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Making accessibility part of your developer DNA

Yesterday, 12:00 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


Making accessibility a priority.

AltConf 2015 I gave a talk entitled, "Accessibility Is a Moral Imperative". It was a high-level talk about why it is so important for developers to keep accessibility in view while developing for the Mac, for iOS, and for the web. What the speech lacked was any technical details on how that can be accomplished. With this follow-up, my goal is to provide a non-technical guide to making accessibility a part of your developer DNA, whatever your app or website happens to be.

Don't get in the way of what's already there

The biggest challenge to accessibility in iOS is not coming up with new and interesting ways to make your app more accessible. Rather it is simply not getting in the way of the accessibility features that already come free with iOS. By now, all developers know that iOS is highly accessible by the blind and physically challenged. What you may not know is that every accessibility feature can be defeated by developers, and often is.

What you may not know is that every accessibility feature can be defeated by developers.

VoiceOver can be defeated by including hidden, junk text in your app. Flipboard is a prime culprit. When you read a Flipboard article, all you see is the text of the article. But when a blind person tries to use VoiceOver to read that same article, the text is garbled and loaded with intentional misspellings. The result is that the text is rendered unreadable by the blind.

Read Screen is a little known feature that allows you to swipe down from the top of the screen with two fingers and have your iPhone or iPad start reading from whatever is visible at the top of the open window. In Safari, if you are reading a long article, you can scroll to a particular section, flick down with two fingers, and have the article read aloud from that point.

But that feature is easily defeated by the way web page elements are prioritized. Instead of reading what is visible at the top of the windows, this feature can be forced to read all the invisible menus, then the ads, and then the dozens of article listings scattered about the page. You could have ten minutes of reading before getting to the main article. Furthermore, rather than starting where you want to start, the reader is forced to the top of the page to read the developer's priority instead of yours. This amazing feature is rendered useless on many pages.

Barriers to accessibility

With so much free accessibility available to developers, you might wonder why so many apps defeat the built-in features. I don't believe for a moment that any developers are twirling their mustache, intentionally crippling accessibility features critical to those who need them. Instead, here is what I think may be going on behind the scenes:

1. The Path of least resistance

It is not that any developer is evil or lazy, it's that they're human. Humans tend to take the path of least resistance. If a developer can accomplish their goal in three steps, they will do it. But including an accessibility feature might require an additional five steps. Implementing dynamic type is a good example. Even if they think about the feature, they may deem the extra effort or time not to be worth it.

2. DRM

Developers who are trying to make a living with their content do not want to allow their work to be easily copyable, or easy to read without the surrounding ads on which their monetization is based. They protect their work by employing schemes that defeat copy/paste and ad-stripping. Unfortunately, I can't think of any ways to implement DRM that do not also adversely effect accessibility. Apparently, neither can they.

3. Highly stylized features

The Verge is one of the most heavily designed sites on the web. They do award-winning work that makes their content come to life in a modern, visual context. However, almost every design choice they make clashes with accessibility. This is common for design-centric sites and apps—magazine apps in particular.

In magazine apps, layout is king. It comes in ahead of all other considerations. Developers are so focused on how they want every line to look on the page, they never consider how the reader might like to see it.

Design-heavy apps do not tend to allow for easily resizable fonts, for example, or arrangeable page elements. It is the developer's way or the highway. There is no evil intent. They have a beautiful idea in mind. They just never considered its effect on accessibility.

Accessibility is NOT a technical issue

The lack of accessibility in apps is not because developers don't know how to implement the technical details. Developers do not need anyone to tell them how to include larger fonts, for example. They already know how to implement Text-to-Speech (TTS) and other accessibility options. If it were just a matter of technical details, accessibility would be easy. The challenge is getting developers to make accessibility a priority.

Does a media company want their content to be accessible, or want it protected from theft? If that is the choice before them, accessibility is going to lose almost every time. And it does.

If some accessibility features are difficult to implement and take time away from money-making aspects of a project, what is the pitch for getting devs to put the time and energy into dynamic type? As a former salesman, and a fan of dynamic type, I can't think of such a pitch.

It took the force of law to make businesses start adding wheelchair access, parking, and restrooms.

For designers, making their apps more accessible would mean giving up part of their app's identity. They are reluctant to provide anyone with the opportunity to break their format. To them, it is like pouring catsup on a fine steak.

These are not technical issues. At least, they are not solvable by current technology.

I am reminded of accessibility issues in physical spaces. It took the force of law to make businesses start adding wheelchair access, parking, and restrooms. For the most part, they did the least they legally had to do. To this day, braille or large print menus in restaurants are rare. They are not technically difficult to do. Every eating establishment, regardless of size, could have at least one Braille and large print menu tomorrow. They would rather spend $100,000 on design and layout than $100 to make a plain, easy to read list.

It is not about technology. It is, and always has been about incentive. That is why I focused my talk on accessibility being a moral imperative. At the end of the day, that is the only incentive that will move the needle in the right direction.

The path to accessibility

If you want to know how to better serve those with accessibility needs, I offer this general advice:

  • Don't get in the way of what is already there
  • Make all fonts user adjustable.
  • Make as many items speakable as possible
  • Test your app on people with special needs

Having already discussed the first one, let's take a brief look at the other three:


Sometimes, in content-heavy apps, developers will provide a few text sizes such as small, medium, and large. But those sizes are all relative. A person who does not see very well does not see those sizes as small, medium, and large. They see way too small, still too small, and nice try, but I'm still going to have to move on to another app. If you are not going to use dynamic type, at least make the fonts user adjustable. Regardless of how big you think the font is, if it is not big enough for the reader, it is not accessible.

Text-to-Speech (TTS)

I look forward to the day when everything on a screen is speakable. Text-to-Speech (TTS) is already here, and more than good enough. Imagine a lightweight script that could automatically select the text in a given section, and then read it aloud with one of the built-in voices just by tapping a Play button. Some websites already do this. There is no reason text-heavy apps can't do this as well. My understanding from developer friends is that all the APIs are freely available to devs if they wanted to go this route.

This type of solution would be ideal on the Apple Watch, as it has a small screen, necessitating small text. Having those snippets of text speakable would answer most accessibility prayers on that device.

Inclusive testing

Finally, test your apps on people with special needs. There are schools for the blind, and rehabilitation programs for the blind all over the country. Even if you do not know anyone personally, willing, blind and partially sighted testers are easy to find. (You can email me for more specifics.) The point is, unless you have tested your accessibility on someone that actually uses accessibility features, you have not actually tested your accessibility.

Accessibility for all

The good news is if you are asking how you can make your apps even more accessible, then you are already most of the way there. The special needs community is a rather forgiving lot. We reward effort, even those that are spectacular failures. Put forth the effort, and we will help you refine it.

In some ways, access is like justice: It has to be for all if it is to be fully realized.





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Soundpeats Qy7: Work out to wireless music without spendi...

Today, 11:00 AM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


Bluetooth earbuds are available on a budget to help keep you moving during workouts.

I enjoy listening to music on my morning walks and runs, but I have a problem: Earpods don't stay in easily. I recently tried some gadgets to keep the Earpods in my ear, and they work great, but I was still getting tangled in cords. So I started shopping for Bluetooth earbuds. I'm on a tight budget, so the inexpensive Soundpeats Qy7 caught my eye. I picked them up on Amazon for $29.99 and have been running with them for a couple of weeks now. They sound great and can't be beaten for the price.

Soundpeats is a Shenzhen, China-based manufacturer of sports headphones, wearable electronics, and wireless speakers. It's a brand formed by the dubiously long-named Shenzhen SoundSOUL information technology Co., Ltd. I wasn't familiar with their products before ordering the Qy7.


The Qy7 arrives with a zippered hard case with webbing inside to keep the earbuds safe when you're not using them. Soundpeats also includes a variety of different apparatuses to help keep the earbuds securely in your ears. Three different sizes of earcup are included, to fit differently-sized ear canals, loops and hooks to help you find the right fit for your ear anatomy specifically.

The Qy7 supports Bluetooth 4.1 and also supports the aptX audio codec, which is not yet supported on iOS devices. AptX converts say that the codec provides better audio quality over Bluetooth. Regardless, the Qy7 paired effortlessly to both my iPhone 6 and my Apple Watch. I went out on runs with the Apple Watch alone, once I'd loaded a playlist on it.

Both earbuds are connected by a flat ribbon cable that rests behind the neck. The right earbud sports a multifunction button that powers up and down, pauses and plays; a volume toggle on the same earbud also doubles as a track forward and rewind button. The left earbud has a micro USB connector underneath a hideaway rubber stopper.

An LED shows you when the headset is being charged and when it's powered up. It's tough to see in direct sunlight, as it's underneath the same multi-function button you press to power up, power down, pause and play.

A pleasant female voice recording informs you when the headset is powered up and down, when it's connected to a Bluetooth source and when the battery is low. The Qy7 lasted for me for about six hours of active use before needing to be charged again. Soundpeats includes a micro-USB cable, which you can connect it to any USB power source. An open port on your computer will work, or the wall block you use to charge your iPhone or iPad, or whatever.


The sound quality of the Qy7 is excellent. There's plenty of bass, too — great for the driving dance music and hard rock I prefer to listen to when I work out. Bear in mind, however, that these are in-ear earbuds. If you don't like that feeling of "fullness" you get with an in-ear device, you probably won't like these.

There's a safety consideration too: If you're exercising in public, you probably don't want your ears completely blocked off to outside sounds: You want to be able to hear vehicles, dogs and other things that might be a threat. So use at your own discretion.


Soundpeats is generous with the accessories to customize the fit of the Qy7 to your ear specifically. Several different sizes of earloops and ear hooks are provided, along with different cup sizes, so you can almost certainly find a shape that's right for you.

The documentation included with the Qy7 has occasional anachronisms that read as poorly translated English, but it was clear enough. I was left to my own devices a bit to figure out how the ear loops and hooks worked, though, and how, exactly, the earbuds were supposed to fit in my ear. It had taken me a couple of days of workouts before I found a comfortable fit.


Soundpeats makes the Qy7 in a variety of different color combinations. I opted for the red and black model though I noticed Amazon had an even better deal on the black and green model.

The Qy7 is bulkier than some Bluetooth earbuds I've seen, but it's also a fraction of the price. You can spend hundreds of dollars on high-end earbuds, especially when you get into Bluetooth. So it's amazing that the Qy7 costs less than $30. I've been using the Qy7 for a couple of weeks, and it's held up well. Whether it'll hold up for the long-term is another question. But at the price I paid, I can afford to take a chance.

Have you tried the Qy7? Or is there another inexpensive Bluetooth earbud you prefer? Sound off in the comments. Want more accessories to help make your summer more fun? Check out our Summer Accessories roundup!





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Apple Watch coming to Best Buy Canada on August 14

Yesterday, 09:15 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


It looks like Canadian Best Buy customers won't be left out in the cold for too long with Apple Watch availability. Canadian blog MobileSyrup reports that Best Buy stores in the great white north will begin carrying the Apple Watch on August 14 — just one week after their U.S. counterparts. From MobileSyrup:

Apple Watch will be available online and at Best Buy's retail stores across Canada. In addition, the big box retailer will allow customers to "feel and try-on" the Apple Watch at 20 stores across Canada (we don't have the full list of locations, but are working on it).

It was announced early this week that Best Buy would become the first third-party outlet to sell the Apple Watch, making it much easier for prospective buyers to get some hands-on time with the Watch if they don't live near an Apple Store.

So, if you live in Canada, it won't be too long before you'll be able to get a feel for the Apple Watch at a Best Buy store near you.

Source: MobileSyrup





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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor hacks and slashes its way...

Yesterday, 06:51 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Game of the Year Edition, the acclaimed action game that pits you against Sauron's army of orcs, has come to the Mac. Set between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings stories, Shadow of Mordor puts you in the boots of Talion, a soldier of Gondor.

On the night Sauron returns to Mordor after thousands of years of exile, Talion, his family, and his fellow soldiers are murdered atop the Black Gates. Mysteriously resurrected, Talion must piece together what happened that night with the aid of an elven wraith. While you'll slice your way through Sauron's army, developing rivalries with specific characters as you manipulate the orc chain of command, you'll learn how to dominate their minds as well, building an army of your own with which to face the Dark Lord an his servants.

The Game of the Year Edition of Shadow of Mordor packs in all of the DLC previously available for the game, and is available now on Steam for $24.99, though its normal price is $49.99. The game will come to the Mac App Store in early August.





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OS X 10.10.5 beta 2 now ready for developers

Yesterday, 10:52 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


The second beta of OS X 10.10.5, clocking in at build 14F19a, has been released to developers. It should be available from Apple's Mac Developer Resource Center soon, or through the Updates section of the Mac App Store for those that have the previous beta version installed.

Details are light on the contents of OS X 10.10.5. With OS X El Capitan coming later this year, however, expect a relatively minor release consisting primarily bug fixes and performance improvements.





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Refreshed Apple TV once again rumored for September

Yesterday, 08:58 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


As rumored back in June, the next iteration of the Apple TV is said to be on-track for a September debut. The upcoming set-top box, which is rumored to have a new design, as well as updated internal components such as an A8 processor, and a touchpad-equipped controller. The Apple TV will reportedly show itself at the same event as Apple's next iPhone models, according to BuzzFeed:

Sources familiar with Apple's plans tell BuzzFeed News that the company intends to announce its next-generation Apple TV in September, at the same event at which it typically unveils its new iPhones. The device itself is pretty much as we described it to you in March, sources say, but "more polished" after some additional tweaks.

Apple will also reportedly hold off on announcing its rumored TV service alongside the new hardware, opting instead to announces either late this year or early in 2016.

In addition to upgraded internal hardware, the upcoming version of the Apple TV has been said to feature support for third-party apps for the first time, along with support for voice control using Apple's Siri.

Source: BuzzFeed





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What's new on the App Store: Watch the PGA Tour live,...

Yesterday, 08:02 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


Every week, the App Store highlights some of the best new and updated apps. This week, we get ready for the PGA Tour, Angry Birds gets a sequel, and Apple showcases back-to-school apps.

New to the App Store this week, we have PGA Tour Live, which lets golf fans stream rounds live on their iPhone and iPad. There's also LiveText, a new messaging app for Yahoo. Keep track of the most important numbers in your life with Numerous. Disney has put out a new karaoke, this time for their new Descendants TV series.

Angry Birds 2, the sequel to Rovio's original smash hit, leads off the new games this week. Race the Sun is a new game that challenges you to race the Sun across the sky in an effort to keep your solar flyer aloft. Fight to prevent the rise of a Dragon in Tap Quest: Gate Keeper. Finally, classic RPG Legends of Grimrock has been updated, letting play on your iPhone.

It's once again back-to-school time, and Apple has assembled a collection of apps to help you shop for supplies. There are a number of retailer apps, like those from Target and Best Buy, that let you use Apple Pay. Apps like Schoola, zulily, and Macy's help you find the perfect first-day outfit. Finally, apps from stores like Walmart help you save money on your all of your back-to-school needs.

Check back next week for more new apps and games from the App Store.





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Free App of the Week: Embark on a quirky military conques...

Yesterday, 07:47 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


It's that time of the week again when another app goes free on the App Store for the next week. This week's free app of the week brings us the insanely fun and quirky artillery strategy game, Worms 3.

If you're unfamiliar with the Worms series of games, they task you with taking control of a team of militaristic worms as you battle other teams for supremacy. You have access to a number of weapons and different worm classes to take out the opposing team, and it takes a bit of strategy to come out on the winning side.

Worms 3 ratchets things up a notch from previous entries in the series by introducing a card mode. There are a number of cards you can either collect in-game or through in-app purchases, and they allow players to alter the start and the end of each turn — bringing an added dimension to the your strategy.

Worms 3 will be free on the App Store through August 6, so if you're interested in giving the game a shot, hit up the link below to embark on your conquest.





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Status Board 2.0 helps you keep track of what's impor...

Yesterday, 06:32 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


Status Board, the app from Panic that offers a visual way of tracking what's important to you, has received a long-awaited update to version 2.0. A free update for existing users, Status Board 2.0 builds on what came before by adding easier, more versatile customization.

You'll notice immediately that Status Board has a new look, more in line with iOS 8. The app has also added new panels, some of which can be purchased, and you can now create and swipe through multiple boards.

Here are all of the major changes you can expect in Status Board 2.0:

  • NEW UI. A new font, new icons, and a new, sleek, streamlined appearance.
  • MULTIPLE BOARDS. As many as you want! Swipe left or right to switch boards, or use our custom transitions and delays to cycle through them automatically.
    • Photo Album: automatically cycles through photos in an album of your choice
    • Countdown: to a date of your choice. (Or, count-up from a date that's already happened!)
    • Text: Easily specify any text on a board. Or, create labels.
  • SHARING. Share live links to boards, so the same board can be viewed across your entire organization and will update automatically when you make changes. Or, share your boards with your friends.
  • WALLPAPER. Nice new backgrounds beyond black. Or, add your own, and fully brand your board.
  • HD-OUT. Output specially-formatted HDTV-native boards. It's built-in and free for everyone.
  • LOTS MORE. Tons of fixes and improvements everywhere.

The Expansion Pack panels are available to Status Board 1.0 owners free of charge, and they should be unlocked automatically. You can grab Status Board 2.0 from the App Store now.





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How to add a song from Apple Music to iCloud Music Library

Yesterday, 06:30 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News


Want to save a song you love in Apple Music to your iCloud Music Library? Here's how.

You can stream all day long from Apple Music, Beats 1, and Apple Music radio, but sometimes you want to save tracks that really resonate with you.

That's where iCloud Music Library comes in: It collects your music from your Mac and your Apple Music picks and stores it all in iCloud for you to access on any of your devices.

If you find a track you love and want to add to iCloud Music Library, here's how to go about it.

How to add a song from Apple Music to iCloud Music Library On your iPhone or iPad
  1. Open the Music app and find the song you want to add.
  2. Tap the More button (looks like •••) to the right of the music.

  3. Tap Add to My Music.
On your Mac
  1. Open the Music app and find the song you want to add.
  2. Mouse over the song and click the More button (looks like •••) to the right of the music.

  3. Select Add to My Music.
How to save it for offline play On your iPhone or iPad
  1. Launch the Music app from your Home screen.
  2. Go to the song or album you want to download.
  3. Tap the More button (looks like •••) to the right of the music.
  4. Tap on Make Available Offline.


The song(s) should immediately begin downloading to your device; you can see their progress by tapping the download bar at the top of the screen.

On your Mac
  1. Open iTunes.
  2. Go to the My Music tab.
  3. Click on the view type dropdown in the upper right corner of the screen.

  4. Select the Show Columns dropdown.
  5. Click on the iCloud Download option. A cloud icon should appear next to your other song sort types; next to each song, you'll either see no icon (which means the song is locally stored); a cloud icon with a downward arrow for songs stored in iCloud Music Library; or a cloud icon with a line through it (for PDFs and other iCloud-ineligible tracks).

  6. Click the cloud icon with a downward arrow to download the track in question.

Having trouble adding songs to iCloud Music Library? Let us know in the comments.





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