Accessible Instant Messaging iPhone App Hits the iTunes Store
A highly-anticipated update to Shape Servicesâ€™ 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 â€œNew 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.â€
Blind high school senior Michael Hansen said he was delighted to learn of the accessible instant messaging option for his new iPhone.
â€œI use my iPhone mainly for various applications, messaging, and phone calls,â€ Hansen said. â€œI just found out about it this morning and I immediately purchased the app and tweeted to @implus to thank them for their work.â€
He said IM+ Pro works better for him than other apps he has tried.
â€œI 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,â€ Hansen said. â€œThere went $4. I think that Apple should refund VoiceOver users if an app they purchased is not accessible. â€
He said IM+ works just fine with AIM, but he is having an accessibility problem connecting with Facebook.
â€œI have tried to connect to AOL Instant Messenger and Facebook; AIM worked fine, but Facebook did not,â€ Hansen said. â€œWhen I tried to add Facebook as a service, I got a message saying that I would have to tap the â€˜Connectâ€™ button to validate my information. However, I could not, for the life of me, find the â€˜Connectâ€™ button.â€
He said he is confident the Facebook issue will be fixed quickly.
â€œI 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,â€ Hansen said. â€œI just wish more app developers cared about accessibilityâ€”thatâ€™s the biggest problem with using an iPhone right now.â€
Shape Servicesâ€™ business development team official Natalia Kasyanova said the company has another nice surprise in store for blind users in the coming weeks.
â€œI 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,â€ Kasyanova said. â€œWe hope that it will make instant messaging even more available for blind users of iPhones and iPads.â€