January 8, 2012

The day iPhone turned its VoiceOver option on.

I had a hell of a time this morning after iPhone — on its own somehow — started behaving as if I'd turned on what I eventually figured out was a function designed to help the visually impaired. Suddenly, it spoke aloud everything that appeared on the screen, including the demand that I enter my security code.

But it wouldn't receive my security code in the normal way — apparently because the method of entering numbers is different once you activate the VoiceOver feature. You can interact with Siri without entering the code, but Siri would not respond to multiple different efforts at telling it to turn off VoiceOver. I'd used my laptop to search and figure out that the thing that was driving me nuts was called VoiceOver. I had many interactions with Siri like:
I do not want to hear VoiceOver.

If you don't want it, don't want it.
I worried that some extravagant virus had taken over iPhone, coopting Siri and who know what else. Why didn't Siri understand references to a feature within the iPhone software? Siri was acting insolent and obtuse, taunting me!

Eventually, using the laptop, I found instructions about how to use iTunes on the laptop screen to turn off VoiceOver in the iPhone. But, man, that was nuts.

What if I had been out with my iPhone without my laptop? What would I have done? And VoiceOver was making noise, including saying the numerals of my security code out loud. This would have been crazy in a public place!


The Crack Emcee said...

If you don't want it, don't want it.


Welcome to The Zen Of Steve Jobs - back from the grave,...

Freeman Hunt said...

Ha ha. The exact same thing happened to me with my Chromebook several months ago.

purplepenquin said...

I do not want to hear VoiceOver.

"I'm sorry Ann, but I can't let you do that"

Jose_K said...

Lucky you, siri did not insulted you like it did to a 13 yo in the UK

MayBee said...

This is my complaint about Apple products. They rely a little too much on the assumption they know what is intuitive to the user.

edutcher said...

What I dislike about some software companies, the attitude they know what you want better than you do.

To the surprise of no one, they seem to favor one party over the other.

Curious George said...

"MayBee said...
This is my complaint about Apple products. They rely a little too much on the assumption they know what is intuitive to the user."

Rely on? The built a business around it. Wake up before they come out with the iJumpoffacliff 1. Hint: There will be no need for a second generation...

Freeman Hunt said...

This is my complaint about Apple products. They rely a little too much on the assumption they know what is intuitive to the user.

I agree.

I think you once also noted how hard it is for the user to fix things that have gone wrong in Apple products because so much is assumed in the name of user friendliness.

I agree with that too.

We used to own part of a computer repair shop. The techs hated working on Macs compared to PCs. That has also been my experience in maintaining both PCs and Macs at home.

Macs are beautiful, luxury products that require greater upgrades and more expensive maintenance. Yet they're marketed as everyman machines, and people go for it.

So it goes. Everyone gets to buy what he wants.

Chip Ahoy said...

I've had to ask the internet every single little thing about my Blackberry. It is simply the most least intuitive thing I ever touched. The manual is useless.

"how do I turn off this fucking blackberry?"

Turns out, a million people asked that exact same question.

Eventually it does make sense, but only on planet RIM so you must mentally go to planet RIM every time you want to use your phone. Apparently the inhabitants of RIM have remarkably tiny fingers.

EDH said...

"This would have been crazy in a public place!"

Yea, like a courtroom.

When it does that, here's what you should do to that iPhone: stomp it to death!

Joe Schmoe said...

My dad turned on Filter Keys in Windows once by accident. It's a feature for disabled users. You have to hold down a key for 8 seconds to get it to type the character for that key. We had no clue at first what was going on. I troubleshot it with him over the phone; took almost 2 hours to figure it out. What a PITA.

Of course my father doesn't help by pounding every key on the keyboard just because the computer is taking a few seconds to process a task...

cassandra lite said...

"What if I had been out with my iPhone without my laptop? What would I have done?"

You would have turned it off.

Jose_K said...

Yet they're marketed as everyman machines, ? apple double the price of the competitors. they are for the elite snd the geek

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Just what we all need.

Insulting snarky appliances with teenage personalities that secretly roll their (virtual) eyes at us behind our backs.

Kylos said...

Jose_K, I'd hardly characterize a demo model prank as Siri's fault. Siri often refers to the phone owner by name and some prankster thought it would be funny to change the name to a vulgar insult. No more remarkable than someone changing the desktop of a demo PC to porn.

Freeman, all due respect, but there's nothing really so difficult with maintaining a Mac vs. a PC. You and your techs were probably just more familiar with Windows systems.

MayBee, I'm not sure how your complaint with Apple products corresponds to the post. For the handicapped, Apple's accessibility features are extremely beneficial, but in general they can be quite aggravating for those without physical limitations. How is it a problem with Apple products in particular that a bug should cause annoying behavior?

Don't Tread 2012 said...

Well at least Siri didn't curse you out, I have seen the reports.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

Kylos must be greek for 'group counterpointer'.

Freeman Hunt said...

Freeman, all due respect, but there's nothing really so difficult with maintaining a Mac vs. a PC. You and your techs were probably just more familiar with Windows systems.

Yes, there is a big difference. Macs are designed with almost no concern for backwards compatibility. This can be extremely problematic. In the past the architecture has also been much less convenient to work on.

Kylos said...

I read the original report; it's quite clear it was a prank where someone changed the owner name of the phone.Sure, it's not fun to have a phone call you names in public, but the only reason this is even news is that the prank was pulled with a new feature on a new product.

I don't like rampant misinformed commentary. If I have to be the one that looks like a dork contradicting it all, so be it.

Lem said...

Itunes reinstalled in my computer and wiped out all my favorite settings, playlists, smart playlists, play counts.. and when it re-imported all the music tracks all the tracks that were unchecked were now checked back on.

I called Apple and they suggested that I restore the backup.. the problem was the latest backup was several months old.. and it didn't keep play counts nor which tracks were on or off nor the star rating I had so meticulously assigned.

To make matters worst, I had gone in and reassigned the year on tracks that were re-releases so i could make better use of the smart decade playlist.

I've considered not redoing it because I have to go to Wikipedia and other sources for it.. its mindnumbingly time consuming..

TuneUp dosent do it.. not to mention its unreliable.

Its going to take me months.. maybe years to get it back to where it was.

Cant say it sucks because other than the old Sony Walkman.. its the only thing I've known.

Kylos said...

Freeman, I can't argue with that. But backwards compatibility is a double-edged sword. It can get in the way of useful innovation.

Joe Schmoe said...

Okay, so I'll prop up both sides with my own anecdotal information.

My friendly neighborhood computer tech says they get way more requests to fix Windows systems than Macs. He sees Macs as more stable; fewer issues. He owns Macs himself.

Now conversely, he admits that there are way more Windows systems out there, so numbers alone can affect rate of repairs (not just actual quality and stability of systems). And the other thing, Mac hardware is so integrated (something repeated ad nauseum in the Jobs bio) that if something goes wrong with it, you're basically looking at a full replacement. It's not just a matter of swapping out a component, typically, like you would with a Windows system. I experienced this first-hand when my 'logic board' on my Macbook pro failed. Replacing the logic board was almost as much as getting a brand new Macbook.

I have become agnostic regarding computers, operating systems, and the like. Shit happens to all of them.

Kylos said...

And I'll add, I agree there's a difference, but different != difficult. I think in this case difficulty is mostly a function of lack of familiarity vs. Windows systems (and perhaps some level of disregard for backward compatibility).

MayBee said...

MayBee, I'm not sure how your complaint with Apple products corresponds to the post.

Apple assumes the features they give you are both features you want and easy to work with. When things go wrong- or you end up with feature you don't want- their over-reliance on assuming the user will figure out what to do makes it frustrating for the user. Not you, apparently, but for many users.

There are tons of things I love about Apple, but I usually dread hitting "yes" on "update to latest software?" for my iPhone or iTunes.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

ITunes is not very intuitive.

I like the simplicity of my Sansa .mp3 player. Drag and drop, no 'syncing' or other confusing nomenclature.

I gladly eschew the detectable snob appeal of Apple in favor of the Windows/Linux-based PC.

rhhardin said...

Old 70s automation joke with fly by wire airplanes


Computers are general purpose at not working as well as working.

Dad29 said...

At some point in time, it will occur to the American public that there technology is getting in the way of life.

Your moment is coming soon, Professor A.

rhhardin said...

An elevator pummelled Woody Allen after Allen had had to discipline his toaster.

"Are you the guy who hit the toaster?"

Robert Cook said...

Why would you need to use iTunes to turn off Voiceover on your iPhone?

On your iPhone, you simply go to Settings>General>
Accessibility>Voiceover:"off" or "on"

I didn't already know where to find this and I didn't look it up on Apple's website to find out...I just started looking to see where (or if) I could find it, and it took me all of 30 seconds or so.

Methadras said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carnifex said...

I have a three y.o. razr, and it does more than I want.

What I want a phone to do.

1) make phone calls reliably, with no dropping of calls.

That's it.
I don't want to text message with my phone.

I don't want to play games on my phone.

I don't want to take pictures with my phone.

I don't want to get on-line, read the news, watch the big game, locate me, locate a restaurant, tell me I'm fat, listen to music, or talk to me.

I have other devices designed specifically for those functions.

Call me a luddite if you must.

Just calls.

Nothing else.