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Voiceover: From Wellington, New Zealand, to the world, it’s the Living Blindfully podcast – living your best life with blindness or low vision. Here is your host, Jonathan Mosen.

Jonathan: Hello! At Apple Park today, Tim Cook and his team have unveiled the latest crop of new Apple hardware at their Wanderlust event. Our expert panel is here to talk the iPhone 15 range, Apple watches and more, looking at what it all means from a blindness perspective.

The focus of today’s event is hardware. When you go back to WWDC which is usually in June, you get a software-focused presentation because Apple has brought developers together. But September (or whenever Apple chooses to hold these events) is when we learn all about the hardware. And sometimes, there is some specific elements of the software that is optimized for that hardware. And we’re going to talk about all of this today with our usual suspects.

We’ve got world-renowned authors – Judy Dixon and Mike Feir with us, we’ve got world-renowned accessibility consultant and describer of all things – Heidi Taylor, and somebody has to be here to push the buttons so here I am.

Here’s a random question for you guys. Do you think we’ll ever see an S iPhone model again?


Mike: Hmm. I would suspect they keep updating the S, like the SE at least, but I kind of think the mini is probably toast for good.

Jonathan: We haven’t seen an S model since the XS, I don’t think. Was that the last S model we had?

Mike: Yeah.

Heidi: Yes, it was.

Jonathan: Yes, which is what Henry’s got.

Heidi: Yes. [laughs]

Jonathan: Yes.

The opening video, that was a very interesting, quite moving presentation. Damn! Apple’s marketing is good. And they showed people celebrating their birthdays that they thought they’d never had because Apple Watch’s heart monitoring alerted them to issues that they didn’t know they had. and then, they could go in and have life-saving surgery. It was really quite powerful, that video. I don’t know whether anybody else found that moving, but I thought it was really good.

Judy: I thought it was very clever, certainly.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Mike: Yeah, I was caught up with what? What is with all these different birthdays? Yep.

Judy: [laughs]

Mike: And of course, there’s the link. I had no idea. Well, and that other fellow that had the accident there as well. Yeah, like it just totally like that all that just combining.

I thought they would have maybe found some cases for more of the sensors, like maybe the blood oxygen might have done something. That was really the heart, the crash detection, and the heart monitoring, it seems.

Jonathan: Yes, yes. And I was sitting here thinking, aww! I’m sure that Judy’s just regretting every moment that she gave her Apple Watch Ultra away to her husband.

Judy: [laughs]

Mike: [laughs]

Judy: I did, and I’m not sorry.


Jonathan: Sorry not sorry.

Judy: It’s huge! It’s huge! It’s enormous.

Jonathan: It is huge, isn’t it? It is huge.

Judy: [laughs]

Jonathan: Good battery life, though. And it’s got the action button, so nyeeh!

Judy: I’d like to be able to use my hand, thank you very much.

Jonathan: Yeah. [laughs] Let’s talk about Apple Watch, then.

Apple Watch Series 9 was the first thing that they talked about today. It is new technology inside – the S9 chip that makes it considerably faster, of course. You know, this is what you’re going to get – faster, better. It maintains the 18-hour battery life.

But there are actually a couple of features that made me go ooh! Actually, this is really something that interests me.

The first one: Siri requests processed on device. We are all Apple Watch users. Are you an Apple Watch user, Mike?

Mike: Yes, yeah, I have an SE.

Jonathan: Yeah, okay.

Siri can lag, can’t it? Does everybody find this?

Judy: Yes.

Heidi: Yeah.

Mike: Yup.

Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. And yet, it’s such an integral part of the watch experience, so that’s a very useful feature.

Dictation is up to 25% more accurate as well. I don’t know what you have all found, but I’ve actually found Apple Watch dictation, even now, more accurate than iPhone dictation, for some reason.

Judy: I find it very good. I dictate a lot of text messages with my Apple Watch, and it really works amazingly well.

Jonathan: Yeah.

You don’t like talking to your stuff, do you, Heidi?

Heidi: No, not really.

Jonathan: So how do you interact with your Apple Watch, or what do you use it for, primarily?

Heidi: I use it for like sleep tracking and fitness tracking. Not that I do much of that.

Jonathan: [laughs]

Heidi: [laughs] And I set timers, and I get all my notifications on it, so I can decide if I have to pick up my phone to deal with it. But normally, if I’m responding to a message, I’ll go to my phone.

Jonathan: Right. So I’m really minimalist about the notifications I allow to go to my watch. I don’t know whether that might be a blindness thing, or whether Judy and Mike, you use yours differently. But I go through and I ration, really quite considerably, the notifications that are allowed to go to the watch from iPhone apps.

Judy: No. I let a lot of notifications go to my watch.

Jonathan: What advantage do you see in that?

Judy: My watch is always with me.

Jonathan: Okay.

Judy: It’s just always there.

Jonathan: How do you use it, Mike?

Mike: I basically use mine, mainly for monitoring things in a more passive way.

So I have faces that have Fantastical, for example, my next event.

Ever since the wildfires of summer, I never thought I would put my air quality thing on there but it has come in handy more than once, so it’s on there now.

I have 3 different weather complications across the bottom of my default face that I usually use, which I never thought I’d do for anything. [laughs] But yeah.

So I mainly do it for that. And then, have other faces for workout, timing, and different things.

Jonathan: Okay. That’s interesting how we all use these things in different ways.

So for me, I find that I have my iPhone pretty much with me all the time anyway – in a pocket, or something like that.

Mike: Me, too.

Jonathan: And I never lock my screen unless I’m sleeping, so my notifications just speak through my made-for-iPhone hearing aids.

I think I might treat it differently if the watch supported made-for-iPhone hearing aids. And this is extraordinary to me that after all these years, and all these powerful chips, and these devices, still no mention of made-for-iPhone hearing aid support on the watch.

Judy: That is interesting.

Jonathan: It’s really frustrating.

Judy: There must be a reason.

Jonathan: Well, you would think so. But I mean, airpods work on the Apple watch, so why not made-for-iPhone hearing aids?

Judy: Good question.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Judy: I use my watch to ping my phone about 10 times a day.

Mike: Oh wow! I’ve never done that. [laughs]

Judy: I ping my phone, and I don’t keep track of where I leave it. I just know I can ping it whenever I want to find it.

Jonathan: Right. So well, let’s talk about that then, since you brung this up. Because there is a new ultra wideband chip in the new devices announced today in Apple’s new hardware. This actually has gone to the iPhone 15, interestingly, as well as the Pro, and the new Apple watch, as announced today.

There are a number of benefits of this. You can contact your other devices up to 3 times farther away, and you can get a lot more detailed haptic feedback.

I guess the question that was left unanswered for me about this, which is really cool, is does that mean that there are going to be new AirTags coming out to take advantage of this, or do the AirTags that we already have make the best use of this?

Judy: Good question. That would be nice if they were better, louder, farther away. [laughs]

Jonathan: They are quiet, aren’t they, those AirTags?

Judy: They are ridiculously quiet.

Jonathan: Yeah. I mean, you try and find your baggage on a carousel and you ping it. There’s just no point in pinging it.

Judy: It’s really not usable.

Jonathan: Yeah. So hopefully, we’ll find that out.

Mike: Do they need…

Jonathan: Now, go ahead, Mike.

Mike: I’m just thinking with these chips, with the farther reach, does it take each thing having one of these new ultra wideband chips to get that extra range?

Jonathan: It takes all devices in the chain to take advantage of that longer distance and that more precise finding.

Mike: Yeah.

Jonathan: That’s what they were clear about. So if you want to take advantage of this, …

And of course, it’s so handy when you might not be able to see where you’ve put something small, like an Apple Watch, for example, especially if you’ve given your bigger Apple Watch Ultra away to your husband, then this is very handy to have. [laughs]

Judy: [laughs]

Jonathan: Yeah.

Now, you can access your health data with Siri. I wonder if this will be coming to the phone as well.

Judy: I like this. I like this a lot.

Jonathan: This is so cool.

Judy: I use my watch and phone for my medication schedule, so it’s constant. And I have to stop and go, you know, open the app and tell it yes, a log, all is taken. It’s a 10-second job. [laughs] I mean, I would love to be able to tell Siri I’ve taken my medications. Leave me alone.

Jonathan: Yes, yes.

Sleep hacking is something I’ve really got into because for many of us with non-24, it’s an art form, especially if you have a day job to manage and everything. So I really enjoy going into the health app and having a look at the sleep data that the watch is collecting.

But just to be able to ask Siri that question is a very nice addition.

Heidi: Did you call it sleep hacking?

Jonathan: Yes.

Heidi: Interesting. [laughs]

Jonathan: Yeah. Well, see, you’re not old enough (I don’t mean to be patronizing.) to remember this, but hacking wasn’t always a pejorative term.


Jonathan: In fact, there’s a website called Lifehacker, where you can have all sorts of little life hacks that improve your life, you know.

Heidi: I guess that’s fair.

Jonathan: Yeah, it is very fair.

Mike: [laughs]

Jonathan: These Siri changes, by the way, … I’m not available today, if you get your Apple Watch, and you can order it right now. I mean, you could stop this recording and order your Apple Watch right now, which is interesting. But you won’t get that until a software update comes out later in the year.

Any visual changes to the Apple Watch? Of course we do have visual changes to the bands to talk about. But are the watches basically the same, Heidi, visually?

Heidi: Yeah. Visually, they look the same as last year’s model.

Jonathan: We’re waiting for the 10, which is going to be a radical redesign. And there’s all sorts of leakage coming out of Apple about this. So the 10 is going to be the moment when you see a very significant different-looking Apple Watch.

Judy: Interestingly, this double tap feature that they’re so excited about. It sounds like what we’ve had in VoiceOver for some time.

Jonathan: Exactly.

Judy: Just like hand gestures in VoiceOver that we’ve had.

Jonathan: Yes. They call it a pinch, don’t they?

Judy: That’s right. But it’s the same thing. You tap your thumb and index finger together, and you can do things.

And it’s never been completely clear to me why it was a VoiceOver feature. It seems to have nothing to do with blindness.

Jonathan: There are some funny things tucked away in accessibility settings on the Apple Watch, including the hourly chimes. I’ve never been clear about why that’s an accessibility feature, either.

But you’re right, and I wonder how that will coexist because the double tap or pinch gesture in VoiceOver allows you to navigate around the screen.

So how are we going to differentiate, I guess, between using it the way that sighted people are now using it, which is actually quite a good use case because it’s essentially activating the default button?

So for those who didn’t see the presentation, what we’re saying is that you can pinch your thumb and forefinger together, or double tap them together twice, and it’s going to activate the default button. So if your phone is ringing and you want to answer on your watch, you just put your thumb and index finger together on the hand on which you’re wearing your watch twice, and it will answer the call, doing the same or in the call. So it’s a little bit like the magic tap, actually as well.

Judy: It is, yes.

Jonathan: Yeah. So I don’t know. We’ll find out how those features coexist, I’m sure in due time, when people start to get the watch.

But cool to see accessibility features rolling out to the wider world.


Judy: I thought so, too.

Jonathan: Now, there are some new bands. And Apple had a very gimmicky little cute conference with Mother Nature. I wonder if they were channeling their inner Steve Jobs because Mother Nature sounded pretty damn bossy on that thing, didn’t she?

Mike: [laughs]

Jonathan: So the Apple Watch family is the first carbon-neutral product that Apple has produced, and they’re obviously proud of that. They’re trying to get there by 2030.

And as part of that carbon neutrality drive, they have eliminated leather from Apple’s manufacturing processes for bands and accessories. No leather case for the iPhone which we’ll get to soon, and no leather watch bands anymore. Is there anything you can tell us about those bands, Heidi?

Heidi: So they’re like a soft, fabric-y looking material, like a very fine woven, … Not really woven. It’s hard to explain. But definitely not leather, and it’s definitely not similar to leather like it’s not shiny or anything.

Judy: Do you think it’s stretchy?

Heidi: They didn’t really show if it would be or not. But the examples they showed it in was in place of where they had been using leather bands. Is leather stretchy?

Judy: No.

Jonathan: Not really. It’s quite tough, isn’t it? In fact, it can be quite difficult to make it stretch when you need to.

Heidi: Yeah. So I think, it’s a non-stretchy design.

Jonathan: And this is a new textile Apple is calling fine woven.

Heidi: Yeah.

Jonathan: Hmm. I don’t know. Well I guess, there’ll be a third-party market for leather bands and accessories because there may be a lot of people who don’t want to give them up. [laughs]

Mike: [laughs]

Jonathan: Any other comments on the Apple Watch at this point? Is there enough here for people to think hmm, I would really like one of these Series 9s, or the Apple Watch Ultra?

Heidi: If I loved the color pink, I would love the pink one.

Jonathan: Really?

Heidi: But I’m neutral on pink.

Jonathan: What colors do we have for Apple Watch this year?

Heidi: So we’ve got pink, starlight, silver, that midnight-y blue color, and product red.

Jonathan: Okay. Alright.

Heidi: But the pink is very pretty.

Judy: But that’s the aluminum ones, right?

Heidi: Yeah, just the Apple Watch.

Judy: Yeah. I think it’s stainless steel ones. They mentioned one of the colors is the stainless steel.

Heidi: Oh, yeah. Stainless steel, there’s a gold one, …

Judy: And a graphite?

Heidi: Yeah. Graphite, and I don’t know. Silver?

Judy: Silver, silver.

Mike: Yeah, I think it was silver.

Jonathan: You prefer the steel ones? The stainless steel ones?

Judy: I do. I’ve always gotten the steel ones. I don’t know. I mean I bang my arm on so many things, I’m always afraid I’ll dent the aluminum ones and so I’ve always gotten the stainless steel ones. But I still have a Series 6, and I can’t decide whether … I’m thinking I might just wait till next year.

Jonathan: Hmm.

Heidi: I also have a Series 6.

Judy: And it’s fine.

Heidi: Yeah.

Jonathan: I’ve got the Apple Watch Ultra because I didn’t have a husband to give it away to so I’ve still got mine.


Jonathan: But Bonnie’s got … I think she’s also got the Series 6, if I’m remembering correctly. I mean it’s all pretty incremental. But I must say that the Siri stuff and the health ability to query on Siri, I predict that it will be enough to push you over to buying one.

Judy: I think you might be right. [laughs]

Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. What do you think, Mike?

Mike: You know, I’m pretty happy with my SE. I think I might wait and just see next year what is on offer. It’s getting to the point where I’m starting to think maybe, but I think I can honestly wait another year for the Apple Watch. So yeah, I’m probably gonna do that, unless something that we haven’t heard yet comes out and changes my mind.

Jonathan: Hmm. This is the thing. The supply chain is leaking so much. Apart from making it feel like it’s spoiling your Christmases, they’re also already talking about what’s an iPhone 16 now and Apple Watch 10. So it can make you think do I absolutely have to have this model, or should I hang on?

Just to talk about Apple Watch Ultra a bit. It’s quite incremental, this update. I mean I couldn’t imagine, given what you have to pay for one, that too many people would think if they’ve got the first series, I have to have the second one.

But one thing that’s quite interesting is that there is a new modular watch face that has been created for the Apple Watch 9, or sorry, the Apple Watch Ultra 2. And I’m just scrolling through my notes. It can be customized to show the most information at a glance than any watch face that Apple has created. So that’s quite nice. I like having those big modular watch faces with lots of complications, so that’s pretty cool.

There is up to 36 hours of typical use on a single charge, so that’s the same as the last model.

Battery specs on the Series 9 is also the same as last year. The Series 9 starts at $399, and the Ultra 2 is $799. And they’re available today.

What do you guys … I presume you’ve been testing, or some of you will have been testing watchOS 10, and I’m wondering what the verdict is on that.

Judy: I have not.

Jonathan: Oh.

Mike: No. Me neither. [laughs]

Jonathan: Oh. it’s only me, then. Because I don’t think you’ve installed the betas. Have you, Heidi?

Heidi: No, I’m boring.

Mike: [laughs]

Jonathan: I mean I miss the dock. You’ve got this button on the front, right next to the digital crown so it’s pretty important real estate, right? And all it does now in watchOS 10 is bring up the control center. That’s very strange that they took the dock away, and that they just use that button to go to the control center. I’m not sure what the logic is because sometimes, if you want to scroll through a large number of apps, it can be very time-consuming. So to have that dock where you put your most regularly used apps, I don’t see what the utility is in taking that away.

Judy: I like the dock. Yes.

Jonathan: Yeah. Well, maybe you should hang on to watchOS 9. [laughs]

Judy: [laughs]

Jonathan: So that’s Apple Watch.

We will take a break, and we will come back in a moment and we will talk about iPhone and iOS on our Apple event special.

I want to give a shoutout to Pneuma Solutions, who make it possible for us to provide transcripts of every Living Blindfully episode.

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Jonathan: Welcome back to our Apple event special.

We are talking with Judy Dixon, Mike Feir, and Heidi Taylor.

And we’re going to talk about iPhone now. Not too many surprises at all. In fact, I think I could have done this part of the program without having seen the presentation at all.

So let’s talk about iPhone 15. First of all, Heidi, can I just ask you first about the visual appearance of these devices? We’ve gone for a new form factor, it looks like.

Heidi: Very slightly new form factor.

Jonathan: Okay.

Heidi: Not major. So if you imagine your iPhone 12 through 14, it has the flat edges. And then, quite a harsh corner where it goes to the back. They’ve just softened the corner around to the back, but it’s generally the same shape.

Judy: But the edges are still flat?

Heidi: Yes.

Judy: Oh, good. I like those.


Judy: I like those.

Jonathan: [laughs] Okay.

Now the iPhone 15, let’s talk about that first. So this is the non-pro model, just to be clear, and it’s the least expensive model as a result.

The Dynamic Island is coming to the non-Pro models. Now, I take it, Judy, that you have been using the Dynamic Island over the last year?

Judy: I have. And for the first 6 months of the year, very few apps ever used it. Apple once did.

Now, playing something would show up in it once in a while. Or I like to use my phone and start audio, and then transfer it to a HomePod. You know, just walk over to a HomePod, hold it near it, and the audio goes right to the HomePod. It’s very cool. And then, the Dynamic Island would tell me that that happened. Well, duh! I mean, it really wasn’t very used.

And lately, the last few months, things like Uber, Lyft and things like that have started using it. But it really has not been. I mean, you have to query it. It doesn’t automatically tell you that something is appearing in your magic, or in your island. And so I have not found it hugely useful.

Jonathan: I remember when they announced the Dynamic Island this time last year, and we were all here sort of giggling, saying what a bizarre term Dynamic Island is? And nobody’s ever going to use it.

Judy: [laughs] Yes.

Jonathan: But you get used to anything, I suppose.

It was like when Freedom Scientific was created. I thought at the time, that is a very cumbersome name for a company. And now, in the blind community, we don’t think twice about it.

But I agree completely with your analysis. It took a while.

I really like the way that Uber is deployed in the Dynamic Island. I find that practically useful.

What I find strange, though, is that once you get into the vehicle, you have to actually pull down notification center to find out when you’re likely to arrive at your destination.

But in the Dynamic Island itself, before the Uber arrives, you can see in real time how close it is. That is super useful.

Judy: Yes, I like that.

Jonathan: Yeah. I’m looking forward to Uber Eats and DoorDash. I understand that DoorDash is very close.

Judy: We have it in Uber Eats now.

Jonathan: Do you?

Judy: Yes.

Jonathan: I’ll have to check whether we have it now. I just have given up checking then because I heard it was coming.

So what does it show you in the Dynamic Island?

Judy: Same thing. It shows you how long it is before they’re arriving.

Jonathan: Cool. Okay.

For those who are thinking about an iPhone 15 and haven’t really been following the Dynamic Island before because it wasn’t relevant, this is a little sort of part of the screen where the status bar is. And it was originally designed as a kind of a way to, I guess, hide the notch and make something useful of it.

And this has information that can update in real time. So you can get sports scores. You can get, you know, we’ve talked about Uber, Lyft, that kind of thing. Information that you might want to see in real time. Now, you can also use these Dynamic Island features via live activities.

So I’m wondering, Heidi and Mike, whether you guys have been using live activities at all, whether it’s something that’s had an impact on the way you use the phone?

Mike: None at all for me.

Jonathan: Right.

Mike: I just haven’t. You know, I don’t have a Pro. I have a regular 13. So, I mean, that might be part of it.

there are live activities, I’m pretty sure on the 13 as well. But I just have made absolutely no use of that.

Jonathan: Yeah, you can see them on the lock screen. But I guess, just being able to kind of glance, for want of a better term, the Dynamic Island is kind of nice.

Do you use live activities, Heidi?

Heidi: I don’t have many things that use it, I guess. Oh, but the bus app here in Whanganui uses it. So like, you say which stop you’re getting on at, and which stop you want to get off at. And then, it detects when you start moving with the bus, and it counts down the stops until you get there, which is really cool.

Judy: Ooh, cool!

Heidi: And that is a live activity. So I’ve used that just recently.

Jonathan: Holy soup! I mean, excuse my strong language, but it wasn’t that long ago that Whanganui didn’t even have a bus. Now, they’ve got an app for the bus.


Jonathan: Whoa! Never rains, but it pours, dude.

Heidi: So that’s pretty cool. But other than that, I don’t really have anything that uses it.

Judy: Makes me want to go to Whanganui.


Jonathan: Yeah. I mean, that’s a very useful practical feature. I’m a big fan of the Dynamic Island. And I think now that there are more users to market to, we’ll probably see more apps adopt the Dynamic Island.

Judy: Yes, that’s true.

Jonathan: So this is a really worthwhile feature, I think.

And you can also do things like when you run a timer, you can see in the Dynamic Island how much time is left, all sorts of features like that. The stopwatch I think also pops up in the Dynamic Island.

Judy: I would like it if VoiceOver had a way to speak the content of the Dynamic Island when it appears, and maybe even use a slightly different voice or something so that you would know, this is my Dynamic Island talking.

Jonathan: Yes. That’s probably something you’d want in Activities, right, so that you could customize it on a per-app basis? Because there may be times when you’re in an app and you don’t want to be notified, but there would be times when you do. Maybe some sort of toggle that just lets you toggle on and off the auto-speak.

Now, one thing I didn’t mention about the Apple Watch, and it’s coming up here as well, is that we do have even brighter displays. This is something Apple tends to boast about every year. And I mention this because it may be relevant to people with certain low vision conditions that the displays are much brighter. I don’t know whether you gleaned anything that we can add to that, Heidi, in terms of the brightness?

Heidi: I mean, they said up to 2000 nits, which is pretty impressive. But I don’t really have any way to quantify that other than just saying the number.

Jonathan: Right. So that may be of benefit.

You’ve got, as usual, a choice of a 6.1 inch iPhone 15, or you could go to the 6.7 inch iPhone 15 Plus.

I wonder, Judy, whether you find the plus models easier for Braille Screen Input? Do you think that has a material effect on how easy it is to do Braille Screen Input?

Judy: I don’t think so. Certainly, doing it on an iPad is noticeably different because it has 8-dot input which we don’t have on an iPhone. But my hands fit just fine on my 14 Pro.

And I know you said recently you thought the problems with Braille Screen Input were fixed.

Jonathan: I take it back.

Judy: I’m certainly not finding that they’re fixed.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Judy: It’s so frustrating. It doesn’t lock, it’s constantly shifting, it’s just still a mess. I mean, it’s a mess. And it’s a mess in 17. And I just don’t think it’s fixed.

Jonathan: The big one that I find is that you can initiate Braille Screen Input. So you can rotate to it in the rotor. And then, you try to type. And for example, it will say speech off. If you do a dots 4-5-6 to start the calibration process, you find that you’re not in Braille Screen Input at all.

Judy: I’ve had that happen, too.

Jonathan: Yeah. I get that very regularly, which just is so time-consuming and frustrating.

I leave mine permanently locked and in tabletop mode.

Judy: So do I. I try to.


Jonathan: That’s interesting. I haven’t seen that one.

Judy: Oh, yeah. It doesn’t stay locked.

Jonathan: Are you a Braille Screen Input guy, Mike? Do you use that?

Mike: No, no. My wife does, quite a lot, actually, on her phone. I just never have warmed to that at all. I always feel like I’m losing speed, even between Braille and on-screen keyboard input. And let alone of course physical, where I can type about 90 words a minute. So yeah, I’m not a big Braille Screen Input user at all.

Jonathan: Right. I still go for my plus size or max size phones, just because I want as much battery life as possible. [laughs] And that’s what really keeps me going.

But I don’t think that I would have any difficulty at all entering Braille Screen Input on a smaller phone. But that is a consideration.

With the iPhone 15 plus, you do have a bigger phone. Therefore, they can fit a bigger battery in there. I don’t know whether they gave any specs precisely on what the talk, standby time and things are, but they will publish those on the website. Did you see anything there, Heidi, relating to that?

Heidi: I haven’t looked at the website yet.

Jonathan: Right. OK. That’s where we normally find it.

And, I did make a note of the colors. Look at me go.

So you’ve got pink, yellow, green, blue, and black this year.

Heidi: Oh, and they’re so pretty this year.

Jonathan: Yeah. What’s your favorite? The pink again?

Heidi: Oh, I’m kind of drawn in by the green. So except for the black one which is black, the others are very pretty, pale pastel colors.

The pink one makes me think of a marshmallow, the yellow one makes me think of the inside of a banana.

Judy: [laughs]

Heidi: I don’t know what the other two make me think of, but they’re just very light. And I don’t know, they’re just really nice.

Jonathan: Munching away on those silicon chips.

Heidi: [laughs]

Jonathan: Now, I did get a ping from a listener who wants us to talk a lot about the camera. Because these days, and for a long time, in fact, the cameras have been so advantageous to us. Who’d have thought that we, as blind people, would spend so much time thinking about cameras and which device to get?

Judy: Ah. Yes, yes.

Jonathan: And of course, Judy has published many missives on this subject.

Judy: 2 books on cameras.

Jonathan: Yeah. [laughs]

So the camera system in the iPhone 15 is apparently new.

You’ve got a 48-megapixel main camera. It’s got a quad-pixel sensor for fast autofocus. So as I understand that, that means that, you know, as blind people, we can find it difficult sometimes to get the camera to focus. Obviously, because we can’t see what’s in the view. And this should help with that.

You’ve got higher resolution images which are captured. And that should make it easier to capture good focus in a range of light conditions. So very bright light, they mention. But also, very low light. So it’s good for us who perhaps don’t turn the lights on because we don’t really have a need to turn the lights on. [laughs]

Anybody got any informed comment on the camera system in the iPhone 15?

Judy: I think the autofocus is really going to help a lot. This is a reason why people do have difficulty using their camera to get information is because they don’t wait long enough for the focus. The focus can take several seconds now, and you really need to wait and let the camera focus before you take a picture. And if this is going to happen faster, this is a very good thing.

Jonathan: So does that mean it’s important if you’re taking a photo of a subject, of a person, that they need to sort of stay still for a few seconds before you, as a blind person, take the picture?

Judy: It would help.

Jonathan: Yeah, right. I’ll tell that to my granddaughter next time.


Heidi: Oh, because she’s going to listen.

Jonathan: [laughs] Yeah. Well, she is. She listens to granddad. Yeah.

Any thoughts on this, Heidi, in terms of the 15’s camera system?

One thing I was going to ask you about was they talked about more post-production options. And this is obviously really interesting to me. What I mean by that is that there seems to be a lot more that you can do after the fact to the photo. So it’s taking raw data, if you like.

You, as a blind person, might be out somewhere where you don’t have the time, or the inclination, or the capacity to ask a sighted person about an important photo that you’re taking. But if you can get to that raw data after the fact in your Photos app and tweak it, and do things like portrait mode and creating different things, …

Judy: Straighten it.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Judy: That’s one thing you can do.

Jonathan: That’s something you might be able to do with the help of somebody else. So I wondered whether there was any data that we can comment on there.

Judy: No. There’s things you can do without the help of somebody else.

If you take a photo where you have multiple cameras, what they do is go ahead and gather data with all the cameras, even though you’re not asking for it. So you have a photo that you think is just a regular straightforward photo, but it in fact, has data available from the ultrawide lens and all this other stuff.

So if you go into post-processing, into the editing options, and you straighten it, it actually has data, keeps that data for 30 days. And it actually has data available to add, or take away, or move, or do whatever it needs to do to straighten that photo.

Jonathan: How visually verifiable is that tweaking to a blind person, so you know you’re actually making things better?

Judy: Well, it tells you that you made it better and you believe it.


Judy: I did this for one of my books. There’s a lot in there about it. And I did it and checked it with sighted people, and it apparently does work. Or at least, there are occasions when it doesn’t work. But the times that it works vastly outweigh the times that it doesn’t. So it’s totally worth doing.

Jonathan: Okay. Any thoughts on that, Heidi?

Heidi: I mean, it sounds pretty cool. I don’t really play around with post-processing, so Judy’s the expert.

Judy: It wouldn’t be such an issue if you can see well enough to take it straight in the first place. [laughs]

Heidi: [laughs] I guess that is fair.

Jonathan: Right.

So do any of your books cover this in depth, Judy, about post-processing photos?

Judy: Yes, yes, yes.

Jonathan: Which one should we buy?

Judy: The last one – Capturing and Sharing the World.

Jonathan: Oh, I love that title. I’ve got the thing here just for that. [reverb] Capturing and Sharing the World.

Yeah, alright.

Judy: And you know, this is 2 years ago, so it’s only better now.

Jonathan: Yes.

Judy: But still, it’ll give you the idea.

Jonathan: Yeah. I know that a lot of blind people are really getting into their photography, and I think that is absolutely fantastic.

Judy: It’s fun!

Jonathan: You know? It really is. It’s something that I’ve not done. I mean, I take a picture from time to time. Or to be honest, I might ask someone to take more pictures than I take them myself. But it’s something I’d like to do a bit more of, and it sounds really impressive.

Judy: And Apple has done an amazing job of making the processing accessible.

Jonathan: That’s really cool.

You’re a big photo guy, Mike? You take the photos?

Mike: Not massively. But I do, in my guide, I have a big section on just what the camera combined with AI and, of course, sighted help can allow you to do. So, you know, there’s a big section in the guide all about, you know, using that camera to identify things, to, you know, use things like Be My Eyes to help with things. One thing I use it every day for is to make sure my hearing aids are charging every night.

And that whole autofocus thing, that could be helpful because I have to turn on the light. And then sometimes, I’ve forgotten to turn it off after, and find out hours and hours later that the light has been burning uselessly after. [laughs] So if they can tell in the dark whether the 2 little lights on my charger are green and stayed flashing to indicate charging, that would be great.

I guess I have a very basic understanding that if you improve the camera system, it can improve, you know, in terms of identifying objects and things like that. I would presume there’ll be improvements there.

Now how incremental they are, I’m very fuzzy on. So, you know, I don’t know whether, for example, all this improvement in camera would be enough to motivate me to get a new iPhone, if nothing else improved. I don’t know that I have the understanding to really unravel that. Like, will it make that much difference to someone who isn’t taking photos for art sake so much as photos for OCR, object identification, and some of the basic uses like that? I don’t know whether this round of improvements, as impressive as they sound, will actually change the experience enough.

Judy: It’s more or less a guess on my part, Mike. But my guess is at this point, no, except for the autofocus, which will help. But for people who were already reasonably patient about their photo-taking, I don’t know that it’ll make a huge difference.

Jonathan: And one thing I’ve never been clear about is the degree to which a lot of these features are available to third-party apps. So you know that the camera app has got all the bells and whistles, and all the post-processing. But I wonder, for example, how much can an Aira agent do when they can see your image and they want to improve something? How much of this technology is available to those third-party apps?

Because what we’ve seen, to my disappointment, is that Apple Vision Pro is basically going to be closed out for third-party developers who want to use camera applications with it, at least to begin with.

Judy: In a lot of the camera functions have been too, and still are. In the new Aira app, though, you actually can go into, what do they call it? Configure device. And you can, if you have 3 cameras, you know, if you have a pro phone and 3 cameras, you actually can select different cameras. So you can increase the angle and that sort of thing, which is nice because even that wasn’t available to third-party for a long time.

Jonathan: This is a very opportuned time for me to take a break, actually. [laughs] So we will take a break, and we will come back and continue our discussion, as we recap the Apple event.

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Jonathan: Welcome back to our look at the Apple event on Living Blindfully.

We are talking about cameras and the iPhone. And we’ll come back to the camera when we talk about the iPhone Pro.

But one of the things that they had to introduce, I guess, in quite a delicate way for some, is that the iPhone has gone USB-C. And I think if there’s one thing that will encourage me to get the iPhone 15 Pro, it is the USB-C, which is available, I just hasten to add, in all iPhone 15 models.

So this is the first cable change that Apple has made since 2012, when they introduced the Lightning Connector. And the USB-C port is going to be available for data transfer, for video, what else does it do? Data transfer, video, and charging, of course. That’s the other thing I was thinking.

Judy: And audio. You can use microphones and USB-C headphones.

Mike: And accessories as well. I hope that includes keyboards.

Judy: I hope it includes Braille displays, and I think it will.

Mike: [laughs]

Jonathan: It’s a very interesting question.

And also, it’s a question of how much power this thing has. So there will be some audio interfaces that you might try to plug into the phone where it will say there’s not enough power to drive this thing, or something like that. You may need to plug in a USB-C hub.

But it is a revolutionary day. It’s long overdue. And it’s the single biggest reason, in my view, why we should all be jumping out there, if we can, and getting an iPhone 15-something.

Everybody else excited about this?

Judy: I am. Yes, I am very excited about this. I think, I mean momentarily, we’re going to have some lightning accessories that are suddenly going to become useless, and that’s sad. Some of them work with cables, which is a good thing.

Jonathan: Yes. I presume, there’ll be some sort of dongle. Will they add another dongle, Lightning to USB-C?



Jonathan: But people just need to be aware of this because, for example, if you use the MagSafe battery a lot, which Apple released a couple of years ago and has still worked on newer iPhones, it’s just this battery. It’s quite useful. I just carry it with me when I know I’m travelling a lot. You just snap it onto the back of your phone, and it just gives you a little bit more charge. But that has got a lightning cable at a lightning socket at the bottom of it.

Judy: Oh, it does?

Jonathan: Yes. So you’ve got to think about those things. You’ll probably find that little things like that trip you up, and that there are lightning ports and lightning cables.

I’m thinking, for example, before my phone arrives, I’ve got to make sure that at the end of the cable that connects my iPhone to the mixer here in the studio, I’m going to have to have a USB-C to 3.5 adapter, not a Lightning to 3.5 adapter, and on and on that will go. So there will be a little bit of pain, initially.

But I think there is so much gain, that it’s worth doing this.

And thank you, EU!

Judy: Thank you, EU!

Jonathan: Yeah.


Jonathan: One thing that they also said, which I’m really pleased about because we don’t often hear a lot about audio in these presentations – they are promising improved audio quality on phone calls. And this is thanks to improved machine learning. So even when you don’t do anything, apparently, it’s going to make some judgments about what’s you, what’s background noise, and filter. But if you want to get really serious about this, you can turn a voice isolation feature on, and that will eliminate pretty much background noise, based on the demo.

I would have been as skeptic about this even a few weeks ago. But I know what’s going on in this space because I’ve got this HeardThat app now. And I’m not sure how current you are with the podcast, Judy. But HeardThat is an app which is designed for people wearing made-for-iPhone hearing aids, or even people just who wear AirPods who may find it difficult to hear in noisy environments.

And they have this slider, where you can essentially tweak how much background noise you get, and how much of just the person in front of you you want.

I’ve been to some very very noisy restaurants and cafes in the last few weeks, set this to 100%, and pointed my phone at Bonnie. And it’s like we are in a room at home without anybody talking other than the two of us. It’s incredible!

Judy: It’s pretty amazing.

Jonathan: Yeah. So this voice isolation technology, I’m sure that Apple’s got some great boffins on that. So there’s another practical reason for many of us to have a look at this.

What else have we got?

Oh, roadside assistance. So this is extending Apple’s satellite technology.

We just had our first case here in New Zealand where somebody was rescued, as a result of the satellite technology being available here in New Zealand now.

And to be honest, Apple’s got a little window here because companies like Starlink are launching satellites where eventually, if your carrier signs up, you will be able to use your full cellphone, presumably with quite a bit of latency, as if you were just using standard cellular service. And one of our carriers, 1NZ, has got the deal with Mr. Musk. And next year, that’s rolling out to New Zealand.

So we’ve got a lot of rural areas where it’s just not economic to cover, but you’ll have service throughout 100% of the country because of this satellite service, at which point it will really make Apple’s offering a little bit kind of lacklustre.

Now, let’s see what we’ve got. We’ve mentioned USB-C. I’m just scrolling through my notes. Shall we talk about the iPhone 15 Pro?

Heidi: Oh, oh, wait wait wait!

Jonathan: What? What? What? What, what do you got, what do you got?

Heidi: The new Find My feature for finding people.

Jonathan: Yes. So that’s it. That’s right. That is in the… Is that in the Pro only?

Heidi: No, no. It was in the 15 section.

Jonathan: OK. Yeah. So thank you, because I made a note about this. This is huge for blind people.

The idea that if somebody else has one of these new phones, or presumably a watch with cellular with the new wideband chip in them, you will be able to find, using the Find My app, a person precisely. I think that is super cool. It’s got many blindness applications there.

Judy: Do they both have to have 15s?

Jonathan: Yes, yes. They have to have the second generation ultrawide broadband chip.

So I think if one of you had a 15 but the other of you had a new Apple Watch that was connected to the internet, I think it would work then. But the chips have to match for that longer detail precision finding to work. Yeah.

Judy: That’s great.

Jonathan: That’s a really cool use case.

Now, if you want one of these, you can order this Friday, the 15th. They start at $799 US (which is the same as last year) for the 15, and $899 for the plus.

Now, is it all right now if I go on to the 15 Pro, Heidi?

Heidi: I’ll allow it.

Jonathan: Thank you, thank you.

Mike: [laughs]

Jonathan: Tell me about the titanium. So this is made of a new material for iPhone?

Heidi: Yes, it’s very fancy and metal looking.

Jonathan: And light?

Judy: Is this the same thing with the flat sides, the slightly rounded flat sides?

Heidi: Yes, same form factor. It’s just like a brushed metal finish, so you can sort of see the lines in the metal. It’s kind of shiny.

I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s metal.

Jonathan: Right. And it sounds like it’s such a difference that if you had an iPhone 14 Pro Max and you picked up an iPhone 15 Pro Max, you would be able to tell that it’s lighter. I believe it’s about 10% lighter than the current phones. So that’s always nice, especially if you get the Max size.

Now, interestingly, could you tell, Heidi? It sounds like what they were saying was that the Max size, although the screen size of the 15 Pro Max is the same, the physical dimensions of the entire unit are actually smaller than before.

Heidi: Yeah, they mentioned that it had thinner borders, like around the edge of the screen. It’s hard to tell from the pictures. I mean, it does look a little bit thinner, but I feel like you’d feel it more in person.

Judy: They didn’t give you dimensions?

Heidi: They didn’t give specific dimensions. I can do some research while everyone talks in front of me.

Jonathan: That’s a good idea because the Apple site will be back up now, and we can take a look. It would be interesting to compare the dimensions of the 14 Pro Max versus the 15 Pro Max because if you can get a slightly smaller device with that bigger battery, what’s not to like, really?

They say it has the toughest glass in the industry. And again, even though we’re still talking about the size of the whole device, you’ve got a 6.1 iPhone Pro and a 6.7 inch iPhone Pro Max. It’s more repairable.

So I don’t know what’s gone on in Apple land, but they used to be quite hostile towards right of repair legislation and initiatives. And just in the last few months in California, they surprised everybody by signing on and supporting the right to repair bill. [laughs] So they’re obviously getting on board with this and making it easier. The glass on the back is more easily replaced.

Now the big thing you will notice, even if you can’t pick up on the weight and the different material, is you’ll be able to tell which is an iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max because they took the ring/silent switch away, but they’ve replaced it with something quite interesting. And that is an action button, like the action button on the Apple Watch Ultra. It defaults to ringer and silent.

So you’ll push it in rather than slide it, and you’ll feel a haptic vibration and presumably get VoiceOver confirmation about whether you’re on ring or silent.

But if you want, you can reprogram that button to do other things, because I very seldom switch my phone to silent.

Judy: Yes, me too.

Jonathan: Yeah. So, you can record a voice memo… Now, this is quite cool because I have Just Pressed Record set up in my widgets, and I do that in case I’m ever being refused an Uber with Bonnie, you know, if we’ve got a guide dog refusal and I just want some sort of recording of the event. But having a button that you can press to make a recording in voice memos, genius!

You can launch the camera app, if you prefer.

Now, you can also launch your favorite accessibility feature. So this will be a way to toggle VoiceOver on and off.

But for me, what’s really cool is that it’s also a way to toggle a second thing. So I don’t like clustering my triple click of the side button menu with other things. For obvious reasons, I just want to toggle VoiceOver on and off.

Judy: [laughs] Yes.

Jonathan: But I do wear made-for-iPhone hearing aids. So if I can assign this button to toggling, say, live listen for made-for-iPhone hearing aids, that is genius! Genius!

You can also run a shortcut as well. So the possibilities are endless. You can make this action button pretty much do anything, as long as you can get a shortcut to make it work.

Good move or not, folks?

Judy: It sounds like what you could do with back tap. But back tap turned out, for me at least, to be quite a disaster because every time I set my phone down, the back tap thing was launching.

Jonathan: Yes.

Judy: It would just get touched in some way. I tried triple back tapping. Maybe that would happen less. And it did happen somewhat less, but I still did not find that very useful. But I mean, the idea was fabulous.

Jonathan: Yeah, yeah.

Is this a good move, Mike, do you think?

Mike: Yeah. You know, I can see a lot of just useful applications. Certainly with the hearing aid one, if you set VoiceOver and hearing in the same toggle, then you can’t hear VoiceOver ask whether or not which feature you want.

Jonathan: Yeah, exactly.


Mike: So yeah. You really have to make sure that shortcut is uniquely VoiceOver.

Judy: It’s not bad for turning it off, but it’s bad for turning it back on.

Jonathan: [laughs] Yeah.

Mike: So that would be a great addition. And just having that choice, that I want, you know, these shortcuts to do this. I don’t know how many taps you can, whether it’s just the one press, or whether it’s sensitive to, you know, different… It sounds like press and hold changes it from silent to ring mode. So they’ve thought of at least that one extra gesture. So depending on how configurable this is, you know, I can see this being really useful to a lot of people.

Jonathan: Yeah, good move, good move.

It’s interesting that Apple has chosen to replace a physical side switch with another physical button because Apple’s kind of been down on physical buttons.

Judy: I don’t think it’s a physical button.

Heidi: It is a physical button. It’s just like the volume button, but smaller.

Mike: Ah.

Judy: In my reading about it prior to this, they talked about it being one of those kind of buttons like the home button was, late in the game where when the device is completely off, you can’t even feel it going in.

Jonathan: Right. But I guess what I mean is there was some suggestion that Apple might even take the volume buttons, or whatever you might call them, away at some point, and just have a kind of a slider where you slide up and down on the side of the phone.

Judy: Right.

Jonathan: So rather than have something where you might perform a gesture on it, they have given you something to press, I guess, is what I’m saying.

Judy: Right.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Did you find anything interesting about the dimensions of the phone, Heidi?

Heidi: Yes, yes. I’ve got the specs here.

Jonathan: Heidi’s reporting in now.

Judy: Fantastic!

Heidi: So we’ll start with the iPhone 14 Pro Max, so last year’s model. Its height is 160.7 millimeters, which is 6.33 inches.

And if we move to this year, the iPhone 15 Pro Max, it’s decreased to 159.9 millimeters or 6.29 inches.

Judy: [laughs]

Jonathan: Oh wow! Okay.


Judy: No wonder they didn’t mention it.


Heidi: 0.8 millimeters, or 0.04 inches.


Jonathan: Right.

Heidi: So it’s very very small, not much.

However, I’ve got the weights as well. So the 14 Pro Max weighed 120 grams, which is 8.47 ounces, and the 15 Pro Max weighs 221 grams or 7.81 ounces. So that, you should be able to feel.

Jonathan: Right. All right. So the decrease in the height is really inconsequential.

Judy: [laughs]

Heidi: Yes. [laughs]

Jonathan: Now, we’ve got an A17 chip. Is that what we’re up to? Yeah, A17 chip.

And I should say that the iPhone 15, not the Pro, but the 15 has the previous year’s chip from the Pro. This is a pattern that Apple chose to get into last year, where they want to upsell you on the Pro. And to do that, they basically give you last year’s chip in the non-Pro models, and the latest and greatest in the Pro.

So you’ve got the A17, all sorts of interesting things talked about there.

But the one that stood out for me (and maybe there were others that stood out for other people) was that the Pro has a different USB-C controller in it. And that supports USB-C version 3, which will give you up to 10 gigabits per second speed, potentially.

And what that made me think was, and I think the user experience might be different on the Mac, but it is so frustrating to me that given that this is designed for Pro people to get things on and off the device, or particularly off the device, that you still, at least in Windows, just can’t connect this thing and have it come up as a drive in File Explorer. And why Apple can’t make it so that, okay, I get that they don’t want people fossicking around in the operating system and changing files and things. I completely understand that. But surely the music, the videos, those key user-centric folders should be exposed to users where you can just copy things across and back off it.

Judy: I use Dropbox for that.

Mike: Yeah.

Jonathan: Right. But then, you can’t use the native apps.

Judy: Yes, true.

Jonathan: I mean, I actually use Walter Pro for that because Walter Pro allows you to use the native apps. If you copy music across or ringtones across, then they all sync to their right place.

But you know, you shouldn’t have to have a third-party utility to do something so basic.

And this is one of the things that, you know, Android users quite rightly talk about all the time. Why do they lock it down? Well, I won’t get that.

Judy: I wonder if that will change. I would think if it’s going to change, they would have talked about it.

Jonathan: Yes. I doubt it. I don’t think I’ll ever get that.

Judy: So what’s this advantage of this super high-speed, fabulous data transfer?

Jonathan: Well, I’m sure the Mac users will chime in. But if you connect your iPhone to the Mac, I think it’s a little bit more welcoming.

Judy: Ah. Good point.

Jonathan: And so you will be able to transfer your photos and videos, particularly if you’re doing really high-resolution, even spatial videos, which we’ll talk about in a bit. Those files will be massive. So if you need to transfer them back onto a Mac, then it’s way quick, super quick. That’s pretty exciting.

I don’t know whether anything else stood out for the A17 chip for people, but that was the one. I mean, it’s faster, it’s better, all those usual things.

Now, can we come back to the camera then?

In the iPhone 15 Pro, the first thing is really easy to say, and that is that you don’t get LiDAR unless you go Pro. And that’s becoming increasingly valid for blind people to think about.

Have you had a play with the new feature that’s supposed to help?

Judy: I have. I upgraded my test phone to a 12 Pro, just so that I could play with point and speak.

Jonathan: That’s right, yeah, point and speak.

Judy: And I have been so disappointed. It’s a fundamental conceptual flaw, in my opinion.

The way this works, you show a display, a touchscreen display. And I actually played with using 2 phones, just so that I would be sure that I really did know what was going on. And you show the display to the phone. Then, you put your finger there, and it says finger detected.

But the challenge for a blind person is to move your finger around on this touchscreen in such a way that the phone can still tell where you are, but you’re not touching it. And so you need to stay something like a quarter of an inch, or 2 millimeters away from the phone or the display without touching.

I can’t do it. I cannot reliably do it.

Mike: So basically, by the time you move your finger from where it is pointing to where it’s touching, it’s moved.

Judy: No, that’s not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is by the time you move your finger from where it is to another place to hear what that button is, you’ve managed to touch it inadvertently. It’s the inadvertent touching that I have the problem with, and touching just the right place.

But it’s very very difficult. I’ve tried it many many times. I’ve tried it with sighted people watching, trying to offer suggestions. I can’t do it.

I mean, I’m going to be very very interested to hear the kind of success that other blind people have with this because I want to know if they come up with a good way to do it. I want to hear it. [laughs]

Jonathan: I have not had too much of a chance to play with this because my test phone is like an iPhone 11, I think, 11 Pro. And so some of these newer features were not working, including point and speak.

But I did upgrade iOS 17 onto my main device just a couple of weeks ago, when most of the really hideous issues with Braille that were stopping Mantis from working got resolved.

And I’m wondering, do you find that it works okay with devices that have physical buttons that you don’t know what they do? For example, you might be using a microwave in a stranger’s house, or a kitchen somewhere that you’re not familiar with that has physical buttons. Does it work in that use case?

Judy: I have not tried it in that use case.

Jonathan: Okay. Yeah. I need to play with this some more as well.

Judy: Yes. I need to play with it some more. But every time I try it, … Because I’ve tried it on my air fryer, which is a touchscreen and things like that, and it just hasn’t worked.

Jonathan: Wow!

Judy: I mean, it works. I mean, the technology works. It’s me. [laughs]

Jonathan: So how close do you have to be hovering your finger above the screen for it to correlate that that’s what you are interested in?

Judy: I’d say within a half an inch.

Jonathan: Right. Okay. Yeah, I see what you’re saying.

So if you were, say, learning to operate a washing machine, and Bonnie, please don’t get ideas that I would learn to operate the washing machine.


Jonathan: No, I actually do know how to do that. [laughs]

But if you were learning how to do that, you could have the appliance off, right? I mean, yeah, maybe not, because some of those touchscreens need to be powered on.

Judy: No, I don’t think so.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Judy: I think you couldn’t do it with the appliance off.

Jonathan: Right. Yeah, I see what you’re saying. Yeah, alright, we’ll play with this.

Other LiDAR features that are blindness-specific include the people detection feature and the door detection feature. And there are some third-party apps in the blindness space that are using LiDAR, like Seeing AI, and I think there’s a SuperSense option that uses LiDAR.

Judy: Yes, yes.

Jonathan: So how much of a must-have do you think LiDAR is, given some of these blindness use cases?

Judy: In my opinion, PeopleSense works really well. And if you are frequently in a situation, especially where you need to follow a line where people move, and you have your phone positioned in such a way, it’s one of those things where it really does need to be straight on and right in front of you. So having it in a lanyard around your neck or something is a good way to do it. And it will work extremely well at telling you when the person in front of you moves away, how far away they are, and then as you move up to that person, how close you’re getting. And that’s a very reliable and really a very nice and subtle way to use that feature.

Door detection is very much of a hit or miss. I wouldn’t even give it 50% accuracy.

Let’s see. There’s been text detection. It’s so-so.

Jonathan: Right.

Judy: In my opinion, unless you have a very specific use case, these things don’t work all that well to make it worth it.

Jonathan: My perception is that a lot of this has been proof of concept, and that it makes a lot more sense that Apple has invested so much time in this when you know that the Vision Pro is coming. And I think, a lot of this has been proprietary for that device. And I think we might find quite a lot of utility that we don’t get with the phone when Vision Pro comes out. But that’s my theory.

Judy: Speaking of Apple’s efforts, there are things that Apple has done that I think are really quite extraordinary that hardly anyone ever talks about. And one of them is the audio displays in the weather app.

Jonathan: Yes, I agree, the audio graphs.

Judy: I love them. I think they’re just amazing.

And now, they have weather maps, and they’re really nice, and they work well. You’ve got to learn how to zoom in. I don’t really need to know the weather in Toronto right now, but you know, I want to know where the thunderstorm is near me. So there is a bit of work to get it to give you what you actually want. But you can do it. You can do it, and it’s really fun.

Jonathan: Yeah, I agree. I like checking my water intake and all sorts of things, and you just hear the little peaks and troughs of the graph.

Judy: Yeah.

Jonathan: It’s very very well implemented. we’ve been asking for better access to visual data like this for a long time.

Judy: And it’s great.

Jonathan: Yeah. Apple has delivered there.

Do you like those, Mike? Do you find those helpful?

Mike: Yeah, those graphs, especially. I haven’t really played with the maps too much.

But the graphs where you can go into battery, and you can get the graphs to give you an audio indication of the peaks and valleys, and really get a sense of when your phone is charged up, you know, how long between, what apps are doing what, that can be really useful.

And in the health app as well is another place where you find it.

So yeah, there’s a lot of features there that I very much appreciate. I’m completely with Judy on that. There’s a lot there that, yeah, really slides under the radar in a lot of ways.

Jonathan: And third-party apps utilize them, too. My wonderful WaterMinder app, which I really like a lot, has implemented this. So they have exposed it to third-parties who want to use it. it’s brilliant!

Judy: Yeah, we should be encouraging more third-parties to use it.

Jonathan: Yes.

Mike: Yup.

Jonathan: I agree.

I’m going to take another quick and final break, as we continue our look at the Apple event here on Living Blindfully.


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Jonathan: Welcome back to our final segment.

I just want to talk a bit more about the camera system in the iPhone Pro, because people want to know whether it’s really worth having to spend that extra money, which can be very scarce for many people, on the Pro to get the better camera.

Do you have a feel for this one, Judy? How much value would it really be for the average daily use case of many of us?

Judy: Yeah. I think use case is exactly where it’s at.

And I’ve been wondering about the periscope feature on the Pro Max. Should I get a Max this year? Is this camera feature worth it?

I don’t use the telephoto very often. So if I did, if I was into outdoor photography, or needed to have information about something that was taking place at a distance and I had that use case in my life, it’s possible that it could make a real difference for someone who needed to do that sort of thing.

But I think it seems to be mostly for the telephoto. So if someone doesn’t have that kind of use case, then that feature isn’t going to make much difference.

So I think in general, the camera features for everyday scanning and, you know, Aira-type situations, indoor situations, I think probably won’t be. It’s incremental, probably won’t be huge.

Jonathan: I did actually brief Heidi. And I said, Heidi, I’m pretty sure that there’s going to be a periscope type feature in the 15 Pro Max. And we should try and understand what that means. What does it mean, Heidi? What does it mean?

Heidi: Well, to clarify, it doesn’t have a periscope.

Judy: No, not a physical periscope.

Jonathan: Right.

Heidi: No. But what they’ve done is on the 15 Pro Max, the telephoto can be up to a 5 time zoom, rather than a 3 time zoom, which is on the 15 Pro. And then the previous generations, I think. So it’s much more zoomy.

And they’ve used a series of little mirrors to extend the distance between the camera lens and the camera sensor to get that distance. So you can get the higher level zoom.

Jonathan: Is this the first time that there’s been a feature difference between the Pro and the Pro Max? It’s not common.

Judy: No, no. We had stabilisation.

Jonathan: Oh yes, of course we did.

Judy: Yeah.

Jonathan: That was a big one for many of us.

Judy: It was big. Yes, it was painful because I didn’t get a Max and I really wondered how much that would make. [laughs] Because I mean, stabilisation is huge.

Jonathan: Yes.

Judy: And I mean, telephoto is a lot less.

Jonathan: Stabilisation is now in the Pro as well, right?

Judy: Yes, it is.

Jonathan: Yeah. So that is pretty important.

Okay. So it sounds like, you know, if the LiDAR stuff doesn’t float your boat, like playing with the speak and, … What did you say it was called?

Judy: Point and speak.

I don’t want to be too negative about LiDAR because it’s awfully fun to play with.

Jonathan: Yeah, it is fun to play with.

Judy: It is really really fun to play with. And if fun to play with is something that you like, then the LiDAR stuff is great. And the people detection is quite fabulous. The door detection is amusing. [laughs]

But I mean you know, we need to support these things so they’ll get better.

Jonathan: Yup.

You can also record, if you want, video to an external drive. Now, that was very interesting to me because it sounds like Apple is going to, with these Pro devices and the USB-C, of course, which the 15 Pro also has, really help you to use peripherals like this. So I’ll be intrigued to see how well that’s integrated into the files app and where that goes.

But you’re also able to capture spatial video. So if you are recording on your iPhone Pro Max and or your Pro and you want to play it back on your Apple Vision Pro headset, then you can do that.

Well, Okay. Now, pricing. They’ve made some changes here. So the Pro model starts at $999. But the Max starts at $1,199, which I believe is a hundred dollars more than the base price last year.

Heidi: 2.

Jonathan: But to compensate for that, the base model of the 15 Pro Max is 256 gigs of storage. Do we know how high it goes up, Heidi? Are we able to find out what the storage options are?

Judy: They didn’t say.

Heidi: So we have the 128 on just the Pro, not the Pro Max, and then 256, 512 and 1 terabyte on both.

Jonathan: Okay.

Mike: So the ceiling is still 1 terabyte.

Judy: Huh!

Mike: I would have thought that would have gone up.

Jonathan: Yes. Yes. I think there was some suggestion that if they were going to raise the base model of the Max, they would also raise the upper model and give us a 2 terabyte. I mean, what are you going to do with 2 terabytes? I hate to sound like a Luddite, but that’s a lot of storage on a portable device.

Mike: [laughs]

Jonathan: But I’m sure there’ll be somebody who needs it.

Judy: I’m still getting 256, and I’m not filling it.

Jonathan: Right.

Judy: And I have over 600 apps on my phone.

Jonathan: Oh my goodness me! Name them, Judy.


Mike: I have 512 on my phone, and I have had it pretty full. II’ve had to delete stuff off of it every once in a while to get back down to manageable amounts. [laughs]

Jonathan: Yeah. That’s frustrating, isn’t it?

Mike: So it can happen.

But the cloud space, that gets increased. You can get iCloud plus up to, I think it was 6 terabytes now.

Jonathan: And 12.

Mike: And 12.

Jonathan: So about a 6 TB and a 12 TB plan coming next week. Yeah.

Mike: I have no idea what I’m going to use that for.


Jonathan: Yeah.

Judy: Photos, movies.

Jonathan: Yes, exactly. Yeah. Living Blindfully episodes.


Jonathan: Some people may be disappointed. I believe the iPhone mini is dropped today. They didn’t do a new iPhone mini last year, but they kept it in the lineup. And I believe it is now out of the lineup.

And if you want a smaller form factor, you’ve got the iPhone SE still, which comes in at $499 US as its base price.

Heidi: $429.

Jonathan: Oh, good.

Judy: Ooh! That’s not bad.

Jonathan: Well, just saved 70 bucks right there.

Heidi: [laughs]

Jonathan: And I understand that the new iPhone SE is being worked on and that it will have Face ID. So for people who are hanging on to the iPhone SE because of Touch ID, I think that we may be running out of runway there.

But I also hear that Apple is continuing to work on underscreen fingerprint sensing to bring Touch ID back in a new form. So that may come in the 16. It’s definitely not in this one.

And that’s what they told us. Should we just do a quick round robin?

Mike, what did you think of the event in terms of wow-ment factor?

Mike: Well, I mean the cameras, I can see why, especially Pro users might really revel in that.

I guess for me, one of the things is getting that A16 chip into the 15, the basic 15 models.

That, of course, is one of the things that will cause an immense amount of joy in the blind community is finally having a system to tell whether the phone is turning on or off with the chimes.

Jonathan: Ah, yes.

Judy: I love that.

Jonathan: Very good point.

Judy: I love that.

Jonathan: Yeah. Me, too.

Mike: And presumably, that will now be in the base. You won’t have to get the Pro to get those chimes at the very least. So that would be excellent if that ends out.

Jonathan: It’s a very important point.

Judy: Mm-hmm.

Mike: Yeah, but they didn’t mention that.

For me, I mean the watch, I can wait another year for the watch. The phone, I’m really on the fence. The 15, that does have enough versus my 13 to begin to interest me. I don’t feel, oh, I have to have this immediately kind of pull, but I have a might be useful kind of pull. So they’ve at least reached that point, especially with the USB-C move. That would be kind of useful, and certainly reduce the amount of cables that I carry.

Jonathan: Yes. It’s nice not to have to worry about lightning anymore, right?

Mike: Yeah.

Jonathan: Yeah. But we all, the three of us on the program who are blind are in two-blind-person households. And it occurs to me that there could be a strong case to say well, given how easy it is to locate one another with these new devices, it could get quite expensive if both members of the couple want the 15-something to take advantage of that new finding feature. [laughs]

Mike: Yeah.

Judy: I think the finding feature is very huge, especially because my spouse is significantly hearing impaired. And so finding him sometimes is actually quite difficult, like in an exhibit hall or some place like that.

Right now, we use tiles to do it. I use the tile app on my watch and activate the tile that he’s carrying, so that I can hear where he is.

Jonathan: Right.

Judy: And it does work. But I mean, a more subtle way would be much appreciated.

Jonathan: And even with the version 1 of the chip, the precision finding, in my experience, with AirTags was better than finding with tile, in terms of just getting you right up to the thing.

Judy: Yes, but it didn’t know when there were things around,…

Jonathan: Right.

Judy: so it directed you Through walls, … [laughs]

Jonathan: [laughs] Through walls.

Judy: over tables. [laughs] So having audio that you could actually hear would be nice.

Jonathan: Yeah, that’s a very good point. So that’s quite an exciting use case for blind people.

And we’ll leave you the final word, Judy.

So Heidi, what’s your thoughts on … Is there anything that stood out for you in terms of the new lineup?

Heidi: I just really like the colors. [laughs]

Jonathan: [laughs] Good on you.

Heidi: I’d probably get one if I could, but I don’t have the budget for it.

Jonathan: Okay. So your color recommendations are what?

Heidi: So for the 15, I really really like the green. I think it’s very pretty, and with like gender-neutral sort of thing, so like anyone could rock it. Not that gender matters. But you know what I mean?

Jonathan: I do. I have to think of these things because my phones seem to get passed down through the generations.

Heidi: That’s true.

The pros, we didn’t actually discuss the colors. They come in black titanium, white titanium, blue titanium, or natural titanium, which is a gray color.

Jonathan: Spam, spam, sausage and spam?

Mike: [laughs]

Judy: Hmm.

Heidi: Yeah. I mean, I don’t know. They all feel kind of boring.

Judy: Should I get the white, or the black?

Jonathan: Yeah. Which one should I get, Heidi?

Heidi: Uh, I don’t know. I’m partial to the white ones because I like how they’re light, like they look lighter. And often, I put them down on dark surfaces. So it’s easier to find my phone if I’ve put it somewhere stupid.

Judy: I think I’ll get the white.

Jonathan: Okay. So that could be a factor for people with low vision as well then. Which one might be the most visible?

Heidi: Yeah. If you have a lot of dark surfaces, a white one would be good. If you have a lot of light surfaces, a black one would be good. So it depends on that.

Judy: Hmm.

Jonathan: Okay.

Heidi: The blue is nice.

Jonathan: And the watch? You like the pink watch, right?

Heidi: The pink watch is very pretty. [laughs]

Jonathan: Right. Okay. Very good.

And final thoughts from you, Judy?

Judy: Well, I’m definitely going to get a new phone, and I will probably get the 15 Pro.

Doug has the Max. And every so often, I say, let me hold your phone just to see how it feels.

Jonathan: [laughs] When you put it in your hand for the first time, it is monstrous. But you get used to it.

Judy: Every time I put it in my hand, it just feels so monstrous.


Judy: And I have fairly small hands. And I don’t think that in the end, I would like that for any length of time.

So I’m probably going to get the 15 Pro, but I haven’t decided yet about the watch.

But I do think the improvement in Siri … And I keep losing my…

I like the Siri voice. And about once a week, it all of a sudden reverts to the Samantha voice for no apparent reason. And I have to turn it completely off and restart it to get my Siri voice back. I’m very annoyed about this.

So the 6 is getting just a little buggy.

Jonathan: Right.

And iOS 17 will be out next week. What are you liking and not liking about iOS 17?

Judy: Oh, I just want Braille Screen Input.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Judy: [laughs]

Jonathan: It’s interesting how much control you’re given now over speech parameters. I mean particularly with Eloquence, they’ve just gone, you know, way granular in the way you can configure speech. It’s quite extraordinary.

Some of the Vocalizer voices are a bit…

I found the personal voice inaccessible, basically. I haven’t had a play in the last build, to be fair. So maybe they fixed it.

But I went through all the training and set up my personal voice, only to find that it was actually quite difficult for a blind person to use on a daily basis. And that’s disappointing.

So yes, it’s kind of an incremental update this time, isn’t it?

Judy: Yes, it is. There’s nothing terribly exciting in there.

Jonathan: Wonderful. As always, I really appreciate all of you taking time out of your day to recap the event. I love this time of year, and this get-together as well.

So we’ll look forward to being in touch in the future.

Mike: Absolutely.

Judy: Thank you very much.


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Jonathan: And of course, we welcome your feedback on the Apple event. Is there something in particular that interests you, that encourages you to either purchase something new or set it out for this year? is my email. You can attach an audio clip to that email, or you can write it down.

You can also call our listener line on 864-60-Mosen. That’s 864-606-6736.

I look forward to hearing what you have to say, what you think of it all.

Remember that when you’re out there with your guide dog, you’ve harnessed success. And with your cane, you’re able.


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If you’d like to submit a comment for possible inclusion in future episodes, be in touch via email,. Write it down, or send an audio attachment: Or phone us. The number in the United States is 864-60-Mosen. That’s 864-606-6736.