iPhone keyboard for blind to close down as maker cites Apple “abuse” of builders

Enlarge / FlickType iPhone keyboard.

An iPhone keyboard for blind customers will probably 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 consumer selects. FlickType’s Apple Watch keyboard will proceed, at the very least for some time, however the iPhone keyboard will probably be disabled.

“It is with a heavy coronary heart right this moment that we’re asserting 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 numerous 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 would 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 resolution, and this hadn’t been an issue since. Till now.”

FlickType stated 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 instantly, regardless of beforehand explicitly telling us to ‘be at liberty’ to contact them if we want ‘additional clarification.'”

The app’s keyboard extension will cease working after future updates. “We want to maintain offering the final working model that features the keyboard extension, however Apple makes it unimaginable to cease automated updates for particular person apps. So until you cease automated updates for all of your apps, you’ll quickly lose the FlickType keyboard extension,” FlickType wrote.

The app’s App Retailer itemizing says, “FlickType keyboard is designed to be as accessible as doable on each iPhone and Apple Watch, that includes massive keys, high-contrast colours, outstanding 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 kind 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. “Once 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’s pretty easy, however the delay as you wait to listen to the title of the targeted key provides a stunning period of time to the act of typing.” Preece discovered that “FlickType is way 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 velocity 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 word that claims, “We observed that your keyboard extension doesn’t perform when the ‘Full Entry’ setting is toggled off. To resolve this difficulty, please revise your app to make sure that your keyboard extension is absolutely useful 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 below the iOS Settings app.”

FlickType keyboard.

FlickType keyboard.

Kosta Eleftheriou

With out full entry, “FlickType helps common contact typing the place you discover the keyboard after which carry your finger to enter the specified character,” a help web page says. Enabling full entry unlocks “faucet typing,” through which blind and low-vision customers can “calmly faucet the place you suppose every letter is, and FlickType’s highly effective algorithm will appropriately guess the fitting 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 kind as quick as anybody,” Eleftheriou instructed us. He identified that different keyboards, such because the Microsoft-owned SwiftKey, additionally ask for full entry to allow further capabilities.

“Requiring full entry for sure further options is nothing new,” he instructed 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 instructed The Verge. “They’d need to attempt it as a VoiceOver consumer, one thing that they do not appear to trouble doing. I’ve had a number of rejections prior to now as a result of the reviewer did not know something about VoiceOver,” he stated.

Eleftheriou says Apple should cease “developer abuse”

When requested if he’d proceed offering the iPhone keyboard if Apple reverses the replace rejection, Eleftheriou instructed Ars that “Apple would want to do extra than simply reverse their resolution. I’ve already gone to nice lengths through the years to personally persuade them to reverse dozens of their mistaken selections prior to now. They’d must at the very least admit that they have been treating me and hundreds (thousands and thousands?) of different builders unfairly and unreasonably for years. Admitting this could be step one in the direction of them truly lowering, and ultimately stopping, this developer abuse.”

Eleftheriou stated he is not certain how lengthy he’ll maintain growing the Apple Watch portion of the app. “I am nonetheless going to attempt to present the watch keyboard, for now at the very least,” he instructed Ars.

Builders’ complaints concerning the Apple App Retailer have resonated with some lawmakers, as Congress is contemplating laws that may pressure Apple to let customers sideload apps and entry third-party app shops.

We contacted Apple right this moment 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 establish rip-off apps that trick customers into making funds which may in any other case go to respectable apps.

Eleftheriou’s California-based firm, Kpaw, sued Apple in March, alleging that the iPhone maker “threw up roadblock after roadblock” to make it troublesome to get FlickType onto the App Retailer.

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 grievance, which was filed within the state superior courtroom in Santa Clara County, continued:

As soon as plaintiff lastly received its software to market, plaintiff’s software vaulted to the highest of the App Retailer’s gross sales worldwide. Then, copycat and rip-off functions 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 opinions to raise themselves in Apple’s system. Plaintiff complained to Apple and, in response, Apple did subsequent to nothing, regardless of its acknowledged insurance policies forbidding this exact kind of unfair competitors. Whereas Apple enticed plaintiff to develop and publish functions on the market within the App Retailer primarily based on Apple’s promise of a “secure” setting, Apple doesn’t in actual fact police its App Retailer, undoubtedly as a result of it income massively from rampant developer misconduct and shopper fraud. By this lawsuit, plaintiff seeks to get better its losses as results of, and produce to an finish to, Apple’s fraudulent and unfair practices.

Final week’s app-update rejection “is the tip of the iceberg,” Eleftheriou instructed Ars. “The large image is the years-long sample of rejections in addition to the extraordinarily poor Third-party keyboard APIs.”

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