The iStick has been around for a couple of years now, it’s undoubtedly a great concept; after all we all want more storage capability on our iOS devices and many of us would love to be able to use memory sticks with them. But just how accessible is the iStick for those of us who use VoiceOver?
For those of you who are not aware of what an iStick is, it’s basically a very clever memory stick which enables you to store and/or transfer files from your Mac or PC to your iOS device or vice versa. The iStick has both a USB and a lightning connector and a sliding switch style button allows you to expose whichever one you need. At the moment the iStick is only compatible with iOS devices that use lightning connector charging cables, however there’s apparently something in the pipeline that will allow people with older devices to use them. Whether this will be an adaptor for the current iStick or take the form of a purpose built model is unknown. There are currently two models available – the iStick which is plastic, is a USB 2 device and gives you the option of 16 gigabytes, 32 gigabytes, 64 gigabytes or 128 gigabytes of storage capacity, and the iStick Pro which is aluminium, is a USB 3 device, gives you the option of 32 gigabytes, 64 gigabytes or 128 gigabytes of storage capacity and is more expensive. Both models come with a neat little keyring pouch to keep the iStick in which is a nice little feature.
To use either model you’ll need to install the free iStick app. I was particularly impressed that not only is the app free but a prompt pops up on your device when you first plug the iStick into it. The prompt allows you to go straight to the app store via a button where you can download and install the app.
So is it accessible to VoiceOver users? The short answer is yes, although there are a few things to be aware of which I’ve listed below.
1: Although not specifically an accessibility issue, protective cases for devices that have narrow holes surrounding the lightning port can stop the iStick from engaging with it enough to work, so you may simply have to remove the case from your device when using the iStick.
2: Once you’ve installed the iStick app it’s as simple as plugging the iStick into the lightning port of your iOS device. A couple of seconds later a dialog box will open telling you that the iStick wants to communicate with the iStick app installed on your device. All of the labels and buttons in the dialog box are accessible with VoiceOver. It gives you an ignore option along with an allow option so all you need to do is single finger double tap on the allow option button to open the iStick app and start using it.
3: Once you have the iStick app open and are on the home screen all but one of the buttons are labelled and are therefore fully accessible with VoiceOver. The button that’s not labelled is actually the Settings button and is found at the bottom of the screen just above the Home button. You can find an operating instructions guide in the settings area which is very useful.
4: You’ll find that very nearly all of the buttons throughout the app are labelled. However, when in edit mode to delete, copy or move a file there are three buttons running along the bottom of the screen just above the Home button which are not labelled. From left to right these are the delete button, the copy button and the move button.
5: To move back to the previous screen when inside an app VoiceOver users are used to a “Back” button found at the top left corner of the screen. A button that has the same function is located in the same place in the iStick app, however it isn’t labelled in the same way. Instead it’s labelled according to the screen it takes you back to. For example, if you’re in the top level of the “iStick” area in the app the button found at the top left corner is labelled “Return” and takes you back to the iStick app home screen. If you’re in a folder full of mp3 files inside the iStick area of the app the button found at the top left corner is labelled “iStick” as it takes you back to the top level of the iStick area. Generally this isn’t a problem but it does take a little getting used to.
None of these things make the iStick unusable, in fact with a little playing around a VoiceOver user can become familiar with the app and benefit from using a great functional little device. I’ll certainly be recommending the iStick to clients who express the need for more capacity for their iOS devices.