[Loadstone] Porting to Android

Jacob Kruger jacob at blindza.co.za
Thu Oct 22 07:23:00 BST 2015

Shawn, on first startup of my current primary phone - samsung galaxy S5, I 
just held two fingers on screen, and it started talkback by itself, but, 
this does only work on the very first startup, and, I think, only for 
certain phones.

Besides that, to activate talkback, I tell sighted guys to use a two 
fingered swipe down from notification area, activate system settings, 
accessibility, and turn talkback on.

Swiping left and right does navigate element to element - similar to tab on 
a windows PC, and under talkback - newish versions anyway - you can turn on 
screen dimming/hiding, etc.

I have pretty much avoided stock home screens from the start, and stick to 
nova launcher, since I like, and am used to it's interface, and, yes, at 
times graphics/icons/buttons are not labeled, but, you can then assign your 
own labels to them, etc.

Main thing from my side is just the customisability, and variety of software 
available for android platform that made me go for it in first place, along 
with the fact that one of my deciding points was the availability of the 
vOICe/seeingWithSound for android platform, including it being able to 
render a tactile rendition of what's in front of the camera on the touch 
screen, but, that's my own form of a side note...<smile>

In terms of different locations, for example, I have got both eloquence and 
eSpeak installed on my android phones, and that means it can read text to me 
in quite a few different languages if I want it to.

Also, to again bring up another point, I have been testing some entry level 
handsets for a local service provider, and their prices range from ZAR 700 
to ZAR900, which equates to roundabout USD70-USD90, but, they're by no means 
limited in terms of functionality, but anyway.

The primary, possible issue with android phones is just that they're all 
different, across manufacturer/model, so while basics are the same, you do 
need to interact slightly differently with each model in terms of basic 
functionality, but, then, of the software packages have been involved in 
beta testing for, the interface seems to pretty much work the same across 
versions, models, etc. etc., but anyway.

Stay well

Jacob Kruger
Blind Biker
Skype: BlindZA
"Roger Wilco wants to welcome you...to the space janitor's closet..."

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Shawn Kirkpatrick" <shawn at loadstone-gps.com>
To: <loadstone at loadstone-gps.com>
Sent: Thursday, October 22, 2015 3:42 AM
Subject: Re: [Loadstone] Porting to Android

Allow me to clairify a few things. (a rather long message ahead)
When I say an unlocked phone I mean a phone that isn't locked to any
particular cellular carrier. Quite often if you get a phone on contract from
a carrier they lock it to there network. You may not even know they've done
this until you try to use the phone on another carrier. This applies to all
platforms, Symbian, Android, and ios. Getting the phone unlocked can involve
varying degrees of complexity, price, and success. Some carriers will unlock
it for a fee, sometimes you can use online tools, and sometimes a phone just
doesn't seem to want to unlock and you're stuck with it. The way to avoid
this is just to get an unlocked phone but that means buying the phone at
full price. This has nothing to do with installing third-party software on
the phone. Doing this isn't a problem at least for android and ios if you
follow the specified procedures. The only time this could be a problem is if
the cellular carrier has installed custom firmware that prevents certain
things. You may not know this either until you want to do something that the
firmware prevents.
When I use the term workaround I mean how much work does a person have to do
to make the device accessible and usable. When I say usable I mean as a
totally blind person being able to use the phone for all the functions a
modern phone is expected to perform.
Let me state for the record that I am by no means an apple or ios fanatic.
If I had my way devices would run text-based linux and phones would have
buttons and all these touch interfaces would be a bad memory. Unfortunately
we seem to be stuck with touch interface phones so we have to make the best
of it. The reason I moved from the nokia phones to ios was I was given an
iphone 4s with the idea of mayby doing a loadstone port.
My experience has been that Apple has done a pretty good job of making what
is basically a flat peace of glass accessible and usable to a totally blind
person. To get speech on an iphone or ipad all you have to do is hold down
the home button and say "turn voiceover on" and that's it. You don't have to
install any additional software or change the device in any way. This makes
it possible to use a friend or family member's iphone or ipad if needed. (To
confuse a sighted person just leave the speech on without telling them, for
additional fun turn on screen curtain) This accessibility is by no means
perfect, it has its share of bugs and glitches. Some of these are just
annoying, others frustrating, and others just mind-numbingly stupid. It's a
matter of how many bugs and glitches there are and the impact they have on
what you're trying to do.
I have pretty much no experience with android but the one experience I do
have was very negative. A few days ago I had an oppertunity to look at an
android phone. This was the latest model from Samsung (galaxie I think).
Even with sighted assistance we could not figure out how to turn the speech
on. I have no doubt that most of this was user error but the fact that it
couldn't be figured out is a big problem. Any access technology that needs
sighted assistence to activate really needs to be rethought. It's those kind
of things that cause me concern about doing anything with the android
When it comes to accessibility it really can be a matter of opinion as to
what is and is not acceptable to the user. From the information I've been
reading about android (I've tried to find information from 2015 when
possible) it would have issues that would make it unacceptable to me. Not
being able to turn the speech on without sighted assistance is a big problem
to me. Another example would be that android doesn't have a gesture to move
from element to element to explore the screen (feel free to correct this if
it's wrong) but you have to move your finger around all parts of the screen
to see what's there. On an ios device you can just swipe left and right to
move between all elements on the screen, a very useful thing in my opinion
and possibly a deal breaker to not have it. The review I was reading was
also giving other examples of possible problems, unlabeled images on the
home screen by default, things not being read in the correct order etc. It
was also suggesting some workarounds like installing another home screen
launcher to improve accessibility etc. Some of this would be a matter of
opinion, the reviewer's deal breaker was not having a screen curtain feature
where as I couldn't care less about this feature. Some of this could also
depend on the device used, another possible issue with the android platform.
When using ios the experience is pretty much consistant accross the entire
line of devices since they're all made by Apple. With android the experience
may very since different manufacturers make different devices. There are
good and bad points that can be made for both approaches but it is something
to be awhere of when choosing a platform.
As for the number of people using what this seems to be very region
dependant. In my case of friends and family in Canada and the UK the break
down is:
1 nokia phone (symbian series 40)
2 android phones (one samsung, not sure of the other one)
at least 9 iphones (models ranging from 4s to 6s)
at least 3 ipads (not sure of models)
This is admittedly a very small sample size but it does show the
As far as development goes the statistics I've been reading seem to say
something like 37% for one and 40% for the other (can't remember which was
which) so that would seem to indicate that it's pretty much even as to which
platform developers are developing for.
When it comes to cost there seems to be a huge range of options. For android
people clame that there are devices for $100 or less but it can also go up
to $550 or more. This would be because of the different devices by different
manufacturers. I'm not talking about second hand devices since the prices on
thoes can be hard to predict. The ios devices seem to start around $500 or
so and go up from there. The development costs for android are also cheaper,
around $25 or so for an app on google play vs $125 for an app on the app
store. The android development can also be done on a pc where the ios
development has to be done on a mac driving up the cost. This would make
android a cheaper platform but do you get what you pay for? It's back to a
matter of opinion on that question.
For more information on the focus of the fund raiser see my next message.

On Wed, 21 Oct 2015, Milos Przic wrote:

> Hi Shawn,
> I write only now because the hole conversation about the fundrasing and
> porting finished in my spam folder. Anyway, as a passionat user of the
> Loadstone app back on Symbian, and as a passionate user of android (and 
> not a
> developer), let me have my two senses on this. I hope that noone will get
> offended, this is not my intention.
> However, the problem with blind people is that they want everything 
> perfectly
> set for them, and when they think that they have it, they don't want to 
> see
> the cons of their choice, they see only pros. This has been the case with 
> the
> ios-android problem on all levels, by which I mean among the developers,
> among the advanced users and among average ones. It was shone in your
> statements too! For example, you talked about the unlocked android phone. 
> By
> talking about it, you actually said that an ios device has to be unlocked 
> by
> finding a workaround for that, and in case of Android, the word workaround
> gives you concerns. So if you and all other ios fanatics out there wanted 
> to
> look on the things in a  more objective manner, the things would be 
> easier.
> And here is some personal statistics, similar to the one that Emanuel 
> brought
> out by mentioning the school where he works. I am from Serbia and I don't
> know many people who use IPhone. The first reason is its price, the second
> reason is that it is a closed and limited platform: many apps available on
> the App store you can not buy in Serbia, for example. I know a hole lot of
> people who use android, and are happy to find the thing you refer to as
> workaround rather than to buy a pricy, more limited thing that apparently
> doesn't require workarounds. I had studied in Italy for 3 years, and 
> people
> there had more Ihpones because of the standard of the country. When I 
> braught
> Android into attention as a possibility, I was ridiculed. The final 
> result,
> however, was passing of the most fanatic ios users to Android, thanks to 
> its
> fast growing accessibility and never ended flexibility! So if the things 
> were
> said in another manner, for example, if the donation were for Android and 
> not
> for ios, you could count on my donation, and I know at least a few other
> people who will not! donate for Iphone but wil be more than glad to donate
> for Android. The reason for this is the behavior of the ios users towards 
> the
> other platforms (you should see my italian friends trying to justify the
> Ihpone 6 possibility to be bended). And no, this is not only the matter of
> personal opinion, as you said before, because if you base something so 
> public
> as the fundrasing is on the personal opinion and not on the facts, the
> fundrasing wil unfortunately remain on 0.
> Again, I didn't intend to offend, I just wanted to illustrate the 
> situation
> in a most objective way possible. I hope to see my so far most favorite 
> gps
> app Loadstone for Android!
> Best,
>         Miloš Pržić
> Twitter: MilosPrzic
> Skype: Milosh-hs
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Shawn Kirkpatrick"
> <shawn at loadstone-gps.com>
> To: <loadstone at loadstone-gps.com>
> Sent: Wednesday, October 14, 2015 1:35 AM
> Subject: Re: [Loadstone] Porting to Android
>> Thank you for the offer, this actually sounds like a nice little phone so
>> I'll give it some thought. Unfortunately phraises like "it's not very
>> comfortable with talkback" cause me concern. The more I read about
>> accessibility and the android platform the more of these phraises I keep
>> seeing. Things like:
>> If you change the default synthesizer ...
>> once you change the default home screen launcher ...
>> depending on device selection ...
>> and android version ...
>> some applications are accessible but ...
>> there's a work around for ...
>> Then after every ... there's an explanation of something that might work 
>> or
>> partially work.
>> I found someone I know that has an android phone so I'm hoping to at 
>> least
>> get a look at it in the next week or so to either confirm or deny some of
>> these things. I don't want to get in to a situation where I'm developing
>> for a device or platform that is only useful for loadstone or maybe not
>> even that. We made a similar mistake while developing loadstone for the
>> nokia phones. Most nokia phones were fine (for what they were at the 
>> time)
>> but then I was given an n97 mini for testing. This was a phone with a 
>> touch
>> screen and a slide out keyboard. The usability on this phone was 
>> absolutely
>> horrible. The combination of the symbian os, the touch interface, and the
>> support that talks had for it made the worst experience possible.
>> Ttechnically it worked and could be called accessible but practically
>> speaking the device wasn't usable for anything, loadstone maybe worst of
>> all. This phone now just sits on my desk and never got to the point of
>> being road tested with loadstone. The lesson learned here is that there 
>> can
>> be a very big difference between accessibility and usability and a device
>> that isn't usable just doesn't get used. If I'm going to spend the time
>> effort and money to develop for a platform then I want to make very sure
>> it's something I can actually use.
>> I'm glad to hear that development (at least eclipse) is accessible. This
>> would seem to put android and ios on equal footing in that area at least.
>> On Sat, 10 Oct 2015, Emanuel Boboiu wrote:
>>> I have a Samsung Young phone which I can give you for free, I can send 
>>> it
>>> from Romania via Mail if it's possible. It is a 60 euros price, but it 
>>> has
>>> everything: wifi, GPS, memory ram one giga, like an iPhone 5, it has 4 
>>> GB
>>> internal storage and support a 64 SD card flash memory, I have here one 
>>> of
>>> 8 GB which I can put inside before sending.
>>> Of course this phone is small and it is not so confortable with 
>>> talkback,
>>> but everything can be done with a little patience. Even Google Maps 
>>> works.
>>> You can use of course Google Maps APIs for free.
>>> If you are interested, my e-mail address is emanuelboboiu at gmail dot
>>> com.
>>>   Best regards,
>>>    Manu
>>> -----Original Message----- From: Shawn Kirkpatrick
>>> Sent: Friday, October 9, 2015 3:47 PM
>>> To: loadstone at loadstone-gps.com
>>> Subject: Re: [Loadstone] Porting to Android
>>> I keep hearing about these sub $100 android devices, so hear's a 
>>> challenge
>>> for anyone, find a sub $100 android unlocked phone in Canada. The 
>>> hardware
>>> would at least have to have a gps and enough memory to hold a reasonable
>>> amount of map data. It would also have to perform well with talkback. I
>>> look
>>> forward to seeing what people come up with.
>>> As for loadstone being a web app that's not what loadstone is all about.
>>> The
>>> idea is to have it work without a data plan or connectivity of any kind.
>>> Of
>>> course if you have connectivity even better for data loading and other
>>> features but the basics will function offline.
>>> On Fri, 9 Oct 2015, Kotian, H P wrote:
>>>> All
>>>> I am getting a feeling, there is a strong resistance porting to 
>>>> Android.
>>>> Nexsas devices are indeed pricy. But there are plenty of Android 
>>>> devices
>>>> which are Sub $100 which has the GPS and decent hardware to test the
>>>> developed apps.
>>>> Usability of Android devices gets a bit impacted by customisations been
>>>> done by vendors. However, they will not come in the way of testing a
>>>> developed apps.
>>>> Moto G is not pricy at all and they are Stock Android.
>>>> At any rate, the approach to make the appweb based would take care of 
>>>> all
>>>> the platform issues.
>>>> Do consider the developments on this line.
>>>> Harish Kotian
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