Further Updates to Tone & Talk App

In This earlier posting, I had written about an update which was made to the “Tone & Talk” App on Google Play, that is meant to be use with my ‘LG HBS-750, Tone Pro’ Bluetooth headphones. The main new behavior which I had written about, was the fact that as of that update, I was no longer able to force the app to use the System Default Text-To-Speech Voice, which is already installed on my phone, and which happened to be higher-quality than the voice which the app had started using.

A further fact about that update was its main intention, to introduce new features. Therefore, it now has a Voice Memo feature, as well as enhancements to some other features, which it already had in a more-basic way.

Well since February 16, LG has released several follow-up updates, some of which may have had as purpose to fix bugs, which inevitably crop up whenever major new features are first implemented. And somewhere along the way, the voice also switched back, to the system-selected voice.

Aside from the Voice-Dictation feature, there have been enhancements to how the app uses the generated voice to send notifications to the user. But while I use the Notifications feature often, I have made no attempt to use the Voice-Dictation feature, for which reason I cannot comment on how well that works.

What I find is that if I am required to learn many new codes, for how many times I can tap, or long-press, on a small number of buttons physically on the headphones, in order to activate a certain feature, then all of that tends to become a distraction to me, personally, rather than a benefit. And so what makes me happy, is when the app continues to support features I am used to, without requiring me to relearn how to use those. And it does continue to support the old usage that way.

One oddity about this sequence of updates is the fact that I cannot be certain, whether the temporary switch to a different voice was in fact accidental or by design. The company could have switched the voice back to the way it was before, either because the first change was a bug, or simply because many users had urged them to do so.

Anyhow, I can now enjoy all the familiar features of this app, including the more-refined, 3rd-party TTS Voice.

Dirk

 

Update to Tone & Talk App

Some time ago I purchased the LG HBS-750 Bluetooth Headphones, that are not only meant for making phone-calls, but that also use the AptX codec, to deliver high-quality sound, for my walking around and listening to music.

These headphones are associated with an Android app named “Tone & Talk“, that reads out notifications being displayed by other apps, using Text-To-Speech, in a hands-free way. That app in turn, has been updated by LG numerous times. Well it just received a major update today.

I cannot always recognize whether an update has changed the app for better or for worse, because doing so would require more time and experimentation with the app. What has happened though, is that this has triggered some quasi-philosophical thoughts on my part.

I think that the previous version of this app, would just use whatever speech synthesis engine was the system default, on our Android device. And in my case, that was a high-quality Samsung speech engine. But, some other people never set up a high-quality speech engine, maybe because they do not realize that having one installed, is independent of whether we actually have apps installed that use TTS. So some users could be asking, ‘What is the point of this TTS engine, that does not result in an app on my device, that does TTS?’

And so some other users may have had the default TTS engine on their devices, and complained to LG about how bad the Text-To-Speech voice-quality was, which they were experiencing from their Tone & Talk app.

In such cases it might be useless to explain to the user, that if he or she wants better TTS voice-quality, he or she needs to install a better TTS voice. Instead, what LG seems to have done is to replace the system default TTS engine with one of their own choosing.

And this was also the first change which I noticed as a result of the update. On my phone, the new voice sound harsher, but also seems to sound most-recognizable. I am more likely now to understand what the app is speaking, even in noisy environments. Before, I had a sublime voice read out notifications to me in a subtly-hinted way (with a distinct British accent).

Now I suppose that nobody will be told to install a 3rd-part TTS voice anymore, because the new app uses its own.

Dirk

BTW: Just in case I ever wanted to demonstrate to another person, the fact that I have a TTS engine on my phone, and that TTS exists, I also have a small app just named “Talk“, that acts as a front-end, and which speaks whatever text is given by me.

 

The HBS-750 Headphones Have Wider Ear-Pieces.

Even though for the most part, I try to avoid rating commercial products, there have been a few exceptions. One of those is the “LG Tone Pro HBS-750, Bluetooth Headphones” I have bought, and which I have been using every day, more to listen to music while on the go, than for phoning.

I think that one of the main disadvantages to this blogging engine, When We Select The Tag Named HBS-750 in the sidebar, is that the postings are listed in the reverse order from how they were posted, by me.

I am very satisfied with these headphones. Yet I do have a word of warning. When LG designed the actual ear-pieces, they equipped those with relatively wide sound-ports, ‘To let as much sound pass through as physically possible’. I happen to have relatively narrow ear-canals. These headphones do come with three sets of rubbers in total, to help users adapt them to differently-sized ears.

Because of the wider air-canals, the smallest rubbers on these are not quite as narrow, as the narrowest rubbers are on other headphones, that come with changeable rubbers.

Hence, even with the narrowest rubbers, these have a tad of trouble staying in my ears. Further, when I actually speak with these in my ears, there is a typical exaggeration in how I hear my own voice in my head, an exaggeration that is not equal on both ears. Therefore, How can I expect the bass-reproduction to be equal, coming from the headphones?

These fit slightly better in my right ear, always, than in my left ear.

Also, since the LG Engineers decided that these ear-pieces need to be wider, in order to let more sound through. I have narrower ear-canals than average: There is nothing magical about my Human ear-canals. They still cannot physically do, what cannot be done. And so it may also be true, that I cannot hear High-Fidelity Sound as well as I should, simply because of my narrow ear-canals.

Yet, I certainly hear the sound of my smart-phone better with these BT headphones, than I did with the wired ones, which plugged right in. And which happened to have a narrowest set of rubbers, which were narrower than these.

Dirk

 

A Slight Disadvantage To Using LG Tone & Talk App

One fact which I have written about, was that I have acquired an “LG Tone Pro HBS-750″ Bluetooth Headset, which still works, but which had some issues that I do not need to repeat.

In addition, these headsets have a suggested app, which we can download from Google Play, called “Tone & Talk“. That app has come under fire from its users, and any issues I can detect with it, are unrelated to issues I myself may have had with the hardware. Specifically, the new version of the app simply reads out the text which belongs to notifications, rather than allowing in-depth screen-reading, within any one app.

There is a type of error with this app that I have just noticed yesterday afternoon, in which the app just seems to repeat a notification indefinitely.

In my limited experience, this error will happen, if the app whose notifications are being monitored, goes full-screen on the Android device, in order to make the notification apparent.

Specifically, I use an app named “S Planner”, which on Samsung Galaxy devices acts as our Calendar app. I had checked off this app, as belonging to the ones, which Tone & Talk is supposed to read out notifications for. But, S Planner has always gone full-screen, so that when I next activate my phone, I can read in detail, what scheduled event I am being reminded of – even before I unlock the phone. Well in this case, when the next scheduled event was displayed, Tone & Talk also went into an endless loop of notification texts.

The way I solved this problem for myself, was just to uncheck S Planner as one of the apps Tone & Talk was ‘listening to’. And S Planner was also not checked by default.

I find this to be of low importance to me, because when S Planner plays its customized notification sound, like so many other sounds, That notification sound is Also played to my headphones. I can recognize that sound. But I will actually need to look at the screen of the phone, to see the details.

When other users are reporting a similar issue, I now suspect that they may also have set their 3rd-party apps to go full-screen, perhaps hoping to encourage Tone & Talk to work as a screen-reader again. And then, doing so would cause a short text just to be repeated indefinitely.

I cannot be 100% certain of this, but am reasonable sure.

Dirk

(Edit : ) There exists the possibility, that the predecessor to the Tone & Talk app, actually used its remote-control over the supported apps, to change some of their settings, so that this predecessor-app would be better-able to act as a screen-reader. The users may not have noticed this.

But then, when users were migrated to Tone & Talk, there could have been no follow-up, in which the settings of the other, read-from apps would have been reverted to what they would normally be. And this would have failed to happen, because the later app does not have the remote-control / Accessibility Aid status, required to change settings of other apps.

So the task may now be up to Tone & Talk users, to revert the settings of each other app, no longer to go full-screen when they receive a message. And the users would need to do this, to put an end to repeated, few words read out by Tone & Talk.