Alternatives to TalkBack on Android

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TalkBack is part of the Android accessibility suite. Is it the best option? Let's explore.

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Alternatives to TalkBack on Android

Android devices, especially the newer models, come with a wide range of accessibility features designed to make using the phone easier for people with reading disabilities, visual impairments, and other challenges.

You may already know that Android smartphones have a decent braille display feature that enables Bluetooth connections for Braille keyboards, but that wouldn’t work without an essential service: TalkBack.

What is TalkBack?

TalkBack is part of the Android accessibility suite. It’s a screen reader service designed to help visually-impaired mobile users.

You can use it on Samsung Galaxy phones, Google Pixel phones, and various other Android devices.

The screen reader gives spoken feedback, triggers vibrations, and reads text aloud to help users interact with their phones.

This service has two main functionalities. First, it reads on-screen text like the time, notifications, app names, articles, etc. Secondly, it can read back on-screen elements such as links, app shortcuts, and menu options.

For example, sliding your finger across the touch screen will prompt TalkBack to tell you where you are, what you touched, and what actions you can perform. However, if you want to open an app, you have to give it a double tap.

If you don’t, you’re free to slide your finger around until you find the right choice without triggering unwanted actions.

How to turn TalkBack on or off

The TalkBack interaction depends on your phone’s manufacturer, the Android OS version, and TalkBack’s most recent update. Naturally, the latest version always works best. Therefore, you should know all three ways to initiate the service on your smartphone:

  • Device Settings – You can turn the TalkBack service on or off from the accessibility menu. Go to your device’s settings app and enter the accessibility settings menu. From there, move the TalkBack slider to on or off.

  • Google Assistant – If you need a service like TalkBack, it’s a good idea to use Google Assistant more often on your phone. Google Assistant can start the service if you say, “Hey Google” and “Turn on TalkBack.” If the Google Assistant service isn’t enabled, you can press the home button, swipe right, and follow the on-screen steps to turn it on.

  • Volume Keys Shortcut – Pressing and holding both volume buttons for three seconds can activate or deactivate the TalkBack service. However, this only works if your phone’s accessibility shortcuts are enabled. Not all Android versions allow shortcuts by default.

Alternatives to TalkBack

The TalkBack screen reader is an efficient built-in assistive service that may help people with reading disabilities and difficulties get more use out of their mobile devices. However, it has limitations as a screen reader, and third-party software can outclass it in various scenarios.

This is especially true when reading entire articles, documents, social media, emails, etc.

Speechify

The Speechify Android app is a complete text to speech reader that can narrate text documents, PDFs, and web pages in different languages and voices. It’s free with limited functionality but works with and without a Wi-Fi connection. It also has a premium version that unlocks the full potential of its TTS and speech synthesis technology.

Pocket

Pocket is a light Android app, also available on iOS, designed to save and read articles aloud. You can share online written works with the Pocket app and have an easier time finding them later. Once you open an article, you can tap the headphone icon in the app’s toolbar to enable its text to speech functionality.

Naturally, the app has its shortcomings, like not supporting anything except saved articles. You also can’t read webpages aloud in real time or upload TXT and PDF files.

Voice Aloud Reader

The Voice Aloud Reader is an Android-exclusive app with a comprehensive tutorial for new users and a broad range of features. You can paste URLs to read directly from online articles and upload PDF, txt, HTML, and doc files. In addition, you can share selected text blurbs from other apps and narrate your text with Voice Aloud Reader. There isn’t much else to configure.

Talk Free

Not all text to speech apps need all the bells and whistles in the world. Talk Free is a solid choice if you occasionally want something light to use. The app has a basic built-in word processor where you can type and choose to listen to your text. The same interface lets you copy-paste text from other apps and files to read aloud.

Narrator’s Voice

Narrator’s Voice has over one million downloads on the Google Play store. Unlike other TTS readers, Narrator’s Voice doesn’t support file uploads and sharing. That said, you can copy-paste text and convert it into an audio or video format.

The app’s popularity comes from its many sound effects and different voice embellishments. While it has less functionality than similar readers, it is fun to use.

Try Speechify for free

Think about all the online services people use daily for work and leisure – email and messaging services, word editors, websites, news portals, etc. Almost everything comes with text and requires you to focus on accessing and retaining information.

But even going through your emails in the morning can be challenging. Maybe you’re not the fastest reader, your eyes strain too much on your Android phone, or you simply don’t have time.

Speechify’s text to speech Android or Iphone app can read aloud anything. It can narrate entire documents and turn them into text in over 30 languages. It can read online articles or any text you use via Google Docs, Microsoft Word docs, PDFs, txt files, and HTML files. And unlike TalkBack settings, Speechify settings are more flexible.

Likewise, you can listen to and follow along with the highlighted text on-screen or convert your written content into audio files for offline auditions.

While Speechify works on most phones, tablets, and operating systems, TalkBack has various limitations based on its version and device capabilities.

Whether you have low vision or want to multitask, Speechify can help. Try it for free to see how quickly it can improve your mobile experience and upgrade to premium to unlock more useful features.

Besides, one Speechify license is enough to use the service on an iPhone, desktop computer, and the premium Chrome extension.

FAQ

Does Android have Voiceover?

Android has TalkBack and Speak to Me as accessibility service screen readers. Voiceover is an app designed by Apple and a built-in service on iOS mobile devices.

What is the best screen reader for Android?

Speechify is the best screen reader and outclasses TalkBack in text to speech applications outside the realm of reading a home screen.

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