Apple Watch Series 4 is the most accessible watch yet

I can confidently say I could live without my Apple Watch. But I also can confidently say I wouldn’t want to. The fourth-generation Apple Watch is the best, most accessible Apple Watch to date.

Every time I ponder the impact Apple Watch has had on my life, my mind always goes to Matthew Panzarino’s piece published prior to the device’s launch in 2015. In it, Panzarino writes about how using Apple Watch saves time; as a “satellite” to your iPhone, the Watch can discreetly deliver messages without you having to disengage from moments to attend to your phone.

In the three years I’ve worn an Apple Watch, I’ve found this to be true. Like anyone nowadays, my iPhone is the foremost computing device in my life, but the addition of the Watch has somewhat deadened the reflex to check my phone so often. What’s more, the advent of Apple Watch turned me into a regular watch-wearer again, period, be it analog or digital. I went without one for several years, instead relying on my cell phone to tell me the time.

To piggyback on Panzarino’s thesis that Apple Watch saves you time, from my perspective as a disabled person, Apple’s smartwatch makes receiving notifications and the like a more accessible experience. As someone with multiple disabilities, Apple Watch not only promotes pro-social behavior, the device’s glanceable nature alleviates the friction of pulling my phone out of my pocket a thousand times an hour. For people with certain physical motor delays, the seemingly unremarkable act of even getting your phone can be quite an adventure. Apple Watch on my wrist eliminates that work, because all my iMessages and VIP emails are right there.

The fourth-generation Apple Watch, “Series 4” in Apple’s parlance, is the best, most accessible Apple Watch to date. The original value proposition for accessibility, to save on physical wear and tear, remains. Yet Series 4’s headlining features — the larger display, haptic-enabled Digital Crown and fall detection — all have enormous ramifications for accessibility. In my testing of a Series 4 model, a review unit provided to me by Apple, I have found it to be delightful to wear and use. This new version has made staying connected more efficient and accessible than ever before.

Big screen, small space

If there were but one banner feature of this year’s Apple Watch, it would indisputably be the bigger screen. I’ve been testing Series 4 for a few weeks and what I tweeted early on holds true: for accessibility, the Series 4’s larger display is today what Retina meant to iPhone 4 eight years ago. Which is to say, it is a highly significant development for the product; a milestone. If you are visually impaired, this should be as exciting as having a 6.5-inch iPhone. Again, the adage that bigger is better is entirely apropos — especially on such a small device as Apple Watch.

What makes Series 4’s larger screen so compelling in practice is just how expansive it is. As with the iPhone XS Max, the watch’s large display makes seeing content easier. As I wrote last month, once I saw the bigger model in the hands-on area following Apple’s presentation, my heart knew it was the size I wanted. The difference between my 42mm Series 3 and my 44mm Series 4 is stark. I’ve never complained about my previous watches being small, screen-wise, but after using the 44mm version for an extended time, the former feels downright minuscule by comparison. It’s funny how quickly and drastically one’s perception can change.

Series 4’s bigger display affects more than just text. Its bigger canvas allows for bigger icons and touch targets for user interface controls. The keypad for entering your passcode and the buttons for replying to iMessages are two standout examples. watchOS 5 has been updated in such a way that buttons have even more definition. They’re more pill-shaped to accommodate the curves of the new display; the Cancel/Pause buttons in the Timer app shows this off well. It aids in tapping, but it also gives them a visual boost that makes it easy to identify them as actionable buttons.

This is one area where watchOS excels over iOS, since Apple Watch’s relatively small display necessitates a more explicit design language. In other words, where iOS leans heavily on buttons that resemble ordinary text, watchOS sits at the polar end of the spectrum. A good rule of thumb for accessible design is that it’s generally better designers aim for concreteness with iconography and the like, rather than be cutesy and abstract because it’s en vogue and “looks cool” (the idea being a visually impaired person can more easily distinguish something that looks like a button as opposed to something that is technically a button but which looks like text).

Apple has course-corrected a lot in the five years since the iOS 7 overhaul; I hope further refinement is something that is addressed with the iOS 13 refresh that Axios’s Ina Fried first reported earlier this year was pushed back until 2019.

Of Series 4’s improvements, the bigger screen is by far my favorite. Apple Watch still isn’t a device you don’t want to interact with more than a minute, but the bigger display allows for another few milliseconds of comfort. As someone with low vision, that little bit of extra time is nice because I can take in more important information; the bigger screen mitigates my concerns over excessive eye strain and fatigue.

The Infograph and Infograph Modular faces

As I wrote in the previous section, the Series 4’s larger display allowed Apple to redesign watchOS such that it would look right given the bigger space. Another way Apple has taken advantage of Series 4’s big screens is the company has created two all-new watch faces that are exclusive to the new hardware: Infograph and Infograph Modular. (There are other cool ones — Breathe, Fire & Water, Liquid Metal and Vapor — that are all available on older Apple Watches that run watchOS 5.)

It’s not hard to understand why Apple chose to showcase Infograph in their marketing images for Series 4; it (and Infograph Modular) look fantastic with all the bright colors and bold San Francisco font. From an accessibility standpoint, however, my experience has been Infograph Modular is far more visually accessible than Infograph. While I appreciate the latter’s beauty (and bevy of complications), the functional downsides boil down to two things: contrast and telling time.

Contrast-wise, it’s disappointing you can’t change the dial to be another color but white and black. White is better here, but it is difficult to read the minute and second markers because they’re in a fainter grayish-black hue. If you choose the black dial, contrast is worse because it blends into the black background of the watch’s OLED display. You can change the color of the minute and second markers, but unless they’re neon yellow or green, readability is compromised.

Which brings us to the major problem with Infograph: it’s really difficult to tell time. This ties into the contrast issue — there are no numerals, and the hands are low contrast, so you have to have memorized the clock in order to see what time it is. Marco Arment articulates the problem well, and I can attest the issue is only made worse if you are visually impaired as I am. It’s a shame because Infograph is pretty and useful overall, but you have to be able to tell time. It makes absolutely no sense to add a digital time complication to what’s effectively an analog watch face. Perhaps Apple will add more customization options for Infograph in the future.

Infograph Modular, which I personally prefer, is not nearly as aesthetically pleasing as Infograph, but it’s far better functionally. Because it’s a digital face, the time is right there for you, and the colorful complications set against the black background is a triumph of high contrast. It is much easier on my eyes, and the face I recommend to anyone interested in trying out Series 4’s new watch faces.

Lastly, a note about the information density of these new faces. Especially on Infograph, it’s plausible that all the complications, in all their color, present an issue for some visually impaired people. This is because there’s a lot of “clutter” on screen and it may be difficult for some to pinpoint, say, the current temperature. Similarly, all the color may look like one washed-out rainbow to some who may have trouble distinguishing colors. It’d be nice if Apple added an option for monochromatic complications with the new faces.

In my usage, neither have been issues for me. I quite like how the colors boost contrast, particularly on Infograph Modular.

Haptics come to the crown

Given Apple’s push in recent years to integrate its so-called Taptic Engine technology — first introduced with the original Watch — across its product lines, it makes perfect sense that the Digital Crown gets it now. Haptics makes it better.

Before Apple Watch launched three years ago, I wrote a story in which I explained why haptic feedback (or “Force Touch,” as Apple coined it then) matters for accessibility. What I wrote then is just as relevant now: the addition of haptic feedback enhances the user experience, particularly for people with disabilities. The key factor is sensory input — as a user, you’re no longer simply watching a list go by. In my usage, the fact that I feel a “tick” as I’m scrolling through a list on the Watch in addition to seeing it move makes it more accessible.

The bi-modal sensory experience is helpful insofar as the secondary cue (the ticks) is another marker that I’m manipulating the device and something is happening. If I only rely on my poor eyesight, there’s a chance I could miss certain movements or animations, so the haptic feedback acts as a “backup,” so to speak. Likewise, I prefer my iPhone to ring and vibrate whenever a call comes in because I suffer from congenital hearing loss (due to my parents being deaf) and could conceivably miss important calls from loved ones or whomever. Thus, that my phone also vibrates while it’s ringing is another signal that someone is trying to reach me and I probably should answer.

Tim Cook made a point during the original Watch’s unveiling to liken the Digital Crown as equally innovative and revolutionary as what the mouse was to the Mac in 1984 and what multi-touch was to the iPhone in 2007. I won’t argue his assertion here, but I will say the Series 4’s crown is the best version of the “dial,” as Cook described it, to date. It’s because of the haptic feedback. It gives the crown even more precision and tactility, making it more of a compelling navigational tool.

Considering fall detection

As I watched from the audience as Apple COO Jeff Williams announced Series 4’s new fall detection feature, I immediately knew it was going to be a big deal. It’s something you hope to never use, as Williams said on stage, but the fact it exists at all is telling for a few reasons — the most important to me being accessibility.

I’ve long maintained accessibility, conceptually, isn’t limited to people with medically recognized disabilities. Accessibility can mean lots of different things, from mundane things like where you put the paper towel dispenser on the kitchen counter to more critical ones like building disabled parking spaces and wheelchair ramps for the general public. Accessibility also is applicable to the elderly who, in the case of fall detection, could benefit immensely from such a feature.

Instead of relying on a dedicated lifeline device, someone who’s even remotely interested in Apple Watch, and who’s also a fall risk, could look at Series 4 and decide the fall detection feature alone is worth the money. That’s exactly what happened to my girlfriend’s mother. She is an epileptic and is a high-risk individual for catastrophic falls. After seeing Ellen DeGeneres talk up the device on a recent episode of her show, she was gung-ho about Series 4 solely for fall detection. She’d considered a lifeline button prior, but after hearing how fall detection works, decided Apple Watch would be the better choice. As of this writing, she’s had her Apple Watch for a week, and can confirm the new software works as advertised.

Personally, my cerebral palsy makes it such that I can be unsteady on my feet at times and could potentially fall. Fortunately, I haven’t needed to test fall detection myself, but I trust the reports from my girlfriend’s mom and The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern, who got a professional stunt woman’s approval.

Problematic packaging

Apple Watch Series 4 is pretty great all around, but there is a problem. One that has nothing to do with the product itself. How Apple has chosen to package Apple Watch Series 4 is bad.

Series 4’s unboxing experience is a regression from all previous models, in my opinion. The issue is Apple’s decision to pack everything “piecemeal” — the Watch case itself comes in an (admittedly cute) pouch that’s reminiscent of iPod Socks, while the band is in its own box. Not to mention the AC adapter and charging puck are located in their own compartment. I understand the operational logistics of changing the packaging this way, but for accessibility, it’s hardly efficient. In many ways, it’s chaotic. There are two reasons for this.

First, the discrete approach adds a lot in terms of cognitive load. While certainly not a dealbreaker for me, unboxing my review unit was jarring at first. Everything felt disjointed until I considered the logic behind doing it this way. But while I can manage to put everything together as if it were a jigsaw puzzle, many people with certain cognitive delays could have real trouble. They would first need to determine where everything is in the box before then determining how to put it all together; this can be frustrating for many. Conversely, the advantage of the “all-in-one” approach of Series past (where the case and band was one entity) meant there was far less mental processing needed to unbox the product. Aside from figuring out how the band works, the old setup was essentially a “grab and go” solution.

Second, the Series 4 packaging is more fiddly than before, quite literally. Instead of the Watch already being put together, now you have to fasten the band to the Watch in order to wear it. I acknowledge the built-in lesson for fastening and removing bands, but it can be inaccessible too. If you have visual and/or fine-motor impairments, you could spend several minutes trying to get your watch together so you can pair it with your iPhone. That time can be taxing, physically and emotionally, which in turn worsens the overall experience. Again, Apple’s previous packaging design alleviated much of this potential stress — whereas Series 4 exacerbates it.

I’ve long admired Apple’s product packaging for its elegance and simplicity, which is why the alarm bells went off as I’ve unboxed a few Series 4 models now. As I said, this year’s design definitely feels regressive, and I hope Apple reconsiders their old ways come Series 5. In fact, they could stand to take notes from Microsoft, which has gone to great lengths to ensure their packaging is as accessible as possible.

The bottom line

Three years in, I can confidently say I could live without my Apple Watch. But I also can confidently say I wouldn’t want to. Apple Watch has made my life better, and that’s not taking into account how it has raised my awareness for my overall health.

My gripes about the packaging and Infograph face aside, Series 4 is an exceptional update. The larger display is worth the price of admission, even from my year-old Series 3. The haptic Digital Crown and fall detection is the proverbial icing on the cake. I believe the arrival of Series 4 is a seminal moment for the product, and it’s the best, most accessible Apple Watch Apple has made yet.

This tweak makes the iOS keyboard display 50 Frequently Used Emojis

If you type a lot of Emojis, then MoreFrequentlyUsedEmojis could be a useful addition to your jailbroken device.

If you send and receive Emojis from your iPhone or iPad often, then you’re probably familiar with the iOS keyboard’s “Frequently Used” section.

The Frequently Used section hosts the top 30 Emojis you use most often for faster access, but with a new free jailbreak tweak called MoreFrequentlyUsedEmojis by iOS developer A_H_Rabie, you can now increase that number to 50.... Read the rest of this post here


"This tweak makes the iOS keyboard display 50 Frequently Used Emojis" is an article by iDownloadBlog.com.
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Lock down your apps and improve notification privacy with PrivaSee

If you’re like most people, then your privacy is important to you. Fortunately, a new jailbreak tweak called PrivaSee by iOS developer smokin1337 can augment your iPhone’s privacy features with an elegant blur effect that can only be dismissed with…

If you’re like most people, then your privacy is important to you. Fortunately, a new jailbreak tweak called PrivaSee by iOS developer smokin1337 can augment your iPhone’s privacy features with an elegant blur effect that can only be dismissed with the help of biometric authentication.

PrivaSee does a variety of things to help improve your privacy throughout your daily workflow. Not only can it lock other people out of apps on your device, but it can protect the contents of incoming notification banners until you’ve authenticated yourself with Face ID or Touch ID.... Read the rest of this post here


"Lock down your apps and improve notification privacy with PrivaSee" is an article by iDownloadBlog.com.
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Make critical notifications stand out from the rest with Priority

Some notifications can be more important than others, but are easily drowned out by other apps. Priority helps your most important notifications stand out from the crowd.

If you’re like me, then you might consider some of your notifications to be more important than others. But because of how iOS handles them, it’s easy for the most important notifications to get buried underneath all the noise from the rest of your apps.

Although Apple’s notification system isn’t perfect, a new jailbreak tweak called Priority by iOS developers Justin Proulx and AppleBetas brings it one step closer. It can help you discern critical notifications at a glance without compromising those from other apps.... Read the rest of this post here


"Make critical notifications stand out from the rest with Priority" is an article by iDownloadBlog.com.
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ShortLook is an OLED-friendly notification system for iOS

Looking for a new way to experience incoming notifications on your iPhone or iPad? Try ShortLook.

If you’re looking for a new way to receive notifications from your favorite apps, then you might take an interest in a new jailbreak tweak called ShortLook by iOS development team Dynastic Development.

ShortLook represents your incoming notifications with a fresh coat of paint. While they’d typically appear as banners on your Lock screen, ShortLook depicts them as customizable glyphs that are then centered on a black or transparent background.... Read the rest of this post here


"ShortLook is an OLED-friendly notification system for iOS" is an article by iDownloadBlog.com.
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ShortLook is an OLED-friendly notification system for iOS

Looking for a new way to experience incoming notifications on your iPhone or iPad? Try ShortLook.

If you’re looking for a new way to receive notifications from your favorite apps, then you might take an interest in a new jailbreak tweak called ShortLook by iOS development team Dynastic Development.

ShortLook represents your incoming notifications with a fresh coat of paint. While they’d typically appear as banners on your Lock screen, ShortLook depicts them as customizable glyphs that are then centered on a black or transparent background.... Read the rest of this post here


"ShortLook is an OLED-friendly notification system for iOS" is an article by iDownloadBlog.com.
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NoMoreSkinToneSuggestion prevents iOS from nagging you about skin tones for Emojis

Do you hate how iOS asks you to choose a skin tone every time you tap on a yellow Emoji? This jailbreak tweak fixes that.

Certain Emojis, especially those depicting hand gestures, support a variety of different skin tones, which are configured on a per-Emoji basis. If you’ve never set a skin tone for a particular Emoji before, then you’re likely to encounter the interface shown above when tapping on it.

While there’s nothing wrong with choosing a skin tone for your Emojis, it’s rather annoying how iOS asks you to select a skin tone for each Emoji individually instead of remembering your choice for all of them. Fortunately, a new free jailbreak tweak dubbed NoMoreSkinToneSuggestion by iOS developer A_H_Rabie prevents iOS from asking about skin tones once and for all.... Read the rest of this post here


"NoMoreSkinToneSuggestion prevents iOS from nagging you about skin tones for Emojis" is an article by iDownloadBlog.com.
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FastDeleteX skips the “Recently Deleted” album when deleting pictures from iOS

If you hate having to delete images twice from your iPhone’s Photos app, then you should try a new free jailbreak tweak called FastDeleteX.

One of my pet peeves concerning photo deletion on iOS is that everything you delete gets sent to the “Recently Deleted” album in the Photos app rather than being permanently deleted. The result is that you end up deleting everything for a second time to remove it from your device.

Albeit a safety measure in case you change your mind or delete something by accident, this feature creates more work than some people want to deal with. Fortunately, a new free jailbreak tweak called FastDeleteX by iOS developer Mohammad Ghzayel solves this problem for anyone who feels the same way I do.... Read the rest of this post here


"FastDeleteX skips the “Recently Deleted” album when deleting pictures from iOS" is an article by iDownloadBlog.com.
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The accessibility of the iPhone XS Max

As the old adage goes, bigger is better. But is the iPhone XS Max the most accessible iPhone Apple’s built yet?

I’ve heard it said many times recently by hosts of various Apple-focused podcasts that adapting to the new iPhone XS Max has felt like “coming home.” For these members of the so-called “Plus Club” — the whimsical name referring to the group of users who have chosen Plus models in the past — the return to a device with such a massive display felt instantly familiar, comfortable even.

After a year with the smaller, 5.8-inch iPhone X, I, too, have experienced these feelings of comfort and familiarity. I’ve been testing an iPhone XS Max, a review unit provided to me by Apple, for close to two weeks and am reminded every time I use it why I fell in love with the Plus models. As the old adage goes, bigger is better.

While the headlining aspect of Apple’s newest iPhone is the substantially better camera system, the key story for me, as a visually impaired person, is my return to the largest-screened iPhone. The XS Max is every bit as delightful (and accessible) as the Plus, made better by the inclusion of Face ID and an edge-to-edge display.

Adjusting to the size and weight

At last month’s event, Apple marketing boss Phil Schiller made a point to emphasize the fact that the iPhone XS Max has a larger display — the largest ever on an iPhone, the company says — in a smaller industrial design. This makes it possible, Schiller said on stage, for the XS Max to feel much like an iPhone 8 Plus. In my usage, his comparison seems spot-on; holding the XS Max feels identical to my previous Plus phones.

Why this is noteworthy from an accessibility perspective is a matter of dexterity. If you, like me, have cerebral palsy or other physical motor conditions, the way an object (any object, it isn’t limited to smartphones) feels in your hand when you hold it and carry it warrants serious consideration. In this context, if you have trouble manipulating the XS Max due to such motor delays, that very well may be the determining factor as to whether you choose it or opt for the smaller XS size.

In my review of the iPhone 6s three years ago, I said the 6s Plus wasn’t the phone for me, saying in part that “the Faustian bargain that it presents” was an offer to have a large-screened phone but only at the cost of using a physically unwieldy device. At the time, I reasoned the regular 6s was “good enough,” because I didn’t want such a gargantuan phone.

Not long thereafter, I did indeed switch to the 6s Plus, and I’ve never looked back. Turns out, big displays are the best, and I’ve acclimated to holding the larger device just fine.

Is the display big enough?

I freely admit to having a few moments of contemplation, in the midst of testing the XS Max with my year-old X nearby, where I wondered if the latter’s 5.8-inch screen was big enough for my needs. (Apple also gave me a regular XS to test, but since the X is nearly identical in size, I haven’t used it as thoroughly as I have the Max.) It isn’t small by any means, and I have enjoyed spending the last year having a relatively large display in a smaller body. The X (and XS, obviously) certainly are easier to carry and pocket than their larger brethren. To be perfectly honest, I never once wished my phone’s screen was bigger the entire time I used the iPhone X.

And yet, to reiterate what I wrote at the outset, as soon as I unboxed the XS Max and restored from my iCloud backup, it really did feel like coming home. Forget OLED, forget pixel density — having a 6.5-inch display is super nice and easier on my eyes. More screen means more content, which means less eye strain and fatigue. Given these factors, it was no contest as to what I prefer. Although I have multiple disabilities, my visual impairment is arguably the most important and the one I should prioritize above all others. I did that, and I’m happier for it.

The iPhone XS Max is, yes, the most accessible iPhone Apple’s built yet.

The lesson here is not insignificant, and illustrates the kind of practical life choices disabled people face on a daily basis. I was extremely pleased by the iPhone X; if it were the only new iPhone Apple released this year, I would jump to the XS. But it isn’t — the XS Max does exist, and the allure of its large display is too strong for me (and my vision) to pass up.

I do miss the Goldilocks-esque “just right” properties of the iPhone X/XS form factor. But if the loss of maneuverability begets a gain in visuals, I’ll make that trade-off every time.

Thoughts on ‘Advanced’ Face ID

When Face ID debuted last year, I soon discovered an issue where it had major problems recognizing my face despite having my face registered with the iPhone X. After some troubleshooting, I found the issue was due to the strabismus in my left eye. The colloquial term for it is “lazy eye,” but it’s a condition whereby one or both of the eyes aren’t set straight, and it wreaked havoc with the TrueDepth camera system. Even with my face “recognized” by the system, my phone would never unlock because Face ID thought I wasn’t looking at the phone even though I knew I was, in fact, definitely looking at it.

The remedy for this was to disable the Require Attention option in Face ID’s settings. When you do so, iOS warns you it makes the facial recognition system less secure than it could be, but it is the only way I can benefit from Face ID like anyone else. I haven’t had any issues for over a year now, and my iPhone X seemed to get better over time at seeing me; this is particularly true at extreme angles, such as when I lean over the phone while it sits on my kitchen table, for instance.

Face ID on the XS Max has been reliable, with Require Attention off, of course. My only quibble continues to be because I typically hold my phone close to my face to see, I’m still not consistently holding it far enough away that it unlocks properly. I get the playful “head shake” animation and enter my passcode more than I’d like, but instinctual habits are hard to break I suppose. At least Face ID learns me better every time I do so, which is a nice bit of machine learning on Apple’s part.

The bottom line

I’ve concluded my last several iPhone reviews by saying each model is “the most accessible iPhone yet.” However trite, I’m compelled to do it yet again because it’s an entirely accurate description.

I’ve been a happy returnee to the Plus Club. The larger display, along with Face ID and the edge-to-edge design, has been a joy to use. The iPhone XS Max is, yes, the most accessible iPhone Apple’s built yet. Truthfully, however, for as good as the XS line is, I’m even more amped at the existence of a blue iPhone, blue being my favorite color. It’s effectively a Max, and I get my blue too.

Google launches voice assistant app to help people with limited mobility use their phones

Google just introduced a new Android app to better enable people with limited mobility to use their phones. Called Voice Access, the app offers people a hands-free way to use apps, write and edit text and, of course, talk to the Google Assistant. It’s designed to make it easier to control specific functions like clicking […]

Google just introduced a new Android app to better enable people with limited mobility to use their phones. Called Voice Access, the app offers people a hands-free way to use apps, write and edit text and, of course, talk to the Google Assistant.

It’s designed to make it easier to control specific functions like clicking a button, and scrolling and navigating app screens. Currently, the app is only available in English, but Google is working on additional languages.

Google created the app in service of people with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and spinal cord injuries, but recognizes that the tool can also be helpful for people whose hands are tied with other tasks.