Tablet test with blind users: initial set-up comparison

3. February 2014

iPad mini installation - Hello (welcome screen)

Can blind users set up a tablet on their own, without sighted help (provided they know how to turn on the built-in screen reader)? Our test compared the set-up processes of Apple's iPad mini and Google's Nexus 7.

This is a part of our comparative test of tablets for blind users. An introduction is provided in Tablet test with blind users: Overview.

After a pre-test, we decided not to include Lenovo's Windows 8 hybrid Thinkpad Helix in our set-up test with blind users because being a full-blown Windows 8 ultrabook with a detachable screen that can double as tablet, it is quite a different type of beast. It is easier to set up with the keyboard attached, rendering an installation process with touch a rather theoretical exercise.

Regarding the initial set-up process, we had guessed that blind novice users would need help, and generally, they did. The comparison table below shows the individual steps of the installation process of the iPad mini and the Nexus 7.

Apple iPad mini (iOS 7)

The iPad can in principle be set up without sighted help. Having said that, novice touch users may encounter some difficulties and may want to make sure that they can get some support by experienced blind users or sighted help. Users will need to know in advance that a triple press on the home button turns on the built-in screen reader, VoiceOver. They shoud also have read or heard about the basic swipe and double tap gestures.

Apart from the oddity that in most set-up steps, the return button is voiced first and a swipe is necessary to advance to the content of the step, the instructions are generally quite clear and input can in theory be accomplished without sighted help. However, without practice of using the virtual keyboard, providing all the necessary information such as WLAN keywords will still be hard for novice users.

There are also some difficulties. In the Apple-ID and password entry step, the password field cannot be swiped to, selecting it requires the activation of the virtual return key after the Apple-ID input.

The iPad installation process is quite long, requiring users to go to more steps than during the Android setup (at least when discounting the Andoid tutorial).

Google Nexus 7 (Android 4.4)

Compared to iOS, Android is more painful to install. The built-in screen reader, TalkBack, is harder to turn on, and the language selection is more difficult to accomplish without sighted help.

In Android 4.4, the installation process is only possible in three flavours of English (US, British, Indian), making it difficult for German-speaking users not sufficiently familiar with English. (Android 4.3 still had an option to select German, but the German instructions were spoken with an English voice, which made them very hard if not impossible to follow.) Deutsch can only be selected after the installation in English has been completed.

Selecting the WLAN is made difficult by the constant auto-activity of the device: it constantly proposes new available WLANs. The major stumbling block however is the password entry once a WLAN has been picked. Non-sighted input of the password is possible only after setting a checkbox (“show password”) that comes after the password field.

Entering the Google account is only possible for blind users when using a headphone: without headphone, the keys of the virtual keyboard just spoken as dot-dot-dot. This step can be skipped during installation, however.


In principle, the iPad can be set up by blind novice users without sighted assistance. Advance knowledge of screen reader activation and some knowledge of basic touch gestures are still necessary. Unlike the Android installation process, the iPad installation with screen reader enabled does not include a touch tutorial as integral part of the device set.

The Nexus is harder to install, but it offers at the outset a tutorial of the main touch gestures (touch-explore, swiping, double-tap activation). The installation process is offered in English only which makes the task difficult for users not familiar with this language. Nexus also has several barriers in steps, including password entry.

Both the iPad and the Nexus set-up process include the use of the virtual keyboard at some point (e.g., for setting up the WLAN and store log-in). This necessitates the use of the virtual keyboard which will require some training and can be an obstacle for blind novice users.

Comparison table of iPad mini and Nexus 7 installation


iPad mini (iOS 7)

Nexus 7 (Android 4.4)

1. Activating Screen reader

Pass. No problem: triple-press home button.

Introduces user with 'Hello' in various languages. Swiping leads to output "Slide to set up." (what is needed is a double-tap, though - sliding does not work with VoiceOver on)

Pass. Mostly no problem: Hold two fingers on screen during start-up.

(But read comments at the end of this article)

2. Upfront tutorial


Pass. Intro to gestures with try-out screens

3. Selecting language for set-up process

Pass. Easy – "Set-up - Deutsch". Deutsch happens to be the first choice (maybe recognizing country by IP number and suggesting the most likely language).

Further languages can be selected by swiping.

After double-tap "Select your country or region - heading". Countries can then be swiped to.

Problem. Only English flavours available

Selection tricky since default is not spoken after selection (only when swiping back and forth)

4. Ease of conducting steps

Pass. Fluent. Minor niggle: Always first focuses on / announces the Back button at the top of the screen. Another niggle: often explanations come after selection options (but there's a trade-off here in that this also speeds up the process)

Pass. More or less fluent. Explanations read before selection options

5. Select WLAN

Pass. Instructions spoken. "Choose a Wi-Fi Nework"

"<mynetwork> - secure - signal strength 64%"

Problem. Auto-activity – reads "Select Wi-Fi", then prompts with different available WLANs without apparent order (depending on signal strength?), resetting focus. When selecting the wanted WLAN, auto-activity removes the focus to other WLANs unless user acts quickly

6. Virtual keyboard insertion feedback

Pass. Feedback only via sound signal

Pass. Feedback via sound signal and “showing text keyboard”

7. Virtual keyboard operation

Pass. Default is 2-finger method (speak key on touch-explore, then type with second finger tap or double tap) – but can be configured to 10-finger method (activate key with lift-off) later

Pass. 10-finger method (activate key with lift-off)

8. WLAN selection dialogue

Pass. "Password - secure - text field - is editing" Password entry possible with virtual keyboard but echo just with tick sound, not with letter. Since letters are turned into dots, no feedback when deleting letters.

Two options for connecting: via the "Join" key (renamed Enter Key) in the virtual keyboard, or via a control above the password field (swiping backwards necessary)

Problem. Reads (only the first time?) all controls, caret focus remains on password, TalkBack focus on last item in dialogue – needs swiping back to password.

Later: Focus is on password field but this is not announced. Default echo is just dot-dot-dot etc. Requires "Show password" box to be ticked – this may easily be missed when users do not listen to output of the entire dialogue before interacting.

9. Feedback

Pass. "In progress - Next button enabled - back button"

Next step Location Services displayed automatically.

Pass. "Keyboard hidden – select WiFi – Got Google?"

Next step follows automatically.

10. Location services

Pass. Explanation of Location services only after selection options.

n.a. (done part of Google services)

11A. Konfigure

Pass. Three options:

  • Set up as New iPad
  • Restore from iCoud-Backup
  • Restore from iTunes Backup
(selecting Set up as New iPad)


12A. Apple ID

Pass. Two options:

  • Sign in with your Apple-ID
  • Create a free Apple-ID

(selecting skip this step)


13A. Apple-ID input

Pass. Good hints: "Apple ID - text field - is editing - ("

No explicit virtual keyboard visibility announcement.

Input OK. MInor niggle: Swiping after Apple ID entry moves to next key in virtual keyboard, not to password field. An explicit selection of virtual return key or a double-tap on the password field are needed to write there (rather than at the end of field Apple-ID)


14A. Terms and conditions

Pass. Option Send by Email

Long text, swiping focuses these links:

  • iOS Terms and Conditions
  • iCloud Terms and Conditons
  • Game Center Terms and Conditions
  • Privacy Policy
then swipe on to Disagree and Agree

(selecting Agree)

Again, an Accept-terms-dialogue with Cancel and Agree

(selecting Agree)


15A. iCloud

Pass. Options to use or don't use iCloud.

(selecting Don't Use iCloud)


16A. Create a Passcode

Pass. No option to return to prior step

Swipe leads to "Enter a four-digit passcode"

Code without keyboard echo, needs to be confirmed.

(selecting Don't Add Passcode)


17A. Siri

Pass. Deviating from other behaviour, the Siri explanation text (below select options) is read automatically. Options above that text:

  • Use Siri
  • Don't use Siri

(selecting Don't Use Siri)


18A. Diagnostics

Pass.Two Options:

  • Automatically Send
  • Don't Send

..followed by explanation and links to detailed info.

(selecting Don't Send)


11B. Google account selection


Problem. This step is inaccessible without headphone (but can be skipped to complete set-up).

Password entry has keyboard echo only when conducting the setup process with a headphone.

12B. Google services


Pass. Tickbox and following option (Backup and restore, Location) treated as separate elements – ticking just works on the unlabeled checkbox

13B. Entertainment


Pass. Set up credit card - Not now

(skipped with not now)

E-mail input is OK, but password input not possible since keyboard echo is just dot (also when signing in to Google later, after setup) - would require use of headphones.

14B. This tablet belongs to..


Pass. But no label differentiation into first name and surname: "Edit box: Erika" / "Edit box: Tester"

19A / 15B. Completion

Pass. "Welcome to iPad" [swipe] "Get started - button".

Activation leads to App / home screen, focus on first Icon (FaceTime).

Pass. Setup complete. (swipe) "Your tablet is set up and ready to use".

Activation leads to My Library [swipe] "image 80 unlabeled" (an arrow icon in front of "My Library") – moving to apps icon needs some swiping forward