Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Eyes-Free Review: Droid2 From MOT

Here is a quick eyes-free access overview of the MOT Droid2.

Hardware

  1. The device has a pull-out keyboard, and the buttons are much more tactile than the original Droid.
  2. The device also has dropped the hard-to-use D-Pad from the original Droid in favor of PC-style arrow keys.
  3. There is once again no dedicated number row at the top.
  4. The capacitive buttons on the front of the device appear in a different order from the original Droid --- with the device in portrait mode, reading left to right you have: Menu, home, back, and search.
  5. In addition, MOT ships a voice search application on the device that is triggered by pressing a special microphone button -- it's worth learning the position of this key, since voice-search can be useful --- and more importantly, if you're relying on spoken feedback, hitting this button leads to the phone falling inexplicably silent.

Software

If you look under accessibility, you'll find an application called Voice Readouts from MOT. This appears to be a screenreader analogous to TalkBack, though in my experience, it did not produce spoken feedback in many instances. That said, this application collaborates well with TalkBack --- and after installing TalkBack from the Android Market (note: the Droid2 does not come with TalkBack bundled) -- you can activate both TalkBack and VoiceReadout for an optimal experience.

VoiceReadout appears to have a preliminary version of touch-exploration. With VoiceReadout active, a single tap speaks the item under the finger; a double-tap activates that item. Note that moving the finger around on the display does not appear to trigger touch exploration; also, touch exploration appears to be available in only some contexts.

Instances where touch exploration appears to be active

  1. Settings application.
  2. Portions of Android Market.

In general, touch exploration appears to be available in ListView.

In addition, the Droid2 also includes a low-vision accessibility tool called Zoom Mode ( look for it under Settings -> Accessibility ) this tool provides a magnification lens.

Summary

All in all, the Droid2 appears to be one of the better choices for eyes-free use from among the presently available crop of Android phones. Touch exploration, though preliminary, is nice to see on the platform, and the bundled low-vision magnification aid is a nice touch. Voice Readouts is also a great example of an Android accessibility service done right in that it co-exists peacefully with other screenreaders like TalkBack to provide an optimal end-user experience. To users not familiar with adaptive technologies in general, this might not sound like a big deal --- but users of PC screenreders have long been familiar with the need to have only one screenreader turned on. As we transition to modern platforms like Android, it's useful to remind ourselves that screenreaders can in fact co-exist, with each tool providing something useful to create an overall experience that is greater than the sum of the parts.

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