An iPhone keyboard for blind customers can be discontinued, in accordance with the app’s developer, who alleges that “Apple has thrown us impediment after impediment for years whereas we attempt to present an app to enhance folks’s lives.”
FlickType consists of an Apple Watch keyboard and the iPhone keyboard supposed for blind and low-vision customers of VoiceOver, an Apple expertise that may communicate the important thing a person selects. FlickType’s Apple Watch keyboard will proceed, no less than for some time, however the iPhone keyboard can be disabled.
“It is with a heavy coronary heart at present that we’re saying the discontinuation of our award-winning iPhone keyboard for blind customers,” the FlickType account on Twitter wrote yesterday. FlickType is developed by Kosta Eleftheriou, who lately filed a lawsuit alleging that Apple used its management over iPhone app distribution to induce him to promote FlickType to Apple at a reduction. He says he refused to promote the app.
Apple “incorrectly” rejected app replace
The final straw for FlickType’s keyboard extension got here final week when Eleftheriou “submitted an replace that fixes varied iOS 15-related points & improves the app for VoiceOver customers,” FlickType wrote. “However Apple rejected it. They incorrectly argue once more that our keyboard extension does not work with out ‘full entry,’ one thing they rejected us for THREE years in the past. Again then we efficiently appealed and overturned their choice, and this hadn’t been an issue since. Till now.”
FlickType mentioned it contacted Apple 9 occasions final week “with no success. At this level they appear to be ignoring our makes an attempt to contact them immediately, regardless of beforehand explicitly telling us to ‘be at liberty’ to contact them if we’d like ‘additional clarification.'”
The app’s keyboard extension will cease working after future updates. “We want to preserve offering the final working model that features the keyboard extension, however Apple makes it inconceivable to cease automated updates for particular person apps. So except you cease automated updates for all of your apps, you’ll quickly lose the FlickType keyboard extension,” FlickType wrote.
The app’s App Store listing says, “FlickType keyboard is designed to be as accessible as doable on each iPhone and Apple Watch, that includes massive keys, high-contrast colours, distinguished visuals, and efficient VoiceOver suggestions. FlickType can communicate again to you for a totally eyes-free writing expertise, enabling people who find themselves blind to sort simply as quick as everybody else.”
The American Basis for the Blind’s AccessWorld publication wrote an article in October 2018 about how FlickType solves an annoying drawback for blind customers. “After I first started to make use of a smartphone, I discovered that probably the most cumbersome side was the touchscreen keyboard,” AccessWorld Editor-in-Chief Aaron Preece wrote. “Discovering the right secret is pretty easy, however the delay as you wait to listen to the identify of the targeted key provides a stunning period of time to the act of typing.” Preece discovered that “FlickType is rather more fluid to make use of than the default keyboard” and that when “FlickType predicts what I’ve typed appropriately, I discover it will increase the pace of my typing round 30 % or so.”
A Nationwide Federation of the Blind article referred to as FlickType “a a lot sooner expertise than the usual iOS keyboard.”
Keyboard works with out full entry
Apple rejected the app replace on August 13, sending Eleftheriou a be aware that claims, “We observed that your keyboard extension doesn’t operate when the ‘Full Entry’ setting is toggled off. To resolve this problem, please revise your app to make sure that your keyboard extension is absolutely purposeful with or with out full community entry.”
Eleftheriou confirmed Ars the message from Apple, which contained a screenshot of the FlickType keyboard that asks customers to “please allow full entry for FlickType beneath the iOS Settings app.”
With out full entry, “FlickType helps common contact typing the place you discover the keyboard after which elevate your finger to enter the specified character,” a help web page says. Enabling full entry unlocks “faucet typing,” during which blind and low-vision customers can “frivolously faucet the place you suppose every letter is, and FlickType’s highly effective algorithm will appropriately guess the best phrase virtually each time.”
Faucet typing “permits customers who’re blind to not have to attend for suggestions for every key, successfully permitting them to sort as quick as anybody,” Eleftheriou advised us. He identified that different keyboards, such because the Microsoft-owned SwiftKey, additionally ask for full entry to allow additional capabilities.
“Requiring full entry for sure further options is nothing new,” he advised Ars.
Apple’s App Retailer reviewers do not appear to appreciate that the iPhone keyboard works with out full entry so long as VoiceOver is enabled, Eleftheriou told The Verge. “They’d need to attempt it as a VoiceOver person, one thing that they do not appear to trouble doing. I’ve had a number of rejections previously as a result of the reviewer did not know something about VoiceOver,” he mentioned.
Eleftheriou says Apple should cease “developer abuse”
When requested if he’d proceed offering the iPhone keyboard if Apple reverses the replace rejection, Eleftheriou advised Ars that “Apple would wish to do extra than simply reverse their choice. I’ve already gone to nice lengths through the years to personally persuade them to reverse dozens of their flawed selections previously. They’d have to no less than admit that they have been treating me and 1000’s (tens of millions?) of different builders unfairly and unreasonably for years. Admitting this may be step one in direction of them truly lowering, and ultimately stopping, this developer abuse.”
Eleftheriou mentioned he is not certain how lengthy he’ll preserve growing the Apple Watch portion of the app. “I am nonetheless going to attempt to present the watch keyboard, for now no less than,” he advised Ars.
Builders’ complaints in regards to the Apple App Retailer have resonated with some lawmakers, as Congress is considering legislation that might power Apple to let customers sideload apps and entry third-party app shops.
We contacted Apple at present and can replace this text if the corporate solutions our questions.
Eleftheriou’s lawsuit in opposition to Apple
This isn’t the primary public dispute between FlickType’s developer and Apple. Eleftheriou calls himself a “skilled App Retailer critic” and has labored to determine scam apps that trick customers into making funds which may in any other case go to respectable apps.
Apple was attempting to purchase FlickType from Eleftheriou and evidently “thought plaintiff would merely hand over and promote its software to Apple at a reduction,” the lawsuit alleged. The criticism, which was filed within the state superior court docket in Santa Clara County, continued:
As soon as plaintiff lastly bought its software to market, plaintiff’s software vaulted to the highest of the App Retailer’s gross sales worldwide. Then, copycat and rip-off purposes surfaced, driving down plaintiff’s gross sales. What’s worse, these scammers vaulted to the highest of gross sales within the App Retailer by submitting faux critiques to raise themselves in Apple’s system. Plaintiff complained to Apple and, in response, Apple did subsequent to nothing, regardless of its said insurance policies forbidding this exact sort of unfair competitors. Whereas Apple enticed plaintiff to develop and publish purposes on the market within the App Retailer based mostly on Apple’s promise of a “protected” surroundings, Apple doesn’t in truth police its App Retailer, undoubtedly as a result of it earnings massively from rampant developer misconduct and shopper fraud. By this lawsuit, plaintiff seeks to get well its losses as results of, and convey to an finish to, Apple’s fraudulent and unfair practices.
Final week’s app-update rejection “is the tip of the iceberg,” Eleftheriou advised Ars. “The large image is the years-long sample of rejections in addition to the extraordinarily poor Third-party keyboard APIs.”