Updated 6/3/22 by developer Ivan Icin
There have been several very significant developments since the original post, some of them particularly affect the special education audience.
- The iOS app is completely free when used with VoiceOver. I get the money from other users and this is my donation (and donation of my paid users) to affected people.
- It is also important to note that the standard edition of the iOS app has been modified to be safer for children and now has the rating 4+ on the App Store. As such the standard app edition can be used for all sort of education purposes and it matches the safety level that other apps offer (the users are not tracked so all collected data remains anonymous and access to web technologies is limited to the level acceptable for usage at kids age). There is also a specific edition for elementary schools that has unmatched standards for children protection by any other app (it doesn't collect ANY data about child/user actions and is even more restrictive regarding the web technologies), but as it is paid app it cannot be offered for free to specific groups, so it is not free with VoiceOver.
- There has been significant feature development and overall, I can claim that Speech Central has more features than any other app now. This includes significant improvements in the accessibility. To prove this I have created a fact sheet that tracks over 100 features across popular apps: Speech Central vs. Voice Dream Reader vs. Speechify.
- Finally, Speech Central is also available on macOS; Speech Central for macOS has overall more features than Voice Dream Reader but costs only 9$ for lifetime use which is more than 100x cheaper for users that might use it in longer periods of time.
Original post dated March 2, 2021:
I am the developer of Speech Central, one of the leading text to speech apps on the App Store.
The aim of the app is to provide a very wide set of features at the value that is not matched by other apps. As such the feature set of the app is comparable to all other top apps and there are innovative features that set Speech Central apart. Some of the features that are currently not matched by any other app are: listening of the web headlines with ability to add related articles, programmable audio (headphones) buttons, widest availability of customization options. All this comes at a price that is significantly (even multiple times) lower when compared to apps with similar feature set.
The app implements state of the art features of voice readers for education:
- The widest support for documents/office and e-book formats
- Knowledge and text annotation tools built-in
- Export the text with annotations to .docx format
- The app is tested to be accessible with VoiceOver by legally blind users. Bookshare, an accessible online library is integrated into the app.
- Functions of audio buttons can be customized for high productivity and accessibility. The widest selection of tools to control the speed and position of how the text is read aloud.
- Keyboard shortcuts for improved accessibility
- The app can be used with any of 27 languages that have text-to-speech support on iOS, and all major languages are supported for the full automatic recognition.
- OCR function to import the text from the camera or from the scanned PDF
- The app can be used as an assistive technology and helper for people with visual impairments and disabilities like dyslexia (dyslexia friendly font is included in the app).
Supported document types are: PDF (including scanned documents), Microsoft Word (.docx), Microsoft PowerPoint (.pptx), OpenOffice/LibreOffice (.odt, .odp), .html, .txt, .rtf, supported ebook formats are .epub, DAISY and .fb2 and emails in .eml format. All those formats will work only if a document has no DRM (Digital Rights Management).
The regular version of the app is available for download from this link: Speech Central Voice Reader (regular version).
For the purpose of education it has two use cases:
- Educators can use it to evaluate the app as it has a free tier with all options unlocked – the limits are that one can import two short documents each day and one long document in a month. In the first day of use one may activate the options to remove those limitations during that day.
- Students may use it to access educational content.
However the regular app does not meet all the needs of education market, and there is a version specifically crafted for schools available at this link: Speech Central: School Reader. This version is better for this particular market for multiple reasons:
- The regular version contains the web browser built-in. While it is unlikely to be used for unintended purposes Apple considers that it may be used in such a way and as such the app needs to be labeled as 18+.
- The regular version sends some analytic data to the server that is used to improve the quality of the app. While this data is limited and cannot be used to identify or track users the education version doesn’t send any data to servers. As such it is certified by Apple to be included in the ‘Kids’ category. No other similar app on the App Store offers this level of the child privacy protection.
- The regular version uses the in-app purchase to remove the limitation of the free tier. This may not be appropriate for young children. Also Apple may allow educational discount when school appears as a buyer which cannot be applied to in-app purchases. The educational version is a paid app and as such it removes those problems.
- The regular version contains some features like ‘Headlines’ which are unlikely to be used in education in schools. Removal of those features makes the app easier to comprehend by young children and also less expensive.
Speech Central Video 1 [Video Description: There is a web page opened in the Safari browser. The user taps on the Share button and the Share dialog appears. The user taps on the Speech Central icon. The user is presented with three options - 'Listen Now', 'Add to Articles & Books' and 'Add to Headlines'. Among those the user picks 'Listen Now'. The app opens the reader screen and starts to read aloud the content from the web site.]
Speech Central Video 2 [Video Description: In the Headlines tab the user taps on one of the previously added items.The app presents the reader screen and starts to read aloud. The user swipes left over one item and taps on the 'More...' button and then on the 'Listen Now'. The app opens the requested article and starts to read it aloud.]
Speech Central Video 3 [Video Description: In the Articles & Books the user presses the '+' button and picks the option 'Open File'. The system file picker dialog appears. It supports importing of iCloud files and files from all installed cloud apps on the device. The user picks the epub file 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'. As it is imported the user taps on it. The app presents the reader screen and starts to read aloud.]