iOS vs. Android: Switch Accessibility Decisions, Decisions...

The iPad has certainly taken the market by storm, and many of us are left thinking "what other mobile tablets?".  Some of you might be rather surprised to learn that there are actually many other options for mobile tablets!  It can be overwhelming, however, trying to understand the differences between these technologies and how they might impact your purpose: helping your little one with special needs achieve success.  I wanted to start a dialogue on this topic because I think, as parents and professionals, it's important that you not let your overwhelm scare you into buying an iPad just because you can't make up your mind, or don't know where to start.  In a series of posts this week, I hope to help you all learn the pros and cons of each of these systems so that you can make purchasing choices with the future in mind.  For my first post, I thought I'd just clear up a bit of the lingo confusion!  How about some OS 101? :)

What is this OS business?

An operating system (abbreviated “OS”) is the software that supports a computer's basic functions, such as scheduling tasks, running applications, and controlling other tools like the keyboard, speakers, and mouse (called ”peripherals”).  For those of you who use personal computers(PC’s), Windows is your operating system.  If you are using Mac computers, your operating system is Mac OS X.  The operating systems for mobile devices, like the iPad and other tablets, is different from that running on a computer.  This is important to understand (at least at a basic level) when it comes to switch accessibility on mobile devices.  In order for switches to work on a mobile device, the OS has to “let them in” and help them communicate with the other software programs (the Apps) that the user wants to run. 
What is “iOS”?
iOS is Apple's mobile operating system.  This OS runs on all of Apple’s mobile devices: the iPad, iPod Touch, and iPhone.  You may see these devices referred to as “iOS devices” because they are using iOS to get things done.  The Apps that you use on your iOS devices were developed specifically for iOS.  When an App is developed for iOS, it is able to take advantage of different “services” offered by the operating system, like using the camera and recording voice.  iOS does not allow access to the “input” features of the operating system, therefore, programs cannot alter the directions to the device when it comes to accessing everything with a switch.  In order for you to access an iOS device with a switch, you need two things:  1) a switch interface that allows a switch to send signals to the device and 2)  an App written to receive those signals because iOS is not listening. J
What is Android?
Android (recently modified to Honeycomb) is a mobile operating system by Google that runs on all other mobile devices, excluding iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch).  These devices include tablets like the Kindle Fire, Samsung Galaxy Tab, HP Touch Pad and more.  The Android operating system is known as “open source”, meaning that developers can change the way the operating system functions.  This gives developers the opportunity to access “services” like the input method, not readily accessible in iOS.  Being able to access the input method of a device through the operating system, versus an App-by-App basis, means that you can control the entire device with a switch. 
But how? That leads me to the main feature of my next post! Stay tuned...:)

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