starship on the assigned route at the highest possible speed!
Orbits of steel… Maximum power to the jet engines… Anti-gravity systems functioning at 100%… The crushing pressure of the hyperspeed!
Let the audio sensors guide you and follow the indications from your robo-navigator. Go full throttle!
Avoid collisions and be the first to cross the line!

 

VGZ Smart Tennis:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.my_games.vgzsmarttennis

Free

Virtual tennis game.

 

VGZ Sea Battle accessible game

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mygames.vgzseabattle

Free

Battleship game, try and sink your opponents ships by coordinates.

 

VGZ Mortal Maze

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mygames.vgzmortalmaze

Free

It is a maze game with shooter and adventure features. You are walking in the maze. Monsters and vampires will try to catch you. If you let them catch you, they will kill you. Works best with a physical keyboard.

 

Lockpick

Link currently down – if anyone has contact details for the author, please let me know so I can try and find out whether this is permanent!

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.Norvan.LockPick

Free

Hold your phone like a key and try to pick the lock.

 

Eyes Free Golf:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=es.eucm.blindfaithgames.golfgame

Free

An audio golf simulation game

 

Zarodnik

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=es.eucm.blindfaithgames.zarodnik

Free

Become the biggest predator in the ocean.  Designed to be playable without sight however requires talkback to be disabled while playing.

 

Orange Tree

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.x2line.android.orangetree

Free

Grow your own virtual orange tree and harvest virtual oranges

 

Other games:

 

 

Stem Stumper

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ananse.OLOM1

Free

Brain testing hidden object puzzle game.

 

 

Blind Run:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.varomix.blindRun

A ‘running’ game with audio prompts (which it seems, I’m a bit bad at).

 

 

Sound challenge:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.SBE.SC2

Similar to Bop It, the game gives audio cues and you have to perform the correct action (rotate the phone, tap the screen etc) as quickly as possible.

DroidFlip

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.dragonapps.DroidFlip

The gameplay is simple. Listen for the instructions, and follow them as quickly as you can, without a single mistake. If you’re too slow or get one wrong, it’s game over!
Features:
▪Completely audio based, no visuals involved!
▪Gameplay with unlimited levels which speeds up as you go.
▪High quality voice acting, featuring rather cute voices (at least, that’s what the testers think)…
▪CD quality sound effects
▪Custom made music that speeds up as you complete more and more levels
▪It’s absolutely free! And not ad supported. We don’t like them either. Yay!

Crazy Bat

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.dragonapps.CrazyBat

You take the role of a bat, and your job is to fly through obsticles without hitting them. Sounds easy? It’s not!
Features:
– CD Quality music and sound effects
– progressively speeding gameplay
– Lots of fun and addiction
Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, try to get the best highscore of them all!
(( UPCOMING ONLINE SCORE BOARDS! ))

 

Keep on Rolling

Link down – if anyone has contact details for the developer, please let me know so I can find out whether this is permanent.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.rfo.keep

Talking dice game, similar to Farkle / 10,000 / Yahtzee.

JumpinSauceRS

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.audazzle.jumpinsaucers

$2.85 or Free demo
Are you our Hero?

Help save Earth from the Evil Queen DarkSock in this exhilarating Space shooter!

JumpinSauceRS is a space shooter game aims to allow blind and visually impaired individuals to play a mainstream game with their sighted friends.
We have two versions available to download, this one is the paid version. If you like what we’re doing and wish to support us then please purchase this version, your contribution goes into helping us develop the games accessibility and the evolution of a game world/universe called “The Mists of Audazzle”. If you pay for the game your unique Mists of Audazzle character will receive a medal of honour showing you have supported our mission.

World in Shadow

https://lh6.ggpht.com/pA_ags1BpZL6QfNtqYdV_1GqtkAWlmwujnNmw692ZYuPn2JJwPnuxNEaH2b-iSclRsU=h900-rw

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.icecool.worldinshadow

First AudioGame 3D in Google Play!
World In Shadow is based solely on 3D game sounds.
It is a story where you have to kill wild animals and keep aggressive sound objectives.

History:
Gone is all the light of the world and it has become dark. Scientists do not know the cause but rather know what happened. Your mission is to find out what had happened.
You will have to survive in a world completely dark where animals are aggressive and closer to targets , using only your ears .

Game Mode:
You have to have headphones and make sure you are well placed ( left atrial to left ear and the right on the right ear ) .
Orienta mobile in the direction you want to “see.” You have to hold the phone like when you take a picture.
You walk by holding two fingers on the screen.
To attack your enemies you tap on the screen.

The game is in Beta version, if you find an error please explain it in the comments.
There were several games which I wanted to mention but which I had issues with when I tried them:

B Blind: A clever maze game which vibrates as you get close to the walls. It has buttons to get into the game and select a level which are completely invisible to Talkback so you need sight to get into it.

 

Seenesthesis: drag your finger around the screen and with feedback, guess the shapes. The menu works with Talkback, but once you are in it, the levels only work with Talkback off.

 

Rockets and Pumpkins: input velocity and angle to shoot the pumpkin. With Talkback on the instructions aren’t read out. Also can’t double tap (triple tap) with both talkback and magnifier on:

Audio Archery removed as the dev has removed it from the play store.

 

Know any more games which work with Talkback?  Please let everyone know in the comments below!

 

Reviewing Android apps on the Play Store

Following a question on the VI-Android mailing list (A mailing list for all things related to using Android as a low vision or blind user, send an email to vi-android-request@freelists.org with the word subscribe in the subject to join), I thought it would be worth posting this piece on reviewing apps on the Play Store, particularly for Talkback users, as while visually the star rating etc isn’t too hard to find, it isn’t so obvious with speech.

When you rate an app, you fill in three things:

– A star rating

– A summary (kind of like the subject of an email)

– A comment (like the body of an email – more space where you can provide greater detail about why you rated the app the way you did).

The star rating is out of five stars and means the following:

1 star = Poor

2 stars = Below average

3 stars = Average

4 stars = Above average

5 stars = Excellent.

It is important to rate apps as it’s not only a public way of congratulating fantastic apps and shaming bad ones but also to provide constructive information not otherwise obvious for others considering using the app.  People often use the star rating of an app to decide whether they will download it or not.  Surprisingly a lot of people seem to only rate most apps 5, and occasionally 1 to apps they can’t get to work, so much like most of these kinds of feedback, the ratings do tend to be artificially high unless an app does have real problems, however it can still be a valuable resource for information on what people have found does and doesn’t work about an app before you download it.  Of course it’s always a good idea to check other information before downloading an app, for instance If an app has been downloaded 10 million times, it may contain ads and tracking software (particularly if it’s “free” – see my Android housekeeping pt 2 post), but it is less likely to contain malware than say a version of “Flappy Birds” which has been downloaded 5 times, was uploaded yesterday and asks for all kinds of invasive permissions.

Your name is attached to the reviews you leave – Don’t let this discourage you from reviewing, rather it just means you should probably try to be factual and not overly rude in your rating.  I will usually try and email a developer before giving a bad rating, as I think that’s only fair, though developers can and sometimes do respond to reviews you leave on the play store – you may get an email from Google saying that this has happened and it’s often a good idea to check what they’ve said as they may be saying “Thanks for highlighting the accessibility issues with our app, you’ll be pleased to know these have been addressed in the new version!”.

You do need to have downloaded an app before you can rate it though you don’t need to have it on your device currently.  The only exception is if you purchase an app and then get a refund on the app in the first 15 mins, it’s as though you never purchased it, so you can’t leave a review after that time (I’ve never thought to leave a review before getting a refund, though you can – just don’t take too long thinking of what to write or your refund time may expire!).

So to rate an app using Talkback (non-talkback users can follow the gist of these steps, just skip all the swiping and tap directly on what you want):

  1. Locate the app in the Play Store and go into its page (where you downloaded it from).
  2. Swipe until you get past the screenshots.  The next swipe should say something along the lines of: “59,076 downloads with an average rating of 4.2, 10,000,000+ downloads, updated on 8 Jan 2014, Download size 15.4MB” – that is the current details for the Google Keyboard – so it’s been downloaded over 10 million times though only 59,000 of its users have actually rated it and added all together they’ve rated it 4.2 out of 5 (you can’t give partial stars, but if I rate something 5 and you rate it 4 then between us that’s an average of 4.5).
  3. Keep swiping a couple more times and after the “+1” button which says how many Google+ users have “+1” the app (much like “liking” something in Facebook, the next one is “Rate and review”.
  4. Double tap when you get to “Rate and review” – it will select an amount of stars depending on exactly where you double tap so it might say “average” but we can change that next:
  5. In the screen that pops up, swipe once to “Review by”, then again to “Quentin Christensen” (It will have your own name there), then swipe once more and it will make the swipe sound but not announce anything.  This is where we want to be.
  6. Swipe right then left quickly in one gesture and it will say “Your rating for Google Keyboard is: Above average”.  You can then swipe right then left again to give a higher rating, or left then right for a lower rating.
  7. Once you are happy with the number of stars (see the top of this message for the translation of number of stars to “Poor”, “Excellent” etc), swipe once more and it will announce what you have set it to again.
  8. Swipe once more to move to “Summary”, you can then double tap and type several words indicating what you think.
  9. The next field is “Edit box: Comment” and you have more room here to expand on your reasons for rating the way you did.
  10. The last step is the submit button, which will, as you can guess, submit the review (Many keyboards have “Next” and “Submit” buttons to move you between these fields automatically).

Finally, you can change your review for any app you’ve reviewed previously – so if a developer has responded to issues with one version of their app, and it now works really well, you may want to review your rating and rewrite it.  The steps are the same as above, though the summary and comments box will already have your previous comments which you can change, delete or add to as you would text in any other field.

Happy reviewing!

Android on-screen Keyboards

The quick recommendation: There is no one size fits all – try a few with the features and font size you need.

The longer answer:

Firstly, this is a longer post than previously but there wasn’t an easy place to break it up and choosing a suitable keyboard is one aspect where there isn’t a clear best answer but what you use does fundamentally affect how smoothly you can interact with your device.  There are many on screen keyboards available for Android, all with different features and different ways of predicting text (or not) and displaying different items on the main keyboard (number row, arrows, etc).

I tested as many of the ‘large print’ and most of the more popular keyboards I could find.  I excluded several keyboards with ‘dymanic’ layouts such as the ThickButtons Keyboard (where keys change size depending on what the keyboard expects you to need next) as these require even more constant scrutiny of the keyboard visually and were more tiring to use than even a constant layout, smaller print keyboard.  I have listed them here in order of their key text size on my Galaxy Note II with its 5.5” screen (and the size of suggestions and secondary characters which can be accessed by holding down keys), as well as colour options and whether they work with speech:

Keyboard URL Price Works with Talkback? Layout / colours Letter size Secondary symbol Suggestion size

A.I.type Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.aitype.android

$3.99

No Themes 36pt 16pt

LinType Keyboard Beta

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.lrandroid.lintype Beta No Themes 32pt 10pt

Perfect Keyboard free

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=free.inputmethod.latin.perfectkeyboard

$2.99

No White on grey 28pt 16pt

Flexpansion Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.flexpansion.android

$1.91

No Themes 25pt 11pt 18pt

Ultra Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.binarybulge.android.apps.keyboard.trial

$2.38

No Customisable 24pt 12pt 18pt

Dodol

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fiberthemax.OpQ2keyboard

$0.00

No Customisable 22pt 12pt 10pt

Jelly Bean keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.jlsoft.inputmethod.latin.jelly.free

$3.11

Yes Themes 20pt 12pt 14pt

TSwipe-Pro

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.thaicomcenter.android.tswipepro

$0.00

No Themes 18pt 18pt 18pt

Agile Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.np.Agile.Keyboard&hl=en

$1.25

No White on black 18pt 16pt

Kii keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.zl.inputmethod.latin

$0.00

Yes Themes 18pt 14pt 12pt

Big buttons keyboard standard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bigbuttons

$2.90

No White on grey, Modified querty (in grid) 18pt

Adaptxt Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.kpt.adaptxt.beta

$0.99

No Purchasable 17pt 12pt 16pt

Big keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mah.big.keyboard

$0.00

No White on grey, grid layout 16pt 16pt

Swiftkey Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.touchtype.swiftkey.phone.trial

$3.99

No Customisable 16pt 12pt 14pt

Easy keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.customizingandroid.easykeyboard.free

$2.89

No Themes 16pt 8pt 12pt

Interwrite

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.sunnysoft.iwkeyboard

$0.00

No Black on white 16pt 12pt

Slide IT keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.dasur.slideit.vt.lite

$3.99

No Customisable 16pt 8pt 10pt

Google Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.inputmethod.latin

$0.00

Yes White on grey 14pt 6pt 12pt

iKnowU

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.iknowu&hl=en

$0.99

No Themes 14pt 10pt 12pt

Cellular Big Button Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.celllatinime.latinp

$0.99

Yes White on grey honeycomb shaped keys 14pt 12pt

Samsung Keyboard

(On Samsung phones)

$0.00

Yes White on grey 14pt 12pt

Magic keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.picomat.magickeyboardfree

$2.99

No Themes 14pt 10pt 11pt

swype

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.nuance.swype.trial

$0.99

No Themes 14pt 8pt 10pt

Touchpal

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.cootek.smartinputv5

$0.00

No Themes 13pt 6pt 13pt

Super keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.beautifulapps.superkeyboard.free

$3.11

No White on dark grey with silver background 12pt 8pt 14pt

There are several main options for entering text into Android, each has their pros and cons:

–       Only Tap – Entering each character manually.  The downside of this method is that it is very easy to slightly miss a letter and enter typos.

–       Sliding (or Swiping).  This method involves placing your finger on the first letter in a word then sliding across to the next letter, then without lifting, slide to the next letter and so on.  The keyboard’s dictionary will then predict which word you have typed.  The advantage is that you can often get away with not being quite as accurate and it doesn’t require as much concentration, staring at the screen.  Another big advantage is if you have Android 4.2, you can enter text quickly without tapping the screen repeatedly and inadvertently turning the magnifier on and off.

–       Tap w/ Word prediction.  As you are typing a word, a line above the keyboard shows the most likely words you are trying to enter and you can stop typing and tap on one of the words.  The disadvantage of this mode is that you need to be constantly concentrating on the list of suggestions, which on most of the keyboards I tested, was in a smaller font than the keyboard itself.  I found on many keyboards, the most efficient way of using the suggestions, was to type at least three letters before looking for suggestions.

Voice input.  To be honest I didn’t really test this method, as quite often I’m in public and would rather type discretely into my device rather than talk into it (gone are the days when ‘talking into it’ was solely what a mobile phone were for!).

The next table lists the keyboards by order of the available input methods and key text size, and also lists some of the features of each:

Learns – Indicates whether the keyboard learns words that you type, in order to offer them to you as suggestions in the future.

Auto Correct – automatically correct common typing errors.  Great when it fixes things you mistype, but frustrating if it changes something you weren’t expecting.

Auto Capitalise – Indicates whether the first letter in a new sentence is capitalised.

Number Row – Indicates whether there is a row of numbers at the of the main keyboard screen.  If not, it will be on a secondary screen available by a key on screen.  On some keyboards numbers and symbols can be accessed by holding down certain letters.

Arrows – These, if present, allow you to move through text you are typing character by character, or line by line.  This can be easier than trying to tap in the right place in the text itself to edit.

Keyboard Method Learns Auto Correct Auto-capitalise Number row Arrows

LinType Keyboard

Slide Yes No No Yes No

Ultra Keyboard

Slide Yes Yes No Selectable Selectable

TSwipe-Pro

Slide Yes No Yes No Secondary

Slide IT keyboard

Slide Yes Yes Yes No No

Swiftkey Keyboard

Slide Yes Yes Yes No No

Cellular Big Button

Slide Yes Yes No No No

Samsung Keyboard

Slide Yes No Yes Yes No

Swipe

Slide Yes Yes No No No

Google Keyboard

Slide No Yes No No No

Touchpal

Slide Yes Yes No No No

A.I.type Keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes No Yes No

Perfect Keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes No No Yes

Flexpansion Keyboard

Tap w/ prediction No Yes No Selectable No

Jelly Bean keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes No No Yes

Agile Keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes No No No No

Kii keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes No Full version Full version

Adaptxt Keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes Yes No No

Big keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes No No No

Easy keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes No Selectable Selectable

iKnowU

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes No No No

Super keyboard

Tap w/ prediction No Yes No No No

Dodol

Only tap No Yes No Selectable Selectable

Big buttons keyboard

Only tap No No Only new line No No

Interwrite

Only tap No No No No No

Magic keyboard

Only tap Yes No Yes No No

I took two pieces of text (The Hail Mary prayer, and a typical email I sent a friend recently with more common and informal text but more varied punctuation), which worked out just over 40 words each.  I typed each out both by tapping, sliding and using the word prediction where available with each keyboard, and timed it, then took the averages to come up with the table below, sorted by the speed of each.  For comparison I also tested with a ¾ size Bluetooth keyboard connected to my phone, and a full size PC keyboard (on my PC):

Keyboard

Method Average WPM Rank

Full size PC keyboard

Touch Type

63.20

1

3/4 size bluetooth keyboard

Touch Type

39.18

2

swype

Slide

37.64

3

Touchpal

Slide

35.92

4

Google Keyboard

Slide

34.13

5

Slide IT keyboard

Slide

33.39

6

Samsung Keyboard

Slide

33.29

7

A.I.type Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

31.52

8

Agile Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

30.81

9

Touchpal

Only tap

29.43

10

Kii keyboard

Only tap

29.07

11

Cellular Big Button Keyboard

Slide

28.91

12

Swiftkey Keyboard

Only tap

28.88

13

A.I.type Keyboard

Only tap

28.62

14

Swiftkey Keyboard

Slide

28.58

15

Adaptxt Keyboard

Only tap

28.06

16

Slide IT keyboard

Only tap

27.76

17

Flexpansion Keyboard

Only tap

27.66

18

Ultra Keyboard

Only tap

27.38

19

Dodol

Only tap

26.76

20

Google Keyboard

Only tap

26.63

21

Adaptxt Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

26.61

22

LinType Keyboard Beta

Only tap

26.45

23

Magic keyboard

Only tap

26.37

24

Ultra Keyboard

Slide

26.06

25

Perfect Keyboard free

Only tap

25.69

26

Super keyboard

Only tap

25.67

27

swype

Only tap

25.21

28

Touchpal

Tap w/ word prediction

25.10

29

iKnowU

Only tap

24.77

30

Cellular Big Button Keyboard

Only tap

24.63

31

Easy keyboard

Only tap

24.45

32

Agile Keyboard

Only tap

24.41

33

Interwrite

Only tap

24.25

34

Ultra Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

23.69

35

Flexpansion Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

23.63

36

Samsung Keyboard

Only tap

23.28

37

Jelly Bean keyboard

Only tap

23.26

38

swype

Tap w/ word prediction

23.04

39

TSwipe-Pro

Slide

22.10

40

LinType Keyboard Beta

Tap w/ word prediction

21.72

41

Swiftkey Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

20.96

42

TSwipe-Pro

Only tap

20.93

43

LinType Keyboard Beta

Slide

20.91

44

Google Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

20.81

45

Perfect Keyboard free

Tap w/ word prediction

20.65

46

Easy keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

20.56

47

Samsung Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

19.77

48

Slide IT keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

19.58

49

Kii keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

19.33

50

Jelly Bean keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

19.06

51

Super keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

18.70

52

iKnowU

Tap w/ word prediction

18.44

53

TSwipe-Pro

Tap w/ word prediction

16.03

54

Big buttons keyboard standard

Only tap

14.80

55

Big keyboard

Only tap

14.41

56

Big keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

13.36

57

While the physical keyboards came out on top, carrying around and pairing Bluetooth devices isn’t always convenient.  Interestingly, the size of the key text was only one factor in how quickly I was able to type during the test.  Many of the extra large print keyboards, either don’t have slide input or don’t have very accurate word prediction (Ultra keyboard is very customisable but I do often find I need to look at the list of suggested words to choose the right word), and many of the keyboards with excellent prediction don’t allow very large print (eg Swipe or the Samsung keyboard).  Having a keyboard I can read easily though is still more comfortable than one I can potentially type faster on, but which I need to concentrate more to use.

I was interested to see that using word prediction actually slowed the speed down a lot in most cases, because on most of the keyboards, the suggested words are displayed in a much smaller font and it took time to read through what were often very similar words to choose the right one – usually I found this was more worthwhile when writing longer words with unique letters near the start (eg keyb…..).  It does increase accuracy on keyboards which don’t automatically correct to the most likely suggestion.

Another point to mention is that as a longstanding touch typist, I am quite familiar with the traditional QWERTY layout so can navigate some of the listed keyboards with smaller keys without too much difficulty even without reading the letters clearly, and also I did have more difficulty with some of the modified layouts such as on the Big Keyboard and Big Buttons Keyboard, as the keys weren’t necessarily where I instinctively expected them to be.

Summary:

Key text and word suggestion size will likely give you a starting point on which keyboards you can see.  Trial a few suitable keyboards to see which features you prefer.  Ideally many of the keyboards work best if you try them for a few days in order for them to ‘learn’ how you type to better tailor suggestions.  I didn’t do that with all the keyboards in the test, and it also meant I sometimes had to search for punctuation marks, if they weren’t where I was used to finding them.

Which keyboard do you use with your Android?  Share your findings in the comments below.

Quick update on Talkback

I thought I would deviate from my series on launcher options today to post two things about Talkback, the screen reader on Android for those who use it.

 

Firstly Google released an update to Talkback on the Play store yesterday with a couple of nice new features.  Here is the list from the “What’s new” section:

 

-Earcons and TTS pitch changes to indicate text formatting

-Automatic scrolling of lists during linear navigation

-Spells text replacements after speaking them

-Moved granularity selection to the local context menu

-Gestures previously used for cycling reading granularity can be used to jump to the first or last item on screen

-Stability improvements to the explore by touch tutorial

-Bug fixes

 

One I quite like there is the automatic scrolling of lists, which has seemed a little disjointed previously.  Now as you swipe through a list it will automatically scroll the page once you reach the last visible item.

 

Talkback support for last week’s list of simplified launcher.

 

Also potentially of interest to any Talkback users reading this, I did make some brief notes on the Talkback accessibility of the simplified launchers I reviewed last week and then completely forgot to include it in the post!  So for you, here is a little bit on each one.  For a full review of the launchers themselves from a large print point of view, see last week’s post: “Launchers Part 2: – Simplified Launchers”:

 

EqualEyes – As mentioned, EqualEyes works very well with Talkback (including implementing explore by touch on older phones)

 

Odinhome – text labels (calendar and applications) read but other buttons are unlabelled

 

Fontrillo – works well in many areas, but not all buttons are labelled

 

Phonotto simple phone – Buttons are listed twice when swiping with Talkback (once as simply “button” and once named correctly), otherwise seemed to work ok.

 

Seniors phone by mobile – most buttons have visual text labels and work well although several image only like the ‘back’ button read simply as button)

 

Phone for Elderly people – main buttons read, battery status etc don’t read.

 

 Coming soon I’ll be posting part 3 of my series on launchers, which will look at a couple of ‘mainstream’ launchers not specifically designed for large print users, but which can be adapted.