Wileyfox Swift Accessibility Bundle Part 2 This is the second part of
my review of this device. If these are not useful let me know.
The first part on purchasing and setup was posted yesterday.
I am currently using the Swift as a replacement for my Nexus 7 tablet and as such am concentrating on its potential as a Media Playing Device. In other words using it as if if was a Victor Reader Stream or Plextalk Pocket etc. I have not used it as a phone yet and only really anticipate it as the moment as a backup phone.
This second part is largely concerned with assessing the device as a unit suitable for blind users with hearing impairment.
My hearing loss is evaluated as being in the severe range by my Audiology service. I have tried listening to the device without wearing hearing aids and with. Although the phone has a suitably loud speaker I have concentrated here on its use with earphones.
The sound quality and volume levels ovviously vary with earphones and for the weekend I I have been using the JVC Folding over ear earphones currently available from Sainsburys on their online Grocery Store for about £13. These are nice padded comfortable earphones which provide acceptable quality for my ears and excellent volume output.
I will feed back on System TTS, Google Music, the Audible App, Kindle Reading app, and the VoiceDream Reader app for this review. I am aware that there are other media options which I will come to in due course possibly in future posts.
The Swift comes with a high quality Google TTS Voice which is responsive and has a good volume when set to maximum. I was able to hear the output clearly both whilst wearing hearing aids and with the headphones sitting over my ears without hearing aids. This is the experience I normally prefer as I have never found a hearing aid which will transmit sound quality as well as a loud device set at a high volume. Sending the sound through the intermediary my various NHS hearing aids over the years always causes a deterioration in sound quality.
I installed my copy of Eloquence and set this as the system voice. Whilst the sound volume was acceptable I found, to my surprise, that the inbuilt TTS voice was significantly louder, and importantly seemed more responsive. So by the end of the weekend I had switched back to the default Google Voice. I am still an Eloquence fan and am glad I have the option of the voice on the device but I will stick with Google for now.
Kindle Reading App
The Kindle Reading app installed fine and my Kindle books were instantly available. A very big part of why I want an Android Device is the ability to use Kindle with the Eloquence voices. As far as I am aware this is the only platform on which this is legally available. It is just my preference but for long book reading, and certainly for study Eloquence is the clearest voice for rapid reading of books. In essence I think the Swift is probably worth the purchase money alone if all it offers is the ability to read consistently with this Kindle setup. A big plus.
The main downside is that it does not appear, at the moment possible to read Kindle books with the screen locked. I would be interested if anybody has got around this. For the time being then reading Kindle books is an armchair experience which I guess puts us on a level playing field with sighted readers. To avoid the locked screen problem I set my sleep time in Android Settings to the maximum 30 minutes.
The volume levels were acceptable and comprehensible for me both wearing hearing aids and useing earphones without hearing aids.
This was the big disappointment of the weekend. For some reason the Audible Book I downloaded was very quiet and was definately the quietest example I found of media played on the device. It was significantly quieter than the book I heard on my iPhone last week. I might have just been unlucky with the book production and for a fair comparison I need to load this same book as well into my iPhone. You would definately need to have earphones placed over hearing aids to get an acceptable volume out of this app. I have not tried a loop headset, however I do not normally like using these for mobile listening around the house as I find that using a loop really does cut out all the ambient sound in the house and you will have no chance of hearing door bells / telephones etc.
I only tried this briefly but the volume level returned as normal for the playback of music and seemd fine with both earphones and hearing aids.
This is certainly not as slick as it's iOS manifestation but I still managed to get the player up and running. Annoyingly the app crashed the phone when I was trying to download an additional voice from the Google Play Store and this voice now refuses to work.
Despite that, once you get used to it the app performed well for me over the weekend. There are a few things you will need to learn about using Reader. The first and most important is that it is hopeless, I found trying to import books into the app using the app import function. Basically you need to work outside of the app. I found both ebooks and a zipped audio book in the DropBox app, double tapped on those and Reader immediately appeared as an option to open with. Using this method importing books into Voicedream was straightforward.
The other thing to customise with Voicedream Reader is voices. You have the option of using on start up one of the high quality Acapella voices. Scottish Rhona or Graham are the options offered to me. You are not restricted to this single voice though. You can use the Manage voices and Add Voice setting to import the surprisingly large number of additional TTS voices available on the Swift. Any voice installed on your device will be available. Not only was I able to import 2 of the Eloquence Voices, which as I say is important for me, but I was also able to import several Google TTS voices which are of high quality.
The main drawback of using system TTS as opposed to the voices you buy as in app purchases is that apparently the highlighted tracking of words is not available for those with low vision. However as I am blind this does not personally affect me.
The other big plus of the VoiceDream Reader is that both ebooks and audio books play perfectly acceptably in locked screen mode so that you can happily continue to listen whilst you are doing the housework.
As far as volume is concerned Voicedream delivered TTS at system levels so was fine for my listening purposes. The audio book was at least 50% louder than the maximum volume available through the audible app. Of course you can also use PC utilities like mp3gain to bgoost the volume of your audio books before you even import them into Voicedream.
So in summary for this part of the review, with the exception of the Audible app the device performed well in delivering acceptable output. The ebook reading was louder than that available, for example, with the victor Reader Stream.
Using Google Now I was able to launch each reading app just by using Voice command. Controlling the players through the lock screen seems more of a challenge and I probably need to learn some techniques to achieve this. At the moment I am having to unlock the device and find the pause button which is a little clunky.
Still if you want an Eloquence eBook reading device a setup similar to this is probably the only game in town.
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