DO NOT TALKBACK. Well, on Jellybean, anyway.

Today’s round up was another series of “tips and tricks” for Jellybean. It started innocently enough. I learned how to disable notifications at the source (per app), how to add text info to your lock screen (so you can have owner data available when you’re phone is locked in case you drop it and want it back), and then I saw this feature, “Talkback” that looked kind of cool: it’s an accessibility feature that reads the screens and options to you (and more if you like).

Let me just repeat the title of this article. Do not engage Talkback. Seriously. When they put it under “Accessibility” I feel they did so to check a checkbox on a list that says, “yep, screen reader is enabled” and the Devil rubbed his hands together and clapped shortly thereafter.

But first, the fun, non-demonic things I learned:

You can disable notifications on a per Application basis. I find this useful because, as you probably read in my post on Fremium, I have The Simpsons Tapped Out game on my device. When a notification comes in, not only does it appear in my notification bar, but Homer shouts something “funny.” If you have your phone turned up so that you can hear it ring, this means that everyone around you can hear Homer. Then you have to explain that it’s not a text message or email or your ringtone, its your little fun game. And with the “quests” assigned in the game, these shouts can come every 45 seconds to every hour.

I had simply been turning the ringer off, but since I’m currently engaged in a search for work (like a quest for fire, but with electronics), this is not working out for me. So disengaging Homer shouting things like “Better them than me!” and still being able to hear when a potential job prospect called seemed the best option.

To do so, open Settings -> Application Manager (or Manage Applications, or Applications) and look for the program in question. At the top, underneath Force Stop and Uninstall, is “Show notifications” with a checkbox.

ImageUncheck the checkbox, agree to the pop-up (which warns you that you may now miss notifications from this app) and suddenly those notifications stop. Success!

Next, I poked around at being able to add text to my lock screen; sometimes you leave your phone somewhere, and if you’re security concious you have it locked. However, that means its REALLY hard to figure out to whom the phone belongs. So, adding text to the lock screen lets you do things like put your name and/or email or (other) phone number so you can get the phone back. Obviously, you don’t want to put the cell phone number on there (or they’ll end up calling your locked phone) or any really private info, just enough to find your phone. Or you can put an odd or funny phrase on there to make it easier to reclaim it when you go to “Lost and Found.”

I lost my phone.

Really? How do I know this is your phone?

It says “You remind me of the man/What man/The man with the power/What power?/The power of voodoo/Who do?/You do/What?/Remind me of the man” on the lock screen.

To do this, go to Settings -> Lock Screen (or on some devices, Settings->Security) and select “Owner Information.” Enter the information you want to appear on your lock screen here. Make sure “Show owner info on lock screen” is checked, click “OK” and you’re done.

Now, for the terror that is Talkback. As noted above, Talkback is an accessibility feature for users who cannot see or cannot see very well; it reads the screens and the options available, and the options selected. Its effectively like a web page screen reader or the screen reader option available through Windows or Mac.

At first, like many others on the net, I found it kind of fun. It quickly turned into a nightmare when I realized I suddenly had lost my ability to scroll. Okay, I didn’t REALLY lose the ability, but there are no instructions on how to scroll after you’ve enabled it, which means as soon as you leave the page with the Talkback option, you have a very, very hard time navigating back. Or, well, navigating ANYWHERE.

Worse, logging back into my phone became an exciting journey of yelling at the phone, tapping repeatedly, and having the robot voice tell me patiently the time, that I was using Sprint, and reading the unlock instructions to me, which didn’t actually work very well. Fortunately she was very patient, and my co-workers were amused by my swearing.

The trick is to scroll using two fingers in this mode. To get past the lock screen, it involves double tapping, using two fingers to scroll, and prayer. Or blood sacrifice. I think I might not get good parking karma for weeks after being able to get through the lock screen. In any case, after a lot of two finger scrolling attempts, I eventually disabled Talkback and I have never been so happy.

I had hoped to talk about Talkback as an awesome feature in my onward pursuit of finding ways to make my device more automated and capable of talking to me as well as enabling me to talk to others. Instead, I leave you with this warning: if you need to use Talkback for accessibility reasons, go ahead and enable it. If you’re interested in it for a lark, or to see what it does, pretend you can’t scroll on your phone for at least 20 minutes, and you’ve now experienced it at its prime. Some folks with no access to the Internet to look up the issue spent 2 or more hours trying to regain control of their phones. Shiver.

So, I hope you have learned from my mistake, and that you have also picked up a cool thing or two along the way. More Jellybean tidbits in the future, and maybe some more live wallpaper reviews. All kinds of cool stuff is coming out for spring…

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One response to “DO NOT TALKBACK. Well, on Jellybean, anyway.

  1. Pingback: DO NOT TALKBACK. Well, On Jellybean, Anyway | Android Dissected

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