Thursday, August 19, 2010

Stump the Genius

A few days ago I encountered a little glitch when using the accessibility feature Voice Over in iPhone 4. Because I have had an exceptionally good experience with my Apple products, especially my iPhone 3GS, I just assumed I was once again playing “Stump the Genius.”

It’s a fun game, and it is not meant to make the Genius look bad. The game was launched in my head when I first ran into, and could not get out of, touch typing in the iPad, and again when I lost the “spoken menus” in both my iPod Nanos. Come to think of it, “Stump the Genius” always involves accessibility, and that is because it is a rare Genius that really knows Apple Accessibility.

So I’m trying to help a lovely friend get comfortable entering contacts with multiple phone numbers into her new iPhone 4. Yes, that would be the iPhone 4 I told her she just could not live without. We found it was not possible to enter multiple phone numbers while using Voice Over. Her husband, however, discovered that this feature did work just fine in Zoom.

Informed by my past experience (Just Genius) I have learned not to take no for an answer. I’m asking for the fix to a problem and never feel satisfied without a solution.

When we pulled up two stools at the Genius Bar, I was certain we would be walking out happy. It quickly became clear that our Genius was not aware of this iPhone 4 Voice Over problem. My friend looked at me and said proudly, “I think we’re teaching the Genius something he doesn’t know.” I smiled and shook my head in agreement. Still I was confident that he would figure it out.

After several consultations and a fair amount of searching their Geniuses explained why this was not working – something to do with database interaction that I did not understand. No cure yet available, the only way around the glitch, for a Voice Over user, was to input your multiple fields in contacts by computer and sync back to the phone.

Although it is never a win, I felt sure we had stumped the Genius. I was wrong.

I sent several email messages to the accessibility group at Apple, where I usually get the answers I’m looking for. This time I was not prepared for the polite acknowledgement I received quickly in response, it said politely, “This is a known issue that our engineers are looking into. Thanks for your feedback.”

I was very disappointed – not sure if I should continue to recommend the iPhone to people in need of Voice Over. And, not sure if I should upgrade my iPhone software and deal with this glitch. Would the benefits of the new version be worth the loss of this feature (temporarily)?
I haven’t quite made the decision, but I’m leaning toward the update. I asked a couple of iPhone Voice Over aficionados – and they seemed unfazed by this problem as they sang praises to new features like “Touch Typing” and the improved speed and ease. It may be a bit of a trade off – but still well worth the gains. We shall see.