A New Free Android Screen Reader Feature: Select to Speak

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For Android users who struggle to read text on phone, using a screen reader, can be a lifeline. Most Android phones provide TalkBack or Voice Assistant as a primary built-in screen reader. More recently, a new feature called Select to Speak has been introduced on the Android platform to read with much more flexibility for users with low vision. Here is a complete guide to help you better understand this new screen reading feature, and how / when to use it.

What is a Screen Reader?

An Android screen reader is a part of mobile accessibility that renders text and image content as touch and spoken feedback. Basically, when a screen reader is active, it reads out what your fingers are pointing at. TalkBack or Select to Speak is the free Google screen readers included in their devices to give users eyes-free control of their devices.

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Select to Speak

Just like its name, Select to Speak is an on-demand screen reader that reads selected text and other elements on the screen. Unlike TalkBack, it does not need to use any multiple finger gestures to interact with the device. Using this screen reader is straightforward, so you can simply tap the play button to select single or multiple items to read. From my own experience, I love using this select-to-speak feature, but it only reads once and then I need to tag the play button again when moving to the next screen.

TalkBack vs. Select to Speak: Main Differences

The main difference is that TalkBack is always on and reading constantly whatever you’re pointing at, while Select to speak can be accessed whenever needed. Also, TalkBack is based on a set of specific gestures, but with Select to Speak, users can use regular gestures to interact with their devices.

TalkBack vs. Select to Speak: Which is Better for You?

TalkBack, Voice Assistant, and Select to Speak are all excellent Android screen readers, but each one has its own strengths and shortcomings as well as a different set of gestures and commands to use. If you are a person that needs every content of the screen read to you constantly, then TalkBack will certainly do a good job. On the other hand, in the case when you just want to benefit from using a screen reader but don’t always need it, Select to Speak could be a great option as it can be accessed with just a play button whenever needed.

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How to Setup Select to Speak?

Step1: Turn On Select to Speak

  1. Go to the Settings menu, and tap Accessibility.
  2. Then, tap Installed Services and tag Select to Speak.
  3. Turn on the Select to Speak shortcut.
Photo: Turn On Select to Speak

Step2: Use Select to Speak

  1. To start reading, tag the Accessibility icon on the button right.
  2. Tap an item on your screen to enable reading
  3. If you’d like to hear multiple items, just drag your finger across the screen.
Photo: Use Select to Speak

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Android Official Information