Last updated 19 March 2017 to include some paragraphs on using the AirPods and the Apple Watch, running Voiceover.
At present, the situation with using AirPods, with an iPhone and an Apple Watch both running Voiceover is not great.
There are many excellent aspects of the AirPods as compared to other earpieces and headsets, , which I’m not discussing here, but if you use Voiceover with AirPods and the Apple Watch – then you will likely be somewhat disappointed at present.
As far as I can tell, Voiceover on the iPhone is holding on to the AirPods connection, even after speech has stopped and even after the iPhone is locked. The result of this is that there is no auto-switching of the AirPods to the Watch, as Apple advertises and as happens for non Voiceover users.
So, interestingly, The AirPods aren’t demonstrating the baseline level of device switching connectivity offered by numerous multi-point Bluetooth headsets, such as the Trex Titanium. This is a great disappointment and diminishes the usefulness of an Apple Watch running Voiceover.
If I turn off Voiceover on the iPhone and lock it, the AirPods connect to the Watch and play its output.
There are situations where the AirPods kind-of auto-connect to the Watch or the iPhone, but in this instance Watch Voiceover is truncated and there is not effective hand-over of the AirPods between devices.
If you start your watch first, then your iPhone, for a while you will get multi-point behaviour, with both devices speaking through the AirPods. But, once your iPhone locks and unlocks, or some other situation, the iPhone takes over and the Watch starts speaking through its internal speaker again.
Note, while the AirPods audio lag on the iPhone is reasonably minimal and doesn’t greatly impact efficiency on the iPhone, Lag is quite long on the Apple Watch, perhaps over half a second..
The other issue with Bluetooth and in fact all audio on the Apple Watch running Voiceover is that Voiceover aggressively ducks any audio to a much lower volume, even after Voiceover has stopped speaking. When the Watch makes the lock sound the ducking is engaged again for another 30 seconds or so.
The up-shot, Don’t plan on using your Watch as an audio player, for watch content, the ducking is way too intrusive and aggressive and is held far too long. It destroys music enjoyment.
This aggressive ducking behaviour also makes reviewing recordings from Just Press Record and podcast playback via the ‘Watch Player’ app unsatisfactory. To comfortably listen to audio from the Watch, , you need to turn off Voiceover in order to listen to audio with clarity.
I’ve submitted a bug report to Apple Accessibility about this ducking issue, but so far, no fix in the latest beta cycle and current watch 3.13 release.
The second issue that ties in with this is that as you adjust music or audio playback volume on the Watch, Voiceover loudly speaks the volume percentage, once again ducking the music, making it impossible to actually know the level you have now set the music to.
If, alternatively, you wish to use the Watch music app to play music from your phone, then the AirPods will auto-switch back to your phone once you start music playback, and Watch Voiceover is then output via the Watch speaker. If you pause the music, The AirPods are once-again connected to the Watch.
So in summary, audio stored on the Watch is currently far from ideal for Voiceover users, but accessing your Phone’s music store works relatively well.
Similarly, you can use Now Playing on the Watch to control audio playback of music and other iPhone audio, but the Watch speaks through its internal speaker.
If you have a Mac and wish to use your AirPods with it, I recommend the Toothfairy app that allows you to set a hotkey to auto-connect the AirPods to the Mac. This saves a lot of fiddle.
You’ll then need to bring them back to the iPhone in the control centre, which takes quite a few swipes.
This is where the iPhone audio output rotor setting would come in very handy, but – for now – it disconnects the AirPods, but for some reason, you can’t use it to reconnect them again. To do that, remove them from your ears and re-insert them.
updated on 13 October 2016 to comment on initial accessibility findings for Series 2 Watch hardware plus a quick fix for siri connectivity issues .
If you encounter those “Can’t connect to Siri on phone or watch” errors, I’ve found that going to control panel on the Watch and turning Airplane mode on, then off, almost always restores the connection for reliable Siri access. Of course, if this fails, a restart of the watch and phone may be necessary. Also be sure that you have unlocked your iPhone after reboot, otherwise Siri services may be unavailable to the watch.
I picked up my Apple Watch Series 2 Stainless a couple of days ago and I’m very pleased indeed with its improved performance, reliability and audio qulity.
Now when you buy an Apple Watch you can choose from a CPU updated original design (Series 1) or Series 2 which has some new hardware.
In particular for Voiceover users a new speaker which delivers significantly improved audio for Voiceover and works better when in the shower.
There is more bass and more high end in the audio output making Voiceover easier to hear and more pleasant due to a less tinny brittle sound.
It was thought there were two mics in the new watch, but there is still only one. Apparently the second pin hole is for baramometric measurement.
The display is twice as bright on Series 2, which may assist low vision users or those sensitive to glare.
Each of the new models has an upgraded processor, and although the chips are different I have read that they are the same in terms of processing speed.
The updated processor units in both devices give a very noticeable speed improvement for overall Voiceover responsiveness, much more reliable gesture recognition and allow for rapid flicking between on-screen elements.
The Taptic actuator is marginally larger and improved in the stainless steel model, giving a more precise feel.
As has been widely reported, Watch os3 is much more efficient for loading programs and the significant overhaul of Voiceover and speech efficiency are very noticeable.
These updates have also resulted in the Taptic engine being a lot more reliable while Voiceover is operating, which is fantastic and lays the ground for even more responsiveness of Voiceover on the updated hardware units.
If you liked the idea of the first Apple Watch, but were frustrated by its Voiceover lag, poor gesture recognition and sluggish speech, then I’d strongly recommend revisiting Apple Watch series 1 or Series 2!
Updated to include initial findings from 2.1 and notes on using JustPressRecord : 22 February 2016
I have also updated the Siri section below with more reminder examples and multi-step calculations. If you want to use Siri for sending timed items to other reminder lists, I have come up with a two step process to do this on the Watch, contrary to my earlier statement saying this was no longer possible.
Tweet: TimNoonan: I second almost everything in this article, I especially – absolutely rely on Just Press Record on the Watch. https://t.co/KAsirtxj3Y
I’ve been running the 2.1 version of watchOS 2 release for a while now and here are some notes on what I’ve found.
In truth, I haven’t observed any VoiceOver bug fixes in 2.1 as compared to 2.0.1. Perhaps app loading time is sometimes faster.
watchOS 2 is quite a bit more responsive and I think the Australian voice is clearer, particularly for the new faster maximum speaking rates.
I have the Australian voice set to 90 percent and it is very fast and clear.
I don’t know that it is louder per se – but I do feel it is easier to understand the Australian Karen voice in noisier environments. Also with the Crown toward my elbow the speaker is facing my hand, which also greatly improves clarity of sound for hearing Voiceover.
Sometimes when the watch starts speaking a long string of information, a two-finger single tap usually mutes/pauses this,after half a second or so. In 2.0.1 I thought this was more responsive, but it seems flicking to the next item is more effective for shutting up long speech strings, such as from a calendar entry complication..
Flicking between items such as watch apps and within apps is still quite sluggish, such as in mail.
In 2.0.1 It seems that Voiceover loads more quickly if you switch it off and back on again – significantly so, and in 2.1 the ascending tone after triple-pressing the crown, to let you know Voiceover is loading, is back.
Fixed in 2.0.1 is the meaningful status for alarms – whether on or off.
Bugs in the recording sheet where Voiceover focus is resting on cancel appear unchanged in this release.
Apple told me that this was an application developer issue, and I should take it up with app developers. If you use any recorders, please let the debs know so they can lodge a bug report to Apple.
The issue Using Siri to launch music still launches it within a Siri shell, so focus is lost when the watch sleeps and re-wakes.
Hey Siri still wakes up at a different volume to the current setting on the watch, which I think has to do with the app’s setting for Voiceover volume.
The bug where Reminders and notifications don’t open to their details and ability to mark completed or snooze is still present. As a partial work-around for this significant Voiceover bug, I am using the Fantastical app Watch notifications for timed reminders.
I also frequently encounter a very frustrating bug in the timer – which often doesn’t trigger with haptic or sound, probably when sound is muted, in particular.
In general, with Voiceover running, Haptic feedback is not reliable 100 per cent of the time, and hence I have missed several cooking timers.
This bug is complicated by the way the Watch will go into mute mode based on muffling incoming calls etc, so you may not realise you are in mute.
Since the Apple Watch is a timepiece, not being able to trust a timer is a pretty significant bug for Voiceover users.
Eight of the ten 1.0.1 bugs I reported to Apple have been fixed in watchOS 2 and one partially addressed. Not bad going.
some nice changes in focus such as when you hard press in the workout app, Voiceover focus goes straight to the “end” button.
When in the mail app, exiting a message now returns you to the summary for that message. Previously it took you back to start of list. a nice productivity boost.
The bug where the wrong message content is spoken when you move forward and bak through email messages, has not been fixed in 2.1. , This means that browsing the list of messages and hearing the wrong content summary, can lead to confusion and occasionally deleting the wrong email.
Can anyone else confirm they are experiencing this problem?
Night Stand Mode or “bed side table mode” as Australian localisation calls it doesn’t have a particularly great benefit for Voiceover users, and its worth noting that Hay Siri is not available in this mode, Nor can you use the digital crown to activate Siri.
What is nice, though, is that if you have an alarm set, pressing the friends button will cancel the alarm and pressing the crown will snooze it. nice not to have to use a touch screen to manage an alarm while half asleep.
I’d like an extra setting in Night Stand Mode to set Voiceover volume to a default night volume. Then you could confidently check the time through the night without making undue noise.
I’d also like that if you pressed the crown or the friends button that time would be spoken – for sighted users, pressing one of these buttons brightens the screen for checking the time.
From day 1 with watch 1.0 I have hardly ever had success answering calls on the Watch. This is so whether I’m at home on the wifi network or somewhere and tethered to the iPhone.
My limited testing – perhaps optimistic – is that I have answered a couple of calls with 2.0.1 by tapping the watch to wake it up, and doing a two-finger double-tap to take the call. Fingers crossed.
, Previously, I was getting failures regardless of whether I did a two finger double-tap or double-tap on the answer button.
What about you?
If you open the music app or the remote app by selecting the app’s icon (e.g. not by using Siri) then when you place the voiceover focus on a button such as play rewind or fast forward, the watch will remember this – even after the watch goes to sleep and is re-awakened.
This is great. It means you don’t need to check and adjust the voiceover focus
This feature also works for the timer and stopwatch (when you are in those apps.
Sadly, that is as far as Apple went (or got) in retaining voiceover focus on watchOS 2. There are places and situations where Voiceover still reverts to moving the Voiceover focus to the first screen element on watch wake, even if you have your watch set to resume last activity:
Unfortunately, when you use Siri to launch music or remote apps or ask Siri to play a song or artist.
Music or Remote loads, but within a Siri shell. Voiceover shows you your Siri command as the first screen element and then the app controls are presented.
One problem is that whatever code Apple use to keep Voiceover focus on multimedia controls doesn’t kick in if you are using music that was launched from Siri.
Also, it seems you aren’t in a full version of the Music app, since hard press doesn’t work to set shuffle,source and airplay.
The other area where voiceover focus isn’t retained after sleep is in Apps like Overcast which also provide multimedia controls.
At first I thought Overcast worked because when the watch wakes up, Voiceover speaks the control you were last focused on – but then jumps back to the first screen element.
I’ve tested quite a few two apps that record audio on the Watch. JustPressRecord and Simple Mic. are both quite featured. and Both use the watch recording sheet which allows a recording to be reviewed, saved or cancelled before it is handed over to the third-party Watch app.
For both apps When recording commences, Voiceover focus is placed at the top of the screen – this also happens to be the cancel button.
So, if you are making a voice recording, and double-tap to end the recording before you flick to change the focus, what you actually end up doing is cancelling/deleting the recording even before you get a chance to review it. Not good.
The question is therefore whether recorder applications can move the focus to a more suitable screen element, during audio recording activities. I rote to one of the developers about this, and they suggested it is out of their programatic control, and they have logged a bug with Apple about this.
However! The excellent news/work-around by JustPressRecord for this problem, including minimising voiceover output at the end of your recording, is that the 1.2 version of JustPressRecord now has a recovery feature, that saves any recording created and exited when the Watch shuts down. Effectively, this means you can place your hand over the watch at end of recording, and the app closes and when you re-open JustPressRecord, your recording is found and sent to your iPhone.
JustPressRecord also now has a complication and a Glance, so if its complication is on one of your watch faces, you can double-tap it and after a few seconds recording starts automatically.
To end your recording, just Place your hand over the screen.
As mentioned, the only caveat is that you do need to restart the app in order for your most recent recording to be found and sent on to the iPhone and iCloud Drive.
With the release of Just Press Record 1.2 there is now improved Voiceover support for the iPhone app, including initiating recording via two finger double-tap and ending with double tap or two finger double tap
!.3 of JustPressRecord now allows you to listen to the most recent 20 recordings on the watch, which are also send includingo iCloud Drive.
### Bugs in Notifications and Reminders
If a reminder notification comes in, but you don’t check it, it goes into the notification screen.
unfortunately, once it is in there, it can’t be accessed properly with voiceover to complete or snooze. this works when Voiceover is disabled.
There is also a possibly related problem if two time-based reminders have the same trigger time. You are told there are two reminders, but you can’t always get in to check what they actually say.
I suspect this is a general bug in notifications, not just reminders – but since reminders can only be accessed via notifications on the Watch, the problem is more pronounced.
When there is a Watch app to be called for the notification, things work ok, but when there is not, such as for Notifications, this bug shows itself.
Fantastical is my best work-around so far, although I don’t tend to use its complication, just its notifications so I can get reminders and complete or snooze them from the watch.
set activate on wrist raise, but in general | accessibility | Voiceover, set speak on wrist raise to off, and you are set to go.
Lift your arm to wake the watch and then just say “Hay Siri where am I” as an example, to learn your location.
Note there is a Voiceover speech volume bug that sometimes shows up when you use Hay Siri – it seems to check the volume in the Phone app, even if you have your watch adjusted to a new volume. this can result in louder or softer voice volume with Hay Siri responses.
Press the crown and say “Tell Tim Noonan Isn’t talking to yourself great fun”
You’ll hear “Ok, I’ll send this
flick or touch to check how your message was interpreted. If you don’t like it, double tap on the “Don’t send” button.
At this point you can also activate Siri and say
“Append ps, I love you”
and that will be appended to your text.
When you are happy enough with the text, just drop your arm, or press the crown, and your message is sent.
I confess it took me quite a while to work out how this new sending mode worked, but I love it for efficiency. I initially thought it was a timeout, but dropping your arm is how the updated manual explains it.
As long as you can cancel out, or it isn’t going to create problems, any activity that can be done in a single atomic action, such as sending a message or creating a reminder, is a good User Experience. You just need to break the habit of pressing crown to exit if you’ve just used Siri.
Some of us use more than one reminder list to separate work or projects. You might have family sharing set up and in that instance there is a “family” list that is accessible by all family members.
Creates a Basic untimed reminder that goes to your Reminders list or which ever list you’ve set as your default.
Sets a reminder and you are alerted about it at 9am the following morning.
Step one of a two step process to set the reminder list the subsequent reminder goes to.
Siri prompts, “ok, just tell me what to add to your family list.”
Press the crown and hold it as you say
This two step process allows you to select the reminder list, the reminder text and a due date/time.
With the calculation answer on screen you can then do additional follow-on calculations such as:
Note that if you generate a Siri error, though, you will lose your accumulated calculation.
You can also say
however, it doesn’t change the setting, rather it opens settings and you can toggle the do not disturb setting there.
It is not currently possible to enable or disable mute or Bluetooth via Siri on the Watch.
It isn’t very helpful asking Siri to spell a word on the watch, as there is no way to navigate by characters and the result presents a phonetic representation of the word. However in recent iOS releases asking Siri to spell a word on iOS now actually spells it out at a clear, slow rate.
Note: Other than the final sections listing Watch/Voiceover bugs and my Features Wishlist, the balance of this article hasn’t been reviewed and updated for watchOS 2. It nevertheless contains my experiences, configuration and some solutions to Watch issues with Voiceover use.
I’ve had my Apple Watch for a couple of months now, it is the stainless steel 42 ml with Milanese Loop. I turned 50 exactly a week after the try-ons were offered at Apple Stores and a week before ship date. Just seemed destiny that I should have one 🙂 Being in Australia meant I was able to do a Watch wear before I placed my Apple Watch order.
Amongst other things, I’m a blind technologist and Voice User Interface designer/Consultant. I’ve been working with technology and developing ways to make it accessible since 1982. I work with businesses to optimise the usability and accessibility of their digital services and mobile apps.
Here I’ve written about aspects of the Apple Watch which I feel are interesting and that weren’t immediately obvious from other sources. This review is definitely not a ‘getting started’ or ‘how to’ for new Apple Watch users.
David Woodbridge has subsequently posted a great and concise article on the Apple Watch and third party watch apps.
This is a Live document. Rather than numerous short posts, I have been amending and adding to this post as new experiences and ideas turn up. I’ll update the last updated date and highlight changes at the top of the post.
My partner Alan is not blind and sometimes I’ll relate his non Voiceover Apple Watch experiences as comparison and contrast.
Accessibility is an interesting term, and has many connotations. I like working with and supporting organisations who are interested in inclusivity and who consider how they can include a wider range of users in their product and service design. Apple exemplifies this philosophy, particularly in the Apple Watch right from its first release.
For a 1.0.1 release of a product, the Apple Watch is very good. Even more impressive, though,is the reliability and functionality of the accessibility features in particular Voiceover.
I have done a couple of restarts and resets when items can’t be activated or when I’m stuck somewhere, but it is still quite stable overall. Only once has the Watch stopped speaking altogether, requiring a restart.
Note, Reset is performed by holding the crown and side button in together for five or so seconds and the Apple Watch will restart.
One of the bigger problems folks are encountering is real difficulty in hearing Voiceover output from the in-built speaker in semi-loud or loud situations. This is discussed later on. I have a lot of quieter environments I work in, so this issue hasn’t impacted me as much as some others.
I have now set the Watch so the crown points towards my elbow and the speaker towards my hand – overall a more focused output from the speaker to my ear.
After all the major Voiceover bugs in iOS 8, before the release of iOS 8.3, the Voiceover accessibility on the watch is remarkably refined. And, I suspect there is lots of very exciting Voiceover goodness to come in future releases.
It is particularly exciting to have new physical controls in addition to a touch-screen for navigation and reading!
It is also very exciting to contemplate the possibilities for the Haptic linear actuator for non-visual silent communication.
It is fair to say that while Voiceover use isn’t janky, it is a bit ‘sluggish jerky’ and slow to move around really efficiently and I am hopeful that a more fluid user experience will arrive in Watch OS updates for Voiceover users.
This far in, with my usage of the Apple Watch I do feel that the Watch is less efficient than I would like, especially when you are trying to quickly get to a specific app, or back to notifications etc.
I hope this will change, but there are times when I would have got the job done faster using my iPhone.
That said, I am very much liking the Watch and enjoying having it at hand, no matter where I am.
I like that the touch screen is quite robust, even allowing me to flick and tap, through my cuff or shirt sleeve depending on the fabric.
Stainless Steel 42 MM with Milanese loop band.
I chose the 42ML model because it is a comfortable fit for my wrist, has a larger screen for touch gestures and because it has a larger battery.
Although I was considering getting a Sports Watch for cost reasons, I fell in love with the Milanese Loop band and love how it is infinitely adjustable throughout the day for activity, comfort and fit.
Update: After using the Milanese loop band with my watch for a few months, at times I found it was a little uncomfortable, if set to tight. The edges could be a little sharp on the skin. Alan my partner says it also pulls hairs in his arm quite a lot. Also I found that if I napped with the watch on, the band was quite sharp and not overly partner friendly.
Also, With my wrist size – small-to-medium – the other somewhat annoying problem Alan and I both notice with the milanese loop is that the magnetic clasp is often resting over the little finger tendon. in the wrist. This quite often resulted in a hand movement or wrist twist causing the clasp to rock or move over the, tendon creating a fantom taptic sensation. I’d go to Check the watch, but no notification there. Over time this undermines confidence in taptic sensitivity.
Yesterday I got a black fluoroelastomer sport band, and I confess it is very very comfortable to wear and is especially un-annoying if you nap or sleep wearing your watch. I’ll still wear the Milanese loop when I’m out, it looks and feels very smart, but at home I’m enjoying the Sport band for now.
Having owned braille watches in the past, I know how easy it is to knock or clip your watch as you go about your day and I felt the sapphire glass would help minimise any accidents.
iPhone 6 128GB
Plantronics Voyager Edge Bluetooth 4.0 multi-point earpiece – in white. I am no longer able to pair this earpiece, and as discussed in greater detail, it is dis-recommended by me for Voiceover use on the Apple Watch.
it falls short in a few areas. It does not simultaneously play audio from both devices.
I discuss Bluetooth and voice capture in more detail later in this article.
Rivo credit-card sized pocket Bluetooth iPhone keyboard v123
This is a great companion to an iPhone – allowing pocket access to most voiceover features in place of the touch screen, plus alphabetic input. It is not perfect, but with a watch, earpiece, iPhone and a Rivo you have a hands free ultra-portable pocket office always available.
MacBook Air 11 Inch early 2015
As a blind person screen size is not a key factor, so the latest Air with extra RAM and a CPU upgrade completes a fully portable office for my speaking, travelling and consulting work.
To immediately put the watch to sleep, place your hand over the watch face
This is very useful if you set the Speak on Wrist Raise to off, as it also disables the sensors that sleep the watch when you drop your arm.
I think this is a great compromise, so long as you actively cover the watch when your task is done.
Two finger triple tap
Turn this on To use rolling the crown to navigate Voiceover items – as an alternative to flicking right and left on the screen.
Default is off.
Remember to switch back for adjusting volume and fine adjustments of times in the workout app etc.
I think the reason this is currently undocumented is because more work is planned for Voiceover and crown navigation.
I keep wanting to press in the crown after rolling to an item I want to activate.
However, so far as I have found, you still need to double-tap on the screen to activate the item you move to with the crown.
I also love that you can fast roll to jump ahead two items or maybe more with longer faster rolls.
What is missing in crown navigation mode is some kind of tactile feedback as you scroll, so you ‘feel’ feedback as you move to each successive voiceover element. I hope this is on its way, though wonder if the slight sluggishness of Voiceover output could make such haptic feedback trickier.
When crown navigation mode is off, such as when in mail, the crown can be used to skim through a list of messages quickly or the text of a long email – but in this these instances, voiceover speech is uncoupled from the fast scrolling facility. This is the standard crown operation for sighted users.
Several blind Apple Watch users are exploring what the crown can do, I’m hopeful more is on its way!
I really love this Crown Navigation feature – it is like using a tuning dial to change the station allowing you to slowly or more quickly move from one Voiceover element to the next, such as getting quickly to the last element on the screen.
When you are otherwise occupied, this is much more intuitive and manageable than on-screen gestures, and will be even more so if tactile feedback is incorporated into crown navigation.
John Gruber @Gruber tweeted an undocumented sequence to force quit the current app if it is locked up. I don’t know if in-built apps respond to this, or just iPhone Watch extension apps. I haven’t used it myself so far, but will next time I find the watch has locked up in an app.
gruber: How to force quit an app on Apple Watch: Long-press side button to bring up Power Off/Lock screen, then long-press side button again.
I have had some attempts at using this command, but I’m not sure I’ve successfully stopped an app this way. It is also possible that Voiceover and this command collide.
Overall, I like the modular watch face best, in particular because it has a larger complication which provides full details for an appointment such as duration and location. Great for giving directions to a taxi or Uber driver.
If I am doing a presentation I also include the timer on the watch face, so I know how much time I have left during the presentation.
It allows for five complications, which is very flexible.
Some of the other watch faces speak seconds as well as minutes, which could be nice if doing audio work. However, I’ve found on the Utility face that flicking away from and then back to the time can announce the last spoken time and seconds. If you touch the time, it seems to be correct.
set on iPhone Watch app > General > accessibility > Voiceover > Speak on Wrist Raise
This avoids the watch speaking every time you move your arm.
tap the screen to wake it up.
place your hand over the glass to immediately put the Watch to sleep.
This mode gives you more time to engage with the watch, even when you drop your arm to a lower position, which otherwise would usually put the watch back to sleep..
Task interruption is never good UI design, this feature helps you complete short tasks without the watch shutting down prematurely.
This setting appears to override the activate on wrist raise setting, when Voiceover is activated.
Though it is a little slower to get to the time display – and hence Glances and Notifications – I’m experimenting with this setting that wakes the watch up where it went to sleep.
In the majority of watch screens, the time is reported on the top right corner, so if you touch there, you can hear the current time, even when not in the clock face. It is in small print and can sometimes be a little tricky to activate with touch.
Also note that as you flick or scroll through those screens, the time isn’t included in the flicking order.
If the watch wakes up in an app, pressing the crown twice quickly returns you to the watch face in most instances
If you prefer the default setting where the Watch wakes-up to the clock face, a rapid double press of the crown from there will return you to the last open app.
A day or so after getting my Watch, I switched to wake up to last context, and used it like that for a week. I felt quite in tune with the watch using this setting.
When I started writing this blog article I switched back to the default and have returned to clock face for about a week. On reflection I feel like this mode was a less intimate and efficient experience with my watch. I’m now back to wake at last context.
I’ll see if this approach works better, there are efficiency downsides to both.
I still have not found a wake on setting I find ideal.
It has some down sides, but I have been staying with the digital crown towards my elbow, and the speaker and microphone toward my hand. Although I still think that ergonomically the classical watch orientation with the watch buttons towards the hand is the best option – for physically operating the Watch controls, as an audio user it is just logical to have the speaker pointing towards you, rather than up your sleeve.
One significant advantage of switching the crown toward the elbow is that the speaker and the microphone are then towards your hand – this makes watch listening and microphone targeting easier – though the Microphone seems to be quite omnidirectional and you don’t need your mouth close to it, for it to capture your voice.
I mentioned I ordered a Plantronics Voyager Edge – in white – so I would have private and clear access to the Apple Watch Voiceover output.
For iPhone use, it is a pretty good headset overall and for calling and listening, it is considered the best all-rounder available. A Bluetooth headset has to balance battery life, audio quality for sending and receiving audio, comfort and relatively unobtrusive aesthetic design.
The best review I’ve found for the Plantronic Voyager Edge is from The Wire Cutter
In recent times I haven’t even been able to pair the headset with the Watch, and others have mentioned this too.
The following notes are from when I did have the headset and Watch paired.
With the Voyager Edge paired to both the Watch and the iPhone, if the iPhone starts outputting audio, the output from the Apple Watch is effectively muted and lost, until the iPhone is locked again and releases the A2DP channel. When you can’t look at the screen of the Watch – and the Watch voice output is muted – you can’t access or engage with the Watch.
This also means that if the Watch is paired to the headset, and you answer your iPhone with the headset, the watch is rendered unusable until the call ends and you lock your iPhone. this is an unexpected downside of pairing the Voyager Edge with both devices. I’m exploring alternative solutions, but progress has not been particularly promising so far.
In the last day or so, I’ve found another problem with the Voyager Edge when paired to the Watch and the iPhone. For some reason, using Voice Dream Reader to listen to an audio book, the audio keeps pausing every couple of seconds, when the Watch is paired, even though it is asleep and generating no audio to the headset.
If you want a great Bluetooth headset for your iPhone, you can’t go past this headset, but if you want it for both devices, I sadly have to dis-recommend it.
Also, the firmware updater is not Voiceover accessible and I had to use Chrome to download the updater, using sighted assistance.
Tip: One way to relatively quickly gain audio output from the Watch speaker is to have settings as my last visited Glance, turning on Airplane mode, which disconnects from the Bluetooth device. Turning Airplane mode off again seems not to automatically re-pair to the headset.
I think a nice feature/work-around would be to have the shutdown menu disconnect Bluetooth audio, though this may be unsuitable for some use cases.
Because of the shortcomings of the Voyager Edge, if I had the budget or could get review units, I’d really like to compare with the Jawbone Era 2 and the Motorola Moto Hint, though these are both reported to have some short-comings in Microphone audio quality for the Era and battery life and sound volume issues with the Moto Hint.
The Jawbone Era 2 claims Simultaneous Multipoint support, leading me to think that it may support concurrent audio output from two devices at once. However, I would need to try this out, because I thought the Voyager Edge would do the same.
Also, even if concurrent listening to two audio streaming sources such as Voiceover from the Watch and the iPhone is achievable, I suspect most headsets don’t allow headset profile and A1DP profiles to sound concurrently, so if you were to take a call on your iPhone, your Watch would most likely be inadvertently silenced, as it is using the Voyager Edge..
Regarding the above headset microphone call Audio comments, it is worth noting, however, that the Apple Watch appears to take all its audio input via its in-built Microphone for phone calls, Siri and for dictation. The watch’s Bluetooth stack appears to either not have, or does not currently implement the Bluetooth Head Set Profile (HSB); commonly used for bluetooth phone calls. This means the audio input quality of a Bluetooth headset is not a concern if the headset is solely used for Watch output.
The Watch does implement the Bluetooth a2DP audio streaming profile, which is used for music playback and for transmitting Voiceover audio to a Bluetooth headset.
It is good to find that the latency from the Apple Watch to a Bluetooth earpiece is quite short, making flicking etc a reasonably pleasant and efficient process. Paring my Watch with my Jawbone Big Jambox, latency is decidedly sluggish, as it is for Voiceover output from my iPhone.
When I paired my Watch with the Big Jambox speaker for a presentation, I was unable to adjust watch volume on the speaker, it kept resetting to what ever the percentage on the watch was set to. This was frustrating.
I also sometimes have trouble adjusting the volume via the Voyager Edge BT headset, and think this is related.
In a noisy environment it is essential that volume can quickly be adjusted, preferably by buttons on a Bluetooth headset, and obviating the cumbersome double-tap and hold volume change gesture.
Note: the Aftershokz Blues 2 bone conduction Bluetooth headset does not allow pairing to two devices at a time, so is not an ideal solution for accessing both Watch and iPhone audio.
As an interesting aside, in Watch OS 1.0.1, the Apple Watch appears to own all its inputs – no external keyboard, no external microphone, no camera – The Watch Is The Input Device! The Bluetooth settings screen does refer to Health Devices, which presumably may send some data to the watch.
If there is one part of the Apple Watch experience I’m a little disappointed about it is the range of things Siri just won’t do for me on the Watch alone. That said, to some degree, Siri has been enhanced in Watch OS 1.0.1
Too too many times Siri directs me to my iPhone for simple answers or activities.
Though you can use Siri to set a reminder on the Apple Watch, you can’t ask Siri to tell you about up-coming or your today’s todo items – you get sent back to your iPhone for that.
In the initial release, there is no reminders app in the Watch, though when a reminder triggers, your Watch will notify you of it.
the Append or Add To Message commands are My favourite feature on iPhone Siri. You can say something like “Tell Alan we are out of mineral water” and then you can say “Append and frozen berries too” to add to the text.
This isn’t available on the Apple Watch, which launches the messages app after you create it, so you need to cancel and re-dictate your text if it is incomplete.
A welcomed enhancement in Watch OS 1.0.1 was that for a while it was possible to reliably add reminders to any reminder lists you have set up. e.g. Family list or others. It was also possible to set a time or a location for a reminder. Technically, either of these things can singly be done for a new reminder, but no longer can both be done for a single reminder.
Being able to designate the reminder list is a powerful feature and great for a range of situations including creating drafts from reminders, sending a reminder to your family reminders an alternative todo manager etc.
Unfortunately, Siri updates made at the end of June have taken back some of this power, in tradeoff for quicker single utterance reminder capture.
Now you don’t need to confirm any reminders on the Watch or the iPhone, they are just captured and saved. Overall this is really great – if you want to remind yourself to do something its great to just hold the crown in and say “remind me to update the Siri section of the Apple watch article” tomorrow and know the reminder is set.
So you can say
“Add mineral water to my shopping list”
“add to my renovations list
call Mum about carpet layers”
You can also say
“Remind me to review the report by Midday”
“Remind me to call Mum when I get home”
However, it seems you can no longer ‘specify both a reminder time or location and an alternative reminder list, via Siri.
Using the watch with 1.0.1 it is now possible to get answers to many questions right to your watch, rather than being directed to your iPhone. That said, the phrasing of the questions need to be quite well crafted to avoid hand-off.
“Convert 100 U S dollars to Australian Dollars”
You can’t use Siri to turn on mute or do not disturb, it seems you can’t use Watch Siri to adjust any watch settings in Watch OS 1.0.1 other than turning on and off Voiceover.
A welcome feature coming in watchOS 2 is that Siri allows glances to be called up, even if not installed on your main watch glances list.
Siri actually has no voice on the Watch. Yes, that is right, if you don’t use Voiceover Siri only prints responses to the Watch screen.
In effect, Voiceover is Siri’s Augmentative Communications device in order to be heard by Voiceover users.
I’m hopeful that Siri will get smarter on the watch and speak the essence of responses that otherwise are now only displayed in more detail on the iPhone.
Interestingly, If your watch has already connected to your iPhone and your iPhone has connected to your home network, your Watch can fall bak to using your home wifi network for Siri and making reminders etc – even if your phone is turned off or rebooting.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t do this reliably, so if the connection to your phone elsewhere in the house is choppy, Siri will usually fail.
Dictation accuracy is very good indeed on the Apple Watch.
When Voiceover is running you double tap the dictation button in messages or in apps supporting dictation and it listens until you finish dictation with another double-tap.
Even if you hear nothing, wait a moment and you should be returned to Voiceover output.
Dictation responses are generally very accurate, though for me in Australia, response times feel rather slow. This may not be the case in the US depending on servers etc.
As an interesting aside, my partner used his watch dictation to tell me a new shirt had arrived and that it looked good. Hoped it would be a good fit.
But, Siri refused to hear ‘shirt’, deciding he was saying ‘shit’. After three attempts he sent it through, trusting I’d know what he meant.
I got a text telling me a new ‘shirt’ had arrived – so either the iPhone or Siri parsed the message again and corrected it and sent it through.
As of 1 July, I have updated all devices around the house to the latest versions which have replaced problematic wifi networking code and, so far, things seem to be running more reliably on the network. The following few paragraphs may not be that relevant now. Here’s hoping.
Particularly in recent times, Apple devices are sadly renowned for a variety of Wifi issues, and I’ve spent a lot of time and money trying to stabilise my Wifi network for reliable and snap responsiveness on the Watch and other devices.
, it seems even upgrading the Latest Apple Airport Extreme 80211 AC wireless router still hasn’t resolved a variety of Wifi problems in my apartment. Or, perhaps it is the interaction of the DHCP server on my Fritzbox DSL modem and Apple devices.
Update: I have now set static IP addresses for all devices that don’t leave the house. This includes the Apple TV and the Airport extreme and the Airport Express Wifi extender. I recommend this approach if your home networking exhibits problems, often it is due to IP address conflicts and DHCP. Be sure to set the static ip addresses outside the DHCP server IP range. In my case, all the static addresses are set to 192.168.178.201 and above.
Even after these changes, factoring in that I have an Airport Express to extend the network via Wifi, I still get very unreliable responses when the Watch and Phone are not close to one-another around the house.
This situation involving using your Watch at home, with your iPhone plugged in somewhere else in the house, really needs to be improved and match the advertising by Apple.
As with the iPhone, dictation and Siri sometimes seem to collide with Voiceover on the Watch, but no actual crashes here, just loud clicks instead of the Taptic Siri indicators that it is listening.
the new Watch version is greatly improved – it is the most efficient way I know to capture dictation into a file, including adding to it via dictation or prepending it with dictation.
This is simple but flexible and great for quickly tracking client work/hours..
the Watch app opens with two buttons, one for capturing dictation into a new draft and one for viewing your Drafts inbox.
When you double tap on capture it automatically takes dictation and places it in a new draft, no confirmation is required or possible at this step.
When you open the inbox you see the first line of each draft and the modification time. You can double tap to open any of these draft headers to hear the full text of the draft.
With a draft open you can hard press to append or prepend text, delete it or archive it. If archived, it doesn’t show on your watch – the watch only shows items in your drafts inbox – the inbox is where they go to after you create them.
Drafts are shared via iCloud synch across your iOS devices.
On your phone you can perform numerous actions on the open draft including reminders, email, sms, dropbox twitter, Facebook etc.
The latest iPhone version has dramatically expanded support for external keyboards, allowing any key combination to activate text expansion or to run scripts on the open draft.
The developer is extremely responsive and very Voiceover focused. He has incorporated all the Apple watch and many iPhone suggestions I made following the initial release.
A great iPhone app that has a remote control recorder app on the Watch.
Open the app and you can remotely start your iPhone recording and stop it, all from your watch.
This is a great Apple Watch app,
I largely ignore the Twitterrific Glance, and don’t find it offers much for Voiceover users, but the app and the notifications are both great on the watch.
Another app that has good iPhone support is also now on the Watch and allows DMs and Mentions to be accessed from the watch. Nice.
This Watch app is very cool, allowing you to select podcasts for playing, pause, skip etc. Also adjust speed and other settings, all from your phone. Very very nice.
Using Siri for do not disturb, mute and perhaps turn off bluetooth audio device would be great.
On a few occasions now when delivering presentations, I have sadly chosen to replace my Apple Watch with my braille watch for the purpose of being able to silently do time checks throughout my presentation.
I once had a Tissot Silen-touch watch with a touch screen and vibration facility. As you moved your finger around the bezel, it would silently vibrate when you touched the hour the little hand was at, and would vibrate several times to indicate the minutes. I forget exactly how it worked, but would love a similar feature on the Apple Watch!
As this Tweet articulates:
SinaBahram: If I had to sum up in 1 reason why I’m not getting an Apple Watch: volume! Seriously Apple, my 1995 radio shack watch was louder. #a11y #fb
For many situations the speaker at 100 percent volume is ok, but in loud environments the ergonomics of getting the speaker to the ear and clearly hearing the Watch is not as loud as I’d like.
To this end, I am now using the Apple Watch with the crown towards my elbow and find the directionality of speaker output more conducive to easy listening.
For Ergonomics – after reversing the orientation in this way – I’ve found that placing my left hand on my chest, with thumb and index finger spread to rest on each collar-bone, ideally positions the watch speaker and it is quite comfortable to operate, the watch including using the right index finger for adjusting the digital crown.
I am not certain, however, but it seems possible that the Watch OS 1.0.1 release may have the maximum volume louder than the original release.
Also,I like many blind users have set Voiceover speed to 100 percent, and if it were slowed down, comprehension in noisy places would be increased, but at present speed adjustment can only be set via the Watch iPhone app.
Both for true private listening and because of volume limitations, I still feel that a Bluetooth earpiece is a necessary or at least a desirable piece in the Apple Watch toolkit for a Voiceover user.
I haven’t given up hope that Apple may be designing a Bluetooth earpiece, to match the watch, but perhaps the demand for such an accessory is not sufficient.
On the topic of volume adjustment, the two finger double-tap and hold and then sliding up and down the screen is definitely difficult to reliably and efficiently adjust volume on-the-fly. Not only is it laggy, but sometimes the volume bounces around, even after lifting one’s fingers from the screen.
I think a new interaction mode would be valuable for tuning Voiceover settings here the digital crown could adjust volume or speed.
I understand that the two finger double tap sequence activates Zoom, if it is enabled, but it would be most useful to have an additional gesture for Voiceover users that perhaps allows various options to quickly be set.
No sight of this in watchOS 2 but third party recorders are becoming available. Time will tell if they can be efficient and reliable enough for rapid capture and later review of voice notes.
I’d love to just be able to get Siri to capture a voice note for me, no fiddle, no having to open a special app.
Ideally a facility to capture the voice note and the dictation translation would be fantastic. This could be a great third-party app I feel if Apple opens up the API to capture audio!
There is some improvement here with watchOS 2 but I haven’t exercised it well at this point.
As a blind person with an interest in fitness, I really would love a speaking heart rate monitor as I row or otherwise exercise. Currently this can be checked on, but I would like to be told my heart rate as I’m exercising and as it changes. This would allow for greater efficiency when doing interval rowing.
Also, since the VO focus is lost, you aren’t returned to the heart rate when you wake your watch up after sleep.
Another mode that would be great is being notified when your heart rate reaches a specified value.
Sighted people have numerous heart rate monitoring options available to them, including via different gym apparatus. The Apple Watch is an ideal alternative when you can’t read other displays.
Now supports kilojoule measurements in Workout,but some messages still report in calories so there may be some minor tweaks still to come.
In Australia we use the Metric system of measurements and the iPhone and most of the Apple Watch is localised to this. The obvious exception is the Activity and Workout apps which always refer to Calories as a fitness energy measure even though I entered my weight and height in Kilograms and Centimetres.
The Digital Touch feature was one of the primary “rationalisations” I concocted in order to justify getting an Apple Watch 🙂
In reality, with Voiceover, digital touch is cumbersome and clunky – it is a lot of steps to get into the right place to send touches etc, and if more than one set of touches is sent, you get notifications and have to move through them to receive the touch messages.
You can’t identify where or from whom the touch is originating unless you open notifications and perform extra steps.
I’d love to receive a preceding touch pattern identifying the person sending digital touch – somewhat like the vibration patterns you can assign to callers on your iPhone.
Digital touch is a great idea and has huge potential for non visual non auditory communication between two or more people.
For example, as as a professional speaker, I had hoped that digital touch might allow my partner or a co-speaker to communicate with me while I am presenting or facilitating a workshop. Sometimes there are dynamics occurring or the event organiser wants to signal wind-up or questions in the room.
When you don’t have eye-contact and hand signalling available to you, Digital touch is a potential answer for so many situations, and presenting to groups is just one use case.
(partially fixed) Note that Currently the tactile heartbeat receiving feature doesn’t work when Voiceover is running.
Partially updated to reflect watchOS 2
Voiceover loses its focus point when the watch sleeps and re-wakes, even if you are remaining in the last task. This is a particular bother for apps like remote, or Overcast where you pressed pause, for example, and then wake your watch up only to find the Voiceover cursor at top of screen.
Any unexpected state change is problematic UI, and means that you are unable to efficiently keep checking your heart rate, pause media etc without first flicking back to where you were before the Watch shut itself down.
I think this is probably the most important fix to make the Watch comfortable and efficient to use!
This has been fixed in part in watchOS 2 but only for select Apple apps and when Siri isn’t used to invoke the app.
This is a real efficiency killer!
This has been addressed in the mail app in watchOS 2, still checking other contexts.
things get confusing as the list of mail messages is updated and synced – you need to be careful that message actions are made on the correct item in the list.
(FIXED) In mail and Notifications, it is not possible to activate an action after flicking down to it. e.g. to clear a notification or to trash an email.
Sometimes, though it isn’t consistent, it isn’t possible to open a notification by double-tapping on it. Maybe has to do with number of notifications in list?
I think this has largely been addressed in watchOS 2 though some other notification bugs do exist.
(FIXED) Other Voiceover users have reported getting stuck in the Clear All Notifications screen, and have had to restart their device.
(FIXED) if the notifications screen is empty, Voiceover takes a long time to speak and you need to flick and tap the screen a few times – only to hear their are no notifications. Annoying but not crucial.
(FIXED) Possible bug in Apple Watch: Getting stuck on the last glance – by John Lipsey on the Applevis forum
Time wrongly read as Date
I received a text as follows:
Hi Saturday 7.30pm 🙂
Apple Watch Voiceover read it as: Hi, Saturday the thirtieth of July pm
Note: I have language and region set to English-Australia, meaning dates are conventionally written in form dd/mm format.
This seems not yet to be fixed in watchOS 2.
(FIXED) Minutes reported as seconds and Hours Reported as Minutes by Voiceover in Workout app
When setting a time goal, the adjustable item for selecting duration of a workout reports as seconds, not as minutes. Also, as minutes in place of hours.
This seems to be fixed in watchOS 2
One Year In with my Apple Watch Originally written in April 2016. Updated 25 October 2016 following release of new Watch hardware and OS. Last year I wrote and progressively updated an extensive blog post on Apple Watch Accessibility with Voiceover which expands on some of the points I make here. I received my Apple… Continue Reading Tick Tock Apple Watch 1S My Hopes and speculations of what is next
New Year, New Website, , New Blog. Hi I’m Tim Noonan and I’d like to welcome you to my new Blog and Podcast which I’m calling Sounds Interesting. As a blind person I’ve always had a great interest in sound and in voice, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to combine this interest in… Continue Reading Welcome to Sounds Interesting – my new Blog and Podcast