New iPhone release: a summary of accessibility improvements

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Wednesday, 5 October 2011 13:40pm

Apple CEO Tim Cook announced iPhone 4S today – but what impact does the announcement have on accessibility for people with disabilities?

The new iPhone 4S is essentially a hardware upgrade. It is more powerful and includes a better camera for increased image and video quality. Most of the accessibility features for iPhone come from the mobile operating system iOS rather than the device itself. However, there were a number of announcements today that impact on the accessibility world.


One of the most exciting announcements for the accessibility community is Siri. The new voice recognition system allows iPhone 4S users to perform a wide variety of tasks by simply ‘talking’ to their iPhone. Read more about Siri in our related news item.


In June, Apple announced the new version of its mobile operating system iOS5 with three new accessibility features, namely specialised hardware accessibility support, LED flash and custom vibration settings and improvements to VoiceOver.

We now know that iOS5 will be available for download on 12 October, two days before the launch of iPhone 4S. Owners of iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad and iPad 2, and third- and fourth-generation iPod touch will be able to upgrade to iOS5 and benefit from these improvements.

New camera

The significant upgrade to the camera in iPhone 4S may have an impact on the effectiveness of OCR software.

OCR apps like ZoomReader and DocScanner allow users to convert images taken with their iPhone into text that can then be read out using VoiceOver. However, poor image quality may adversely affect the quality of the converted image.

The increase from 5 megapixels in iPhone 4 to 8 megapixels in iPhone 4S plus all new optics will certainly result in higher image quality and may positively affect the quality of the text output which is notoriously hit and miss.

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