Experiencing Android Entry 3 by Marie

Talk Back, The Good, The Bad And the Ugly 


For those of you who read my first blogs, you will know I have been an iOS user for thirteen years. I have got a Kindle Fire for reading but my android experience is limited.


This journey was to establish if I could transition completely from iOS phone use to Android phone use. I am in no way an expert and everything I write in here is my own experience… there may be work arounds I did not find but it is accurate as per my experience.


The biggest tool I use to do all tasks on my phone is the built in screen reader. For iOS, this is VoiceOver. A very well rounded gesture based screen reader that I have seen every evolution over the past decade and more.


Talk back is a more varied affair. Although I have used an amalgamation of it on Amazon’s tablets, android is open source and companies can ups-kill it and downscale it to their preference. 


Samsung, through my research, has done a lot of great things where accessibility has been concerned. That was why I opted for the Samsung S22. Everyone within the android arena has their opinion. There are so many devices that can run android, and everyone has an opinion of which is better. The Picsal was a close second but I don’t think my experience would have been much different using Google’s own phone.




Like with VoiceOver, you can set up your phone with the aid of the built in screen reader. For me, as a totally blind user, this has to be a game changer. I briefly touched on this in my first post when discussing the setup process.


I was pleasantly surprised on the tutorial and the ability to get started quickly with TalkBack.


Having used touch screen devices, I would say I am proficient in using a gesture based screen reader. Some of the gestures, which I will talk about later, I found easier to perform than I had eight years ago when trying to use the android operating system. After recently buying a kindle fire, I learnt how easy some of these gestures and become… Particularly on operating systems that utilise multi-finger gestures, which Samsung do use.


Easy Gestures


Years ago, the old style single finger gestures used to feel cumbersome and more of a challenge than necessary at times. But on this occasion, I found many gestures intuitive and easier to execute, even over some of the more familiar gestures of iOS.


The back gesture, which for those of you who use iOS know is described as a two finger scrub, I have not always found easy to execute, particularly if my hands are slightly damp. Whereas, on TalkBack, is a down and to the left, kind of like a backward printed L. The added sounds that tell you you have executed the correct gesture also is subtly useful as are the haptics.


The home gesture, unlike the swipe up from home, [providing you have found the little home icon at the bottom of the screen],  that iOS has on all of the faceID devices, the upward and to the left gesture feels much easier and often gets you out of sticky situations. These are gestures, or something akin to these, I would love to see on iOS.


Another useful way of navigating is the controls switcher, Also known as the rotor on iOS.


Unlike the dial type gesture you have to employ on iOS, on android, you use three fingers to swipe left or right to move through controls and up or down flicks to move to next or previous element within the control. The gesture itself was great, although I found the amount of controls utilised limited on the talkBack side of things. Unlike on iOS, I was not able to customise these or change order. 


For someone, who may have some dexterity issues, I think the android approach feels much easier. If not easier, certainly more manageable to explain how to accomplish said gesture.


Familiar Gestures 


There are, of course, gestures you would recognise in talkBack, swipe left or right to move between elements on the screen, Flick up or down to move between selected controls or granulations, i.e. [words/characters], Two finger swipe down for read all or read from selected area. Two fingers flick left or right to move between screens/pages.


Talk back also has its own menu. Kind of like the quick menu in VoiceOver, although the latter has much more choice. I did find this menu useful for finding quick actions. A tap with three fingers brings up the talkback quick menu, and the top option when available is the actions menu, i.e. delete an email. Probably no more steps than the swipe up or down on actions with VOiceOver but still rather limited on non android apps.




As I mentioned in my first post, password announcement is turned off by default and this caused a few hiccoughs for me during setting up my pin code. The nice thing with Android, there are a lot of keyboards you can choose from, with lots of personalisation and you can pick which is your default.


I like to use braille screen input which is where you use your phone’s screen to type using braille dot combinations. I’ve used this on iOS since its arrival with iOS8 and TalkBack were much later to this party. I found the accuracy impressive however.


Another thing where text input was mind blowing was dictation. It was rarely wrong and I did enjoy using it immensely.


Some of the keyboards were slightly cramped in portrait mode and I didn’t find the touch experience all that great. But, I am not a touch screen typist by nature anyway so this was not altogether surprising.




I honestly thought, and granted, still very inexperienced, but the lack of choices for speech engines on the android devices shocked me. I ended up using the google speech engine which is the google now voice assistant voice as the Samsung one just sounded too tired. 


The google voice also had a better grasp of language and pronunciation was much closer to accurate than the Samsung one. However, the lack of voice choices did disturb me and maybe I have missed something but there was no option to download additional speech engines and I did look in the play store. 




TalkBack has come a long way since I tried it back in 2014. It certainly has improved but the lack of customisation did shock me a little. On a platform where you can customise pretty much anything, not having so much control over what is spoken and how felt binding. The lack of ability to add pronunciations also disturbed me. Good but VoiceOver still really wins despite the inability to opt for any voices other than Apple’s own. 



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