Book Review: iOS 11 Without the Eye by Jonathan Mosen
Every September, when the leaves begin to turn colors and fall from the trees, students begin to experience the excitement and stress associated with the hustle and bustle of returning to the classroom. At about this same time, many in the blind community begin to experience another sort of anticipation: the arrival of the latest version of Apple's operating system for iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad. What new enhancements has Apple made to VoiceOver, and what has changed with the OS? Are there any bugs that might be deal-breakers for a particular user? Should you jump on the bandwagon and update your devices immediately, or wait for a later release of the operating system?
There are plenty of blogs and podcasts scattered around the Internet that can help you make an informed choice, but if you don't know where to look, you could spend quite a bit of time doing research. Fortunately, a new book by Jonathan Mosen of Mosen Consulting can ease the burden considerably. Rather than calling this a new book, perhaps it would be better to refer to this work as the latest in a series. Entitled
iOS 11 Without the Eye
, this work is the most recent in a series going back as far as iOS 7.
Anyone who is familiar with Mosen's work will most likely associate him with audio such as podcasts, tutorials, and radio shows. They will also know that he presents any subject he tackles with enthusiasm, warmth, and humor. His teaching style is clear, logical, and precise.
Fortunately, Mosen has been able to bring the best qualities of his audio presentation style to the written word, and his latest book demonstrates this nicely.
Obtaining iOS 11 Without the Eye
iOS 11 Without the Eye is currently available from Mosen Consulting for $19.95 and can be instantly downloaded after purchase in both PDF and EPUB formats. National Braille Press plans to release the book in hard copy and electronic braille, as well as DAISY and Microsoft Word formats during the first part of 2018.
Digging Into iOS 11 Without the Eye
There is an old saying: "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." I happen to like chocolate pudding pretty well, and as it turns out, I have a similar feeling about iOS 11 Without the Eye. The book makes use of headings for easy navigation. I brought the EPUB version of the reference into Voice Dream Reader on my iPhone, and began happily reading at once.
Before we go any further, it's important to understand what this book is not. It's not a "getting started" guide for those new to the iPhone, and Mosen makes this plain from the outset, along with providing some suggestions for new users who would like to read a book on the subject. Second, this book is not a step-by-step tutorial on how to accomplish tasks in iOS 11, although many simple real-world exercises are provided throughout.
What the book aims to do is to give the reader a good idea of what they will find in iOS 11 when they decide to upgrade their devices.
iOS 11 Without the Eye: Breaking It Down
Let's go ahead and take a look at what you will find in each chapter of iOS 11 Without the Eye. You can choose to read the book from start to finish as I did, or jump around from chapter to chapter depending on your interest at any given the time--something I plan to do in the near future.
It is worth taking a look back at the history of the iPhone over the past 10 years, and that's exactly what Mosen does in the introduction to this book. He rightly points out that there was much trepidation associated with the idea of a blind person being able to successfully navigate a smooth piece of glass, although the improvements in Bluetooth keyboard support, the addition of braille displays as controllers, and Braille Screen Input on the iPhone has made this much less of an issue than it might otherwise have been.
In his first chapter, Mosen logically covers the topic of backing up and updating your iOS device. Whether to use iTunes or iCloud, and general instructions for using iTunes with a screen reader in Windows and on the Mac are all discussed. Many other reference books present step-by-step instructions for accomplishing the same task multiple times throughout the work, so that you may find a list of ten items appearing almost exactly the same way throughout the text. Although this can be helpful in some cases, it can also be tedious. Mosen does not use this approach, so if you want to take particular note of how to do something, it would be a good idea to mark that part of the text for later reference rather than expecting to encounter the same instructions later.
It is worth mentioning that, when referring to Windows, Mosen only gives commands for JAWS, and not NVDA or any other Windows screen reader, so be sure to familiarize yourself with how to use your screen reader of choice if it doesn't happen to be JAWS. Since this book primarily covers iOS, this shouldn't really be an issue for anyone.
Chapter 2 makes mention of iPhone X, which has not actually shipped as of this writing, and which Mosen has not had a chance to work with yet. Fortunately, a second edition of iOS 11 Without the Eye will be released once Mosen has had a chance to work with the iPhone X, and will be available for free to anyone who purchased the first edition.
The biggest changes with iPhone X include removing the home button, and replacing Touch ID with Face ID. Fortunately, there are workarounds for dealing with Face ID if you are unable to use this feature, and Mosen gives a brief rundown on how this will work.
Chapter 3 deals with VoiceOver changes, and there are a lot of them, including new Siri voices that can be used with VoiceOver, new verbosity settings, the ability to toggle the automatic speaking of incoming text, and the ability to hear closed-caption text using VoiceOver. One thing I particularly like about this section of the book is that Mosen is careful to let us know what the default settings are when it comes to adjusting many of the new options found in VoiceOver. He also doesn't mention a feature without briefly describing it, so you won't be left to wonder just exactly what that cool-sounding setting actually does.
Because of the many enhancements found in VoiceOver under iOS 11, this is a jam-packed chapter, and will be one that I will most likely revisit once I actually update my iPhone and iPad.
Chapter 4 delves into other accessibility changes including the ability to have the phone automatically answer a call after a specified length of time. Although Mosen is totally blind, he does not neglect the user with low vision, taking pains to give adequate descriptions of new features while making it clear that he himself is not able to test these features.
Chapter 5 deals with the loss of 32-bit applications under iOS 11, and what this can mean if you are running a favorite app that has become a bit long in the tooth. He gives practical suggestions for contacting the app developer to encourage them to update the app, including letting them know that you would be willing to purchase a newer version if necessary.
Also covered is the loss of built-in support for several apps including Facebook and Twitter, and what this will mean for the user.
Chapter 6 discusses changes to the notification area of your iOS device. Now called Cover Sheet, this area of iOS 11 is more streamlined and customizable than ever.
Similarly, Chapter 7 deals with changes to the Notification Center under iOS 11.
Chapter 8 delves into changes found with Siri, Apple's voice assistant on iOS. Siri continues to be made more available to third-party developers, and should be smarter than ever when it comes to knowing your likes and dislikes. Although Siri's voice will be more natural-sounding than ever, Mosen cautions that many blind people may find the responsiveness of Siri voices with VoiceOver to be less than acceptable.
Chapter 9 introduces a new file manager to iOS. Although limited in scope when compared to what's available with some other operating systems, it sounds like it will be easier than ever to get to those files you have stored in iCloud and Dropbox.
Chapter 10 covers changes to the App Store. Apple has reworked the App Store fairly extensively and Mosen takes us through the various tabs found in the store under iOS 11. Among other enhancements, developers will be able to respond directly to reviews left by users, something I find most interesting. Also, it will be easier than ever to see the details of what is in an app update when using VoiceOver. No more double-tapping required to get at this information.
Finally, if you are like me and hate to be nagged about rating an app just at the moment when you want to accomplish an important task, you will be able to disable those requests from the App Store.
Chapter 11 is all about saving space on your device. There are some new storage-saving tricks up Apple's sleeve in iOS 11, including the ability to store messages in the Cloud, and the ability to delete seldom-used content from your device while being able to effortlessly download it again if desired.
Chapter 12 highlights changes to Apple Music, including the ability to see what your friends are listening to and share playlists with them.
Chapter 13 deals with the Messages app, and there are some big changes there. You can store messages in the Cloud, and share them across devices more easily than ever. Apple Pay works from within Messages, and you can more easily chat with businesses as well.
Chapter 14 covers Maps, which includes new indoor mapping capabilities. Mosen has not had the chance to experience indoor maps at a mall or an airport, but he speculates on the exciting possibilities that could be associated with this feature. There are other new features as well, including "do not disturb" mode and lane guidance for drivers.
Chapter 15 is devoted to the iPad, which will have a dock in iOS 11 that you can get to from any screen.
Chapter 16 introduces us to the more robust Notes app. Mosen says that this application could easily be thought of as a word processor, rather than a way of simply jotting down a quick note. Of particular interest to blind people is the ability to scan a document from within the app. It is possible to keep track of receipts at a conference, jotting down the details of the purchase and embedding the image in the note. Don't plan on getting rid of your blindness-specific OCR software any time soon, however. The feedback you will get with the document scanning capabilities found in Notes is quite limited.
Chapter 17 covers changes in Safari, including the ability to always have Reader mode available on every Web page you visit, or to customize it on a case-by-case basis.
Chapter 18 covers Apple's Podcasts app. Of particular interest here is new information that can be added by podcast creators to allow for things such as grouping podcasts into seasons and forcing the app to show the earliest episode of a podcast at the top of the list, rather than the other way around.
Chapter 19 shows us the new Accounts and Passwords section of iOS. It will be possible to enter usernames and passwords here and designate which websites they pertain to. I am especially eager to explore this area of iOS 11.
Chapter 20 deals with smarter data sharing, including the ability for someone to allow a guest to have access to their Wi-Fi network without having to manually enter a password into that person's device. It will also be possible to automatically transfer data from an existing device to a new one, assuming they are in close proximity to one another.
Chapter 21 is all about Health, and so is Apple. Besides being able to add more health data than ever to your device, new workouts will be available in iOS 11. Finally continuous glucose monitoring devices will be able to add information to your health data.
Chapter 22 highlights improvements to Family Sharing, while Chapter 23 covers core NFC, important for Apple Pay and Wallet.
Chapter 24 deals with the subject of QR codes, which no longer require third-party apps to work with your device.
Chapter 25 deals with emergency situations, and how your phone handles them. These changes will be especially important for those who eventually purchase an iPhone X.
Chapter 26 discusses improvements to home automation as it relates to iOS 11. It is now possible to more precisely customize how lights and other appliances in your home behave.
Chapter 27 covers changes to how photos are handled in iOS 11. Whether you want image stabilization or smaller file formats to help you save space on your device, iOS has you covered, and Mosen explains it remarkably well for a totally blind guy.
Chapter 28 teases us with the possible uses of augmented reality, which is being introduced in iOS 11, while Chapter 29 deals with less exciting, but equally important topics such as changes to how push notifications can be customized. This chapter also covers topics including the expanded list of TV providers found in the iOS 11 TV app.
Chapter 30 concludes with an encouraging word regarding Apple's commitment to accessibility. For those who fear that each update to Apple's iOS operating system will break accessibility for blind users, Mosen reminds us that accessibility is part of Apple's DNA, and they continue to deliver a great product for the VoiceOver community.
The Bottom Line
For anyone who wants to gain an understanding of what to expect in iOS 11 and make an informed decision about whether and when to update their devices, iOS 11 Without the Eye is a well-written, thorough resource that you will find yourself referring back to over the course of many weeks.
iOS 11 Without the Eye
can be obtained from Mosen Consulting for $19.95. It can be instantly downloaded in PDF and EPUB versions, and will be available from National Braille Press next year in hard copy and electronic braille, as well as Microsoft Word and DAISY formats.
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