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Accessibility in Tech: The Benefits and Pitfalls of iOS and Android

The incredible advancements in technology over the past few decades have shaped the way that we as humans interact. Every new piece of hardware and every software update further enhances the user experience, but what have these tech giants done to focus on specific individuals that don’t have the means to properly utilize their products?

On whatever device you are reading this on right now, there is a suite of accessibility features that makes the interaction with said phone, computer, or tablet easier. Two widely used operating systems are iOS, created by Apple, and Android, currently maintained by Google, both of which can be found in a majority of the phones sold today. Because of their massive popularity, measures have been taken to make their usability easier and after using both of them for an extensive period of time I have come across plenty of benefits and tradeoffs to using both that directly effect able body individuals and those with a disability.

Smart Assistants

Made popular in the year 2011, Apple gave life to their smart assistant Siri and revolutionized the way consumers interact with their phone. This assistant took advantage of the user’s voice and made mundane tasks easier to complete than ever before. Fast forward to the current year, 2020, and Siri has been passed with other companies like Google and Amazon creating their own respective assistant’s that are lightyears ahead of what Apple has created. On an Android phone, the experience of speaking to your phone is easier, more reliable, and more intuitive. For anyone that has trouble using the touch screen on their device, going with an Android phone might be the best option in this case for an overall better voice experience.

What I find interesting from these smart assistants like Siri and Google Assistant is that it helps the general populous and not just those unable to swiftly use their touch screen and buttons. So many people rely on speaking to their phone that it’s become a common way to complete tasks like sending messages and finding information. This is a great example of how universal design is beneficial to all, and there is not company that knows this better than Apple which will become more apparent as we break down more comparisons.

General Accessibility

Entering the accessibility menu on both and Android and iOS device shows just how much time and though goes into making these devices accessible for all. I sifted through the available options and find it interesting to see two different companies’ takes on what a user needs to make use of their device. You see what settings are prioritized and which are crammed in at the bottom. With the accessibility features being easy to find on iOS devices and with a plethora of options not found on their counterpart Android, it leads me to conclude iOS caters to everyone with different ways to control their devices. 

Overall Compatibility

The topic of universal design is one we discussed all year through many of the readings and discussions. Apple is at an advantage because they design their software for their own hardware whereas Android is used with quite literally thousands of devices. This means features need to be made with a lot of different designs and pieces of hardware in mind. While each respective manufacturer can create their own version of Android for their devices, it still leads to issues that simply aren’t found in an iOS device.

This gives Apple the ability to build their phones features into apps available on the App Store. An example of this is Face ID, so rather than make someone use their password to log into Facebook or YouTube, they can just use their face. This example of universal design is beneficial for everyone. Perhaps a better example is Siri integration within apps that allow different actions to be controlled with the users voice.

It’s apparent that the attention to detail and continuity Apple presents in their products pose to be a better option for most people. Wow, that comment might have pissed PC users off, but it’s true. For an everyday person that uses their phone or computer for mundane tasks like surfing the internet, responding to email, and indulging in some light content creation, an Apple product will suit them perfectly. I can see that this is relatively the case on campus because Ii notice the Mac’s fill up in the library and common spaces before their PC counterparts. Is this because they are easier to use? It is because they are “cooler?” I personally think it’s a mixture of both, but when it comes to accessibility in tech, Apple just gets it.

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