Screen Reader Removal

Discussion in 'Pleco for Android' started by mikelove, Nov 11, 2017.

  1. mikelove

    mikelove 皇帝 Staff Member

    Some bad news: per this reddit discussion (and we received the same email that this person did), it looks like Google are going to force us to remove Screen Reader (but not Screen OCR) from the Play version of our Android app.

    We've written them to appeal that decision, but assuming they stand pat, we'll have no choice but to release an update in a few weeks removing Screen Reader from our Play app. We will, however, continue offering Screen Reader in versions of Pleco downloaded outside of Google Play, and will shortly post instructions on our website for how to migrate from the Google Play version to a version downloaded directly from us without losing data.

    We're also accelerating our efforts to get our revamped OCR engine out to you ASAP, to improve the performance of Screen OCR to a point where it hopefully comes closer to Screen Reader in accuracy than it does now. (though of course they could always turn around tomorrow and decide to ban that too, in which case we'd probably add an "OCR Last Screenshot" command like we have on iOS to at least give you something approximating that workflow)

    In the meantime, if you're unhappy with this decision (and all of the interesting Android apps it'll squash) we'd strongly recommend that you contact Google and tell them about it; if enough users speak up it's still possible they might change their minds, Android will be a lot poorer as a platform if developers no longer have access to this part of the OS.
  2. mikelove

    mikelove 皇帝 Staff Member

    It's kind of ironic that after 8 years of fearing the wrath of App Review without Apple ever forcing us to change a single thing about our app, it's now Google that takes something we spent months developing + that's been in Pleco for more than 2 years and makes us get rid of it.

    Also, platform-competition-wise this takes away the single biggest reason to choose our Android app over our iOS app, particularly with the improved screenshot workflow in iOS 11 helping to close the gap between Screen OCR and "OCR Last Screenshot." (will close even more in 4.0, when our OCR App Extension lets you share that screenshot with Pleco in a modal window)
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2017
    JD likes this.
  3. alex_hk90

    alex_hk90 状元

    What's the best way to contact Google to complain about this? Could one not claim that it is for accessibility purposes because it's helping users understand communication that they would not otherwise?
  4. mikelove

    mikelove 皇帝 Staff Member

    They specifically say you have to be helping users with disabilities - I quite agree that language barriers are a perfectly legitimate form of accessibility problem (even if you won't concede that point for a wealthy foreigner in China, you'd surely have to concede it for a migrant or a refugee stuck in a strange country with no way home, and quite a few of our customers actually fit that description), but Google seemingly don't.

    As far as how to contact them: good question, one I probably should have thought about more before posting this :) Aside from calling them out on social media / bringing public attention to the issue in the hope that collective grumbling will be enough to move them, about all I can suggest is that you contact Play customer support to say that you've heard from developers that a bunch of apps you like are going to get removed / feature-limited and you want to know what they're going to do about that.
  5. alex_hk90

    alex_hk90 状元

    According to the xda-developers article, they recently changed the text on their Accessibility API documentation from emphasising all users to emphasising users with disabilities only. :rolleyes:

    I tried to find an email / contact form but their Play support is a maze of options and there didn't seem to be an obvious place to submit this feedback, except perhaps on their forums (which appeared to be a bit of a mess as well).

    I would still be tempted to argue that not understanding the language in a country is a kind of disability, in a similar way to dyslexia - presumably they would allow screen reader to help clarify words for dyslexic people? Personally I don't see much difference with the way Pleco is using this feature.
  6. mikelove

    mikelove 皇帝 Staff Member

    Digging around in a bit more I found they actually did first mention something about disabilities on this page back in June of 2016, but with the ambiguous language 'are intended to assist users with disabilities'; then in December of 2016 they updated that to 'should only be used.' So that's a bit more warning but still even the vaguest version of that came a year after we launched Screen Reader; as far as I can tell, back in summer of 2015 there was absolutely nothing at all on Google's website to suggest that this was not a permitted use of accessibility services, and even if there had been, so many other apps were doing it without Google complaining that it would be hard to imagine there was a policy against it.

    (that part of this actually makes me respect App Review a bit more - better to be right on top of problematic behavior + ban apps doing it ASAP then to let a whole ecosystem of apps develop around it and hum along merrily for years before changing your mind one day and shutting it down)

    We've actually come up with an experimental workaround now that we'll probably put out in beta channel later today - basically, we put the accessibility service itself in a tiny little APK you can sideload, then our regular Play app talks to that sideloaded app. The Service in that APK that our regular app is talking to would be using a signature permission, i.e. only other apps signed by Pleco can talk to it, so it shouldn't really be any less secure than having everything in one app, and it actually offers an important advantage; since that little APK will not have to be regularly updated, you won't need to constantly go in and re-enable our accessibility service every time you update Pleco.
    Wan and alex_hk90 like this.

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