New clock radio

I managed to resist temptation during O2’s first Joggler special offer, but after having a look at someone else’s I failed to resist the second time round. If you can find an O2 cashback deal on their mobile broadband dongle, it’s even possible to get a Joggler for £35, although I must admit I’m a bit of a cynic when it comes to cashback offers.

The Joggler doesn’t appear to have got particularly good reviews and in trying to describe what a Joggler is, it’s easy to see why people are skeptical; it’s a bit like a really bad iPhone that you a) can’t use to phone anyone and b) can’t use outside your house. The software that comes with the Joggler is disappointing, which doesn’t help. It’s a shame because I think the basic principles for the apps are good as far as they go, but the execution is just not there yet. For example, the guide rightly notes that a tap-and-hold is not intuitive, but to move or delete apps that is exactly what you have to do. I also quite like being able to tap the time to display the clock screen saver straight away, but that isn’t exactly obvious either. The on screen keyboard is inconsistent, although I have on seen two so far. There’s a ‘commonly used’ information icon, but it’s so uncommon that I don’t think I’ve actually seen it. Right up there next to the home icon for every app would be nice. Browsing through music or photos is painful. The messaging app doesn’t allow short SMS codes. Let’s just say that there’s plenty of areas for improvement, although it is just possible that things will get better: the Joggler does get updates and something decent may yet turn up in the Joggler app store!

You might think that I’m disappointed by the Joggler, but I’m actually very happy with it, especially for the price. One big bonus is that the hardware is excellent, although even here there is one tiny omission… how can it possibly not have some kind of SD card slot? That just seems mad. Still, unlike a few people I know, I’m not quite ready to ditch the O2 software and replace it with something completely different. Despite shortcomings with the current apps, I like the concept and it’s certainly good enough for the (reduced) price. For example, I’ve been using the internet radio a fair bit; it disconnects now and then but is otherwise far better than DAB radio. I’ve also been checking the traffic app most mornings. It’s not great (I wish it at least had motorway junctions marked on the map) but it’s good enough to see when the worst of the morning rush is over. I would really like to use a calendar app as well and, having tried the google one, I may actually sign up for an O2 calendar to see how it compares. Google calendars are fine, but I don’t want to see all my google calendars on the Joggler and I couldn’t see any way to pick which calendar(s) to show in the app.

So for now, apart from a bit of tinkering (downloading Ubuntu for the Joggler at the moment for a quick look), I’m planning to leave it mostly as is. In the future it would be nice to get it to run the few bits I have on my other home server,  some home automation apps would be interesting, a decent feed reader instead of that Sky news rubbish would be handy, an Opera mini app would be great, etc. etc. Thinking about getting hold of the Joggler SDK to see what that’s like.

I was collecting a few handy looking links while investigating whether to buy one…

…but Graham and Nathan have that pretty well covered already.

All in all, £35 for a hackable internet radio isn’t bad. And I do really like the clock!


More iPhone accessibility

One of the first posts on this weblog was about iPhone accessibility, and touch screen accessibility in general, which is been something I’ve had on the back burner for a long time. At the start of this year I was thinking about what my priorities should be in 2009 (wedding clearly being number one!) in attempt to get more done and, by coincidence, the Royal Institution Christmas lectures included a demo of the Dasher project which I think could be quite useful: reading most likely letters first rather than showing them in bigger boxes for example. A circular gesture to cycle through the letters in order of probability might work quite well.

Not everyone can see the point of considering this kind of thing on what, to the sighted, is a very visual device. I think that’s a pretty limited view of what is also a powerful, connected, personal computing device with a very flexible input device. Fortunately other people see it this way as well and are investigating ideas to make devices like the iPhone accessible.

I also found a site dedicated to mobile accessibility, via Tim’s blog, so perhaps a little momentum is building at last. One of my colleagues even twittered about accessibility of touch screen phones while I was writing this post!

Maybe I should get Andy to mock something up now he’s a pro at iPhone apps

iPhone accessibility

I have largely avoided all the iPhone excitement (being a child of the 70’s, I’m more than happy with my pocket calculator) but I recently found a post about the problems it has with accessibility.

A few years ago I had an idea about making touch screens devices more accessible after I noticed the rise in self-service kiosks that had no other way to provide input. The same idea could be ideal for the iPhone so I emailed to see if Apple would be interested.

The full description can be found on the prior art database by searching for document ID IPCOM000125721D but the basic idea is for a touch screen device, like the iPhone, to support an accessible mode where, instead of the usual graphical buttons and layouts, large areas of the screen are used with a telephone prompt style system to interact with the user. For example, an audio prompt to, “Press the top right of the screen to make a call” and so on. High contrast blocks of colours would make it possible to find the right area with very little vision, and completely blind users could find the edge of the screen by touch, with small modifications to the case if necessary. Numeric input, to enter a phone number for example, could be handled with simple tactile markers arranged around the outside of the screen. Switching to the accessible mode could be as simple as pressing anywhere on the screen for a few seconds, or recognising a pre-paired bluetooth headset. The main advantage of all this is that it is largely software based with no additional external controls required, so ideal for small devices, or touch screen kiosks that have already been installed… and easy to add to something like the iPhone.

So it looks like I’m interested in the iPhone like everyone else now!