Avatron retires Air Dictate tool for remote Siri dictation

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Avatron retires Air Dictate tool for remote Siri dictation

Avatron is a company well known for their iOS and Mac utilities. We are particularly fond of their Air Sharing apps and Air Display, among others. They have a reputation for building solid, reliable products. I could sense the dismay in CEO Dave Howell's message when he pinged me today to let me know that Avatron would be pulling their Air Dictate app.

In order to comply with App Store rules, Air Dictate used a little trick to hide the standard keyboard while offering one-button access to Siri dictation functions. This is distinct from the non-App Store-safe approach I wrote about on Thanksgiving.

Howell explained, "What we did was to hide the keyboard and text field entirely. We did that by putting another view in front of the keyboard window. When you press our big Start Dictation button, we map that to a tap on the little microphone button. But how? There's no public method to change the location of a tap event to some other location. The solution to that was the clever part of Air Dictate. We actually changed the position of the keyboard window so that its mic button is directly under whatever point you tapped. Then we move it back again after the event has passed through. Same thing for the Done button."

The app relied on interface assumptions that could possibly change without warning in future Apple updates, or could vary with international keyboard layouts. This caused a point of conflict with Apple review. "The cold hard fact is that every update of iOS is likely to break all of our apps for one reason or another," Howell said. "Sometimes new Apple bugs, sometimes intentional changes to their frameworks. You don't have to break any rules for your apps to be broken by an iOS update!"

Apple further proposed that Avatron discard their custom interface, which was both eye-catching and streamlined, and ask users to locate and tap the microphone button directly. "Apple's suggestion was that we should throw away our custom interface (sacrificing its convenience for the blind and disabled, who would have trouble tapping the tiny mic button), and just throw up a standard keyboard. We don't want to do that so we're not planning to release any more updates to Air Dictate."

RIP Air Dictate.

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