A highly-anticipated update to Shape Services’ popular IM+ iPhone app featuring comprehensive VoiceOver accessibility hit the iTunes Store Thursday.
According to its iTunes Store entry, the new version 4.30 of this app, renamed IM+ Pro, features “New themes and wallpapers, hi-res graphics for iPhone 4, full VoiceOver support, setting own display picture from iPhone 4 front camera, improved contact search and bug fixes.”
Blind high school senior Michael Hansen said he was delighted to learn of the accessible instant messaging option for his new iPhone.
“I use my iPhone mainly for various applications, messaging, and phone calls,” Hansen said. “I just found out about it this morning and I immediately purchased the app and tweeted to @implus to thank them for their work.”
He said IM+ Pro works better for him than other apps he has tried.
“I started out last week using Palringo, and I found that to be unsatisfactory because I could not log into Facebook and I could not read messages that were sent to me from AOL Instant Messenger,” Hansen said. “There went $4. I think that Apple should refund VoiceOver users if an app they purchased is not accessible. ”
He said IM+ works just fine with AIM, but he is having an accessibility problem connecting with Facebook.
“I have tried to connect to AOL Instant Messenger and Facebook; AIM worked fine, but Facebook did not,” Hansen said. “When I tried to add Facebook as a service, I got a message saying that I would have to tap the ‘Connect’ button to validate my information. However, I could not, for the life of me, find the ‘Connect’ button.”
He said he is confident the Facebook issue will be fixed quickly.
“I think that Shape Services has done the VoiceOver community a big service, and the Facebook connect button issue is a small bump in the road which I would imagine they could fix quickly,” Hansen said. “I just wish more app developers cared about accessibility—that’s the biggest problem with using an iPhone right now.”
Shape Services’ business development team official Natalia Kasyanova said the company has another nice surprise in store for blind users in the coming weeks.
“I would like to confirm that we are planning to release an IM+ Lite version with VoiceOver support by the end of August. It is a free adware version of IM+ which has the same functionality as IM+ Pro,” Kasyanova said. “We hope that it will make instant messaging even more available for blind users of iPhones and iPads.”