For the inaugural post in the Accessible iOS App category, I would like to focus on an app called SimpleMic. This app is a free voice and/or sound recorder for iOS Devices and it has been designed with accessibility in mind. In my opinion, it is such design considerations which set SimpleMic apart from all other recorders available in the app store, and the built-in recorder on iOS.
As elements of SimpleMic operate differently in comparison to other iOS apps, I wanted to post some additional information regarding the app’s layout, operation and possible uses. Also, I think the developer of SimpleMic (Nick Bonatsakis) has done wonderful work in this case, and it is worth while keeping an eye on his future projects. Obviously no pun intended.
SimpleMic is a free download, and there are additional in-app purchases to unlock sharing features, extra visual themes etc.
When you first open SimpleMic, I would recommend you explore the app by dragging one finger around the screen. I will explain why it is so important to explore the app in the afore mentioned fashion later in this post.
Upon opening the app, there are 6 main areas you should be aware of, and they are:
* Recording Mode Button – Located in the Top Left of the screen.
* Help Button – Located in the Top Right of the screen.
* Recording Control Gesture Area – Located in the Centre of the screen.
* Recording List Button – Located in the Bottom Left of the screen.
* Recording Length Status Bar – Located in the Bottom Centre of the screen.
* Settings Button – Located in the Bottom Right of the screen.
- Recording Mode:
In the top left of the screen there is a Recording Mode button. This button is a little tricky to activate at first, as it does not behave as a standard button.
If you tap this button once to make sure VoiceOver is focussed on it, and then double tap and hold for 4 seconds and release, you will hear the current recording Mode announced and instructions to start and stop recording.
This takes a little practice, but it is the single part of the app which is tricky. Also, it is not essential to activate the Recording Mode or Help Button, so if you can’t crack the technique, don’t worry.
Opposite the Recording Mode button, you will find a help button in the top right of the screen. This button operates in the same way as Recording Mode, so tap once to place focus, double tap, hold and release to hear the announcement. The said announcement begins with Hello VoiceOver user.
Recording Control Gesture Area:
A large portion of the screen is taken up by the Record Control Gesture area. This area is like Flexy or other apps which allow you to interact with an app directly. For example, to select an item there is no need for a double tap etc. In the normal mode of recording, you swipe right to begin a recording, and swipe left to finish the recording.
You can also swipe up and down to change the Recording Modes. Modes available include Normal, Sound and No Motion.
Normal is the default mode and a flick right and left will start and end recording, sound starts recording when a level of sound is detected after a flick right or left, and no motion will start recording when the iOS device isn’t moving after flicking right or left.
The final action that can be performed in this area is the pausing of a recording which is in progress. For instance, you could begin recording an interview or lecture, and then pause the recording if the interview was interrupted or the lecture ended abruptly. You can then touch the area again to resume your recording. This will create one recording instead of having several clips which should all be together.
Recordings List Button:
In the bottom left you will find the Recordings List button, and it is a normal button so your double tap works fine. After activating this button, you will be presented with another screen displaying the recordings you have created.
Each recording has a play button, but you need to select a recording before this play button can be activated.
There are additional Done, Share, Upload and Delete buttons and a Play Progress Bar, and they work the same as in other apps so I don’t think I need to go into detail regarding their functionality.
All recordings are titled using the date and time of recording and this can be changed by activating the More Info button next to each recording.
- Recording Length Status Bar:
After exiting the Recordings List view, by double tapping the Done Button, the area towards the bottom of the screen in the centre is a Record Length Status Bar.
This is an element of the app which cannot be interacted with, but is used to monitor the length of your current recording.
The final button in the bottom right of the screen is your settings. This is a standard button, so your usual double tap will open the settings screen.
The contents in this area are quite standard, so I don’t think an explanation is required.
However, a very useful setting depending on your personal scenario could be the Record on Launch Setting. I will explain this in more detail in the next sections, but you could turn this feature on so that you do not have to touch the app once you have opened it.
The operation of SimpleMic is quite straight forward once you understand how to interact with the app. For instance, remember I recommended that you explore the app by dragging your finger around the screen? Well this is because the recording feature of SimpleMic is activated by flicking to the right or left. So, if you opened the app, and proceeded to flick left and right to navigate, all you would hear is a beeping sound at different pitches. These beeps indicate when recording has started and finished.
As mentioned in the previous section, you will need to tap and double tap and hold on the two buttons towards the top of the screen to activate them. The usual double tap to select an item with VoiceOver will not work for these buttons.
The lower section of the app, i.e. Recording List Button, Recording Length Status Bar and Settings Button, behave as expected. For example a double tap will open the Recordings List or Settings view, and placing focus on the Recording Length Status Bar will announce the length of the recording.
##Possible Uses of App:
Due to SimpleMic’s versatility, I believe it has as many, if not more, uses as a stand-alone recorder or the stock Voice Memos app on iOS devices.
An added benefit of SimpleMic, which I briefly referred to earlier, is the recording on launch setting. This setting can be turned on or off in the settings section of the app and it has the potential to be very useful.
For example, if you are attending a lecture or a meeting where you need to take notes/minutes, it is very possible you have more to do besides worrying about setting up a recorder. With the afore mentioned setting, you can just open SimpleMic, and it will automatically begin recording with no further action required.
Since my background is mainly academia, the first use which springs to mind is recording lectures. Recording lectures can be helpful if you are new to note taking, or you are in a very important lecture and don’t want to miss a word of what is being said.
Another use could be the recording of interviews. I have been required to conduct a number of interviews during my time at college/university, and even though SimpleMic wasn’t available, I recorded each interview for later reference.
Hypothetical uses could include:
a) Recording personal notes/reminders.
b) Recording the contents of a grocery list.
c) Recording segments for a podcast.
d) Recording interviews for journalistic purposes.
e) Recording a piece of audio to be used as a ring/alert tone.
I would strongly recommend that you ask permission before using SimpleMic in an academic, professional or any other type of environment where other individuals are present.
Also, the recording quality of any device will be impacted by external factors, and it can be useful to place your recording device as near to the source of the audio as possible.
##The Bottom Line:
As you may have already guessed, I think SimpleMic is a great app. I do not hesitate in recommending it, and if you have need for an accessible audio recording app, I think you are likely to agree with me.
If you have additional query’s regarding SimpleMic, don’t be shy and get in touch.
As I have been unable to think of a related musical accompaniment for this post, I have chosen a song which has the word Record in its title. Therefore, the below song is by Jordan Sparks and is called Just for the Record. Jordan Sparks won American Idol some years back, but she hasn’t released music in a while 😦