Further Updates to Tone & Talk App

In This earlier posting, I had written about an update which was made to the “” App on Google Play, that is meant to be use with my ‘‘ 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 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 ““, 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 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 ““, that acts as a front-end, and which speaks whatever text is given by me.

 

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.

 

I am also satisfied, with the Tone And Talk app.

Together with my new LG Tone Pro HBS-750 Bluetooth Headphones, there is a recommended app on Google Play, named “Tone & Talk”. It is not strictly necessary to use this app, when using the headphones, but it provides an advantage. This app will only activate, if it detects that one of the LG Headphones is BT- connected, that the app has on its supported devices list. The HBS-750 Headphones are on that list, and work in my case.

What this app does today, is somewhat different from what earlier versions of it used to do. The name of the original app was “LG BT Reader”, but when people download BT Reader, the latest version of it only tells them, that their membership has been migrated to the Tone & Talk app, which we should now install instead. There is a subtle difference in what these apps did.

LG BT Reader, had app-specific support, which enabled it not only to read out the text of notifications, but which also allowed it to read out the body of Facebook, Twitter, SMS and certain other messaging apps. Some users were interested in that, because people today do a lot of social networking – on their computers and phones.

In order to be able to do this, LG BT Reader needed to be enabled as an ‘Accessibility Aid’, which gave the app the ability, effectively, to observe how we tap, and then to tap in our place, on buttons within each app.

Tone & Talk has a slightly different approach. It supports a wider variety of apps, but only reads out the text part of notifications displayed by those apps. Just as with LG BT Reader, the user gets to enable specific apps which we want served. But with Tone & Talk, the list of supported apps is longer. As a trade-off, Tone & Talk will no longer go into each app, and read the screen of each app to us, which the earlier app used to do, to convey the body of the SMS or the Twitter announcement… Therefore, at least with Android Lollipop, Tone & Talk also no longer requires to be enabled as an Accessibility Aid, but only to have permission, to ‘Read Notifications’, as can be granted from the settings panel of our phone.

I had set up Tone & Talk as an Accessibility Aid, before launching it, and once it had detected the connection to my headset, it politely told me to unset this. It no longer needed this.

Now, there are some users who are upset about this change, because while they do a lot of SNS reading, they can no longer get the full messages of their Social Networking (Service) apps.

I, personally, am not even used to getting a lot of SMS messages, or other types of IM messages, and so the fact that Tone & Talk will not read those out, is no loss to me. I do receive a lot of email, to the 3rd-party app “Kaiten Mail”, and have this app enabled in Tone & Talk. What this means, is that Tone & Talk does factually read the subject line of any emails I receive, but not their body, and the former, only because the Kaiten Mail app makes the subject-line of received emails, a part of the notification text it displays.

I can actually appreciate that every time I receive a regular email, Tone & Talk will only announce the subject line to me, and that it will not attempt to read out the text of the entire email. I have Kaiten Mail set, to receive all the regular emails which I would also receive to my PCs and laptop.

Also, with the new app, I can set sundry other apps, so that Tone & Talk will read the notifications of each one. I already know which of my apps send me notifications which I am interested in receiving, possibly without taking the phone out of my shirt pocket, so that I can make this selection pretty much according to my taste.

What this means, is that some users have an understandable disappointment in the ‘Tone & Talk’ app, and have also not been given the option, to stay with the ‘LG BT Reader’ app. But I, for one, am not among the disappointed users, because I was never intending to use my headphones, the way those users were doing.

Dirk

Note: There is one app, which the Tone & Talk app has specific support for, and that is the Phone app. These headphones, and / or their software, have a complex system in place, such that if we receive a phone call – which was the primary purpose in having BT Headphones not long ago – and if the caller-ID of the person phoning us was in our Contacts List, the headphones will play the name of the person who is trying to call us.

Well, because the Phone app is also an app, it appears in the long list of them, which we can check off, to have notifications read to us. To check off the Phone app here constitutes an error. It might lead, to a primitive series of digits being read to us, that the Phone app displays as part of its notification text, while the more-specialized software is also trying to read the name of the caller to us.

I have discovered that If I do check the Phone app, as one of those, from which I am to receive regular notifications, the Tone & Talk app recognizes this as an error, and un-checks the other app again.