The FlickType keyboard running on an iPhone.
Enlarge / FlickType iPhone keyboard.

An iPhone keyboard for blind customers can be discontinued, in response to the app’s developer, who alleges that “Apple has thrown us impediment after impediment for years whereas we attempt to present an app to enhance individuals’s lives.”

FlickType consists of an Apple Watch keyboard and the iPhone keyboard supposed for blind and low-vision customers of VoiceOver, an Apple expertise that may converse the important thing a consumer selects. FlickType’s Apple Watch keyboard will proceed, not less than for some time, however the iPhone keyboard can be disabled.

“It is with a heavy coronary heart at the moment that we’re saying the discontinuation of our award-winning iPhone keyboard for blind customers,” the FlickType account on Twitter wrote yesterday. FlickType is developed by Kosta Eleftheriou, who lately filed a lawsuit alleging that Apple used its management over iPhone app distribution to induce him to promote FlickType to Apple at a reduction. He says he refused to promote the app.

Apple “incorrectly” rejected app replace

The final straw for FlickType’s keyboard extension got here final week when Eleftheriou “submitted an replace that fixes varied iOS 15-related points & improves the app for VoiceOver customers,” FlickType wrote. “However Apple rejected it. They incorrectly argue once more that our keyboard extension does not work with out ‘full entry,’ one thing they rejected us for THREE years in the past. Again then we efficiently appealed and overturned their choice, and this hadn’t been an issue since. Till now.”

FlickType mentioned it contacted Apple 9 occasions final week “with no success. At this level they appear to be ignoring our makes an attempt to contact them immediately, regardless of beforehand explicitly telling us to ‘be happy’ to contact them if we want ‘additional clarification.'”

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

The app’s App Retailer itemizing says, “FlickType keyboard is designed to be as accessible as doable on each iPhone and Apple Watch, that includes massive keys, high-contrast colours, distinguished visuals, and efficient VoiceOver suggestions. FlickType can converse again to you for a totally eyes-free writing expertise, enabling people who find themselves blind to sort simply as quick as everybody else.”

The American Basis for the Blind’s AccessWorld publication wrote an article in October 2018 about how FlickType solves an annoying downside for blind customers. “After I first started to make use of a smartphone, I discovered that essentially the most cumbersome facet was the touchscreen keyboard,” AccessWorld Editor-in-Chief Aaron Preece wrote. “Discovering the right secret is pretty easy, however the delay as you wait to listen to the identify of the targeted key provides a shocking period of time to the act of typing.” Preece discovered that “FlickType is rather more fluid to make use of than the default keyboard” and that when “FlickType predicts what I’ve typed appropriately, I discover it will increase the pace of my typing round 30 p.c or so.”

A Nationwide Federation of the Blind article referred to as FlickType “a a lot quicker expertise than the usual iOS keyboard.”

Keyboard works with out full entry

Apple rejected the app replace on August 13, sending Eleftheriou a notice that claims, “We observed that your keyboard extension doesn’t perform when the ‘Full Entry’ setting is toggled off. To resolve this subject, please revise your app to make sure that your keyboard extension is totally practical with or with out full community entry.”

Eleftheriou confirmed Ars the message from Apple, which contained a screenshot of the FlickType keyboard that asks customers to “please allow full entry for FlickType beneath the iOS Settings app.”

FlickType keyboard.

FlickType keyboard.

Kosta Eleftheriou

With out full entry, “FlickType helps common contact typing the place you discover the keyboard after which carry your finger to enter the specified character,” a help web page says. Enabling full entry unlocks “faucet typing,” by which blind and low-vision customers can “calmly faucet the place you assume every letter is, and FlickType’s highly effective algorithm will appropriately guess the correct phrase virtually each time.”

Faucet typing “permits customers who’re blind to not have to attend for suggestions for every key, successfully permitting them to sort as quick as anybody,” Eleftheriou advised us. He identified that different keyboards, such because the Microsoft-owned SwiftKey, additionally ask for full entry to allow additional capabilities.

“Requiring full entry for sure further options is nothing new,” he advised Ars.

Apple’s App Retailer reviewers do not appear to comprehend that the iPhone keyboard works with out full entry so long as VoiceOver is enabled, Eleftheriou advised The Verge. “They’d must strive it as a VoiceOver consumer, one thing that they do not appear to hassle doing. I’ve had a number of rejections prior to now as a result of the reviewer did not know something about VoiceOver,” he mentioned.

Eleftheriou says Apple should cease “developer abuse”

When requested if he’d proceed offering the iPhone keyboard if Apple reverses the replace rejection, Eleftheriou advised Ars that “Apple would want to do extra than simply reverse their choice. I’ve already gone to nice lengths over time to personally persuade them to reverse dozens of their flawed choices prior to now. They’d must not less than admit that they have been treating me and 1000’s (hundreds of thousands?) of different builders unfairly and unreasonably for years. Admitting this may be step one in the direction of them truly decreasing, and ultimately stopping, this developer abuse.”

Eleftheriou mentioned he is not certain how lengthy he’ll preserve growing the Apple Watch portion of the app. “I am nonetheless going to attempt to present the watch keyboard, for now not less than,” he advised Ars.

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

We contacted Apple at the moment and can replace this text if the corporate solutions our questions.

Eleftheriou’s lawsuit in opposition to Apple

This isn’t the primary public dispute between FlickType’s developer and Apple. Eleftheriou calls himself a “skilled App Retailer critic” and has labored to establish rip-off apps that trick customers into making funds which may in any other case go to reputable apps.

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

Apple was attempting to purchase FlickType from Eleftheriou and evidently “thought plaintiff would merely surrender and promote its software to Apple at a reduction,” the lawsuit alleged. The grievance, which was filed within the state superior courtroom in Santa Clara County, continued:

As soon as plaintiff lastly acquired its software to market, plaintiff’s software vaulted to the highest of the App Retailer’s gross sales worldwide. Then, copycat and rip-off functions surfaced, driving down plaintiff’s gross sales. What’s worse, these scammers vaulted to the highest of gross sales within the App Retailer by submitting faux opinions to raise themselves in Apple’s system. Plaintiff complained to Apple and, in response, Apple did subsequent to nothing, regardless of its acknowledged insurance policies forbidding this exact sort of unfair competitors. Whereas Apple enticed plaintiff to develop and publish functions on the market within the App Retailer based mostly on Apple’s promise of a “protected” surroundings, Apple doesn’t actually police its App Retailer, undoubtedly as a result of it income massively from rampant developer misconduct and shopper fraud. By this lawsuit, plaintiff seeks to recuperate its losses as results of, and convey to an finish to, Apple’s fraudulent and unfair practices.

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

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