What’s new in PBPhonics 2.0?

PBPhonics screenshot showing microphone button in action.

The microphone is the big new feature.  We also adjusted the colours and layout.  These updates were released on the 19th of November 2014, for both PBPhonics 1 to 3 and PBPhonics 1 to 7.

(If you are wondering what PBPhonics is, you can find a description on the PBPhonics page.)

The microphone

Because iOS tries to protect you from inadvertent privacy breaches, apps that use your microphone must first ask permission.  So, the first time you launch PBPhonics after the 2.0 update, you will see this:

PBPhonics screenshot saying '"PBPhonics" Would Like to Access the Microphone.  PBPhonics will offer spoken word practice if you allow microphone access.'  Buttons offer 'Don't Allow' and 'OK'.

PBPhonics requesting microphone access on first launch.

You will never see this message again unless you reset your device’s privacy settings.  You can still change switch this permission on or off by opening the “Settings” app, selecting “Privacy” → “Microphone” and adjusting the switches there.

iOS Microphone Privacy screen, showing app names and switches.

The “Settings” app can change microphone privacy at any time.

If the microphone is not allowed, or switched off within the PBPhonics configuration screen, PBPhonics will behave much as before.

Should I worry about my microphone privacy?

PBPhonics clearly indicates when it is recording, as explained below.  The resulting files are only stored for long enough to play them, and are then deleted.  Recordings made by PBPhonics are never transmitted elsewhere.

Where can I find the microphone button?

If the microphone is allowed and switched on, it will appear after a you hear a word for the first time.

PBPhonics screenshot sequence showing the word "next" being tapped to play it and make the microphone button appear.

Tap on a word button to hear it. A microphone button will then appear next to the word.

How do I make a recording?

Once the microphone button appears, tap on it once to start recording.

PBPhonics screenshot showing the microphone button receiving input.

Tap on the microphone button to start recording. The symbol will pulsate to show that it is receiving input.

How do I stop recording?

Recording should stop automatically a few seconds after you finish speaking. In very noisy environments, you may need to tap the microphone button a second time. However, the recording quality will be poor in such conditions.

Why does the PBPhonics version of the word play instead of my recording?

Wait for the playback to finish. By default, PBPhonics plays its recording, then yours, then its own a second time. This is PBPhonics → Yours → PBPhonics mode. You can change this sequence to Yours → PBPhonics → Yours in the Microphone settings.

PBPhonics screenshot sequence showing the word button "next" highlighting, then the microphone button, then the word button.

In its default mode, PBPhonics plays one of its recordings, then yours, then one of its own again.

What do the symbols on the microphone button mean?

Microphone symbol with no additions.

Inactive: tap on the button to start recording.

Microphone symbol with sound entering from the left.

Recording: speak while the microphone shows this symbol. Tap again to stop recording.

Microphone symbol with ellipsis.

Storing: the recording has been made, and PBPhonics is playing its feedback sequence. Wait and listen.

Microphone symbol with sound emerging from the right.

Playing: the recording you just made with the microphone is being played back.

Why do I hear a loud buzz in my recording?

PBPhonics amplifies your recording to the same level as its own. This will also amplify the background buzz. Try sitting closer to the device as you speak, or use an external microphone.

Does PBPhonics evaluate my recording?

No. Speech recognition algorithms are not yet sophisticated enough to judge pronunciation quality. This is why PBPhonics provides feedback by playing its own sounds in sequence with the recording.

Appearance changes

PBPhonics until version 1.5 had a colour scheme in shades of blue and purple.  This was adequate but lacked contrast, especially between pressed buttons and speaking buttons.  The addition of the microphone button made these states especially significant.

The background hue and saturation were also chosen to match the default title bar tint on iOS versions up to 6.  This never mattered much anyway; the statistics provided by iTunes suggest that most people download and use PBPhonics on iPads, which had paler title bars.  This colour disappeared altogether with iOS 7, which favoured white title bars.

We chose a more saturated blue background, with brown buttons.  These didn’t mesh very well until we also added thin shadows underneath.

The screen layout also tried to maximise the amount of space taken by the buttons.  This made for cluttered screens, and even on small devices this wasn’t necessary.  (If you tap near but not on a button, PBPhonics will highlight the nearest button anyway.)

PBPhonics screenshots showing changing colours and layouts on the phoneme selection screen.

Changes in the phoneme selection screen from PBPhonics 1.3 on iOS 4 (left) through PBPhonics 1.5 on iOS 7 (middle) to PBPhonics 2.0 on iOS 8 (right).

PBPhonics screenshots showing changing colours and layouts on the word screen.

Changes in the word list from PBPhonics 1.3 on iOS 4 (left) through PBPhonics 1.5 on iOS 7 (middle) to PBPhonics 2.0 on iOS 8 (right).

Launch animation

One final change is that PBPhonics now animates for about a second immediately after launch, instead of flipping from its launch picture to the phonemes selection.  This has a purpose, too: to suggest the order of the 7 (or 3) groups of phonemes.

PBPhonics logo, showing a sunrise.

PBPhonics still features its “morning” picture as an icon and launch screen.

More questions?

Write them in the comments below or to Cowirrie Support.

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