Google TalkBack

App review by
Christine Elgersma, Common Sense Media
Google TalkBack App Poster Image
Built-in assistive tool helps by reading on-screen text.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

For kids who have trouble with text-based activities, it can help them read and access the materials they need. With adult help, it could be a solid teaching tool.

Ease of Play

Though ease of use may depend a bit on device and operating system, use on Samsung Galaxy Tab A was difficult at times in terms of getting multiple gestures to work correctly. Other users do not report these issues.

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What parents need to know

Parent need to know that Google TalkBack is an assistive app that's usually included on Android devices to assist users with visual impairments. Because it reads text aloud, it can also help kids with special needs around text. Responding to a variety of touchscreen gestures, it reads on-screen text and helps users generate text using the keyboard. Kids will need help with setup and initial use, as the tutorial and some of the gestures may be tricky for little kids. Allowing the app to function does require a number of permissions, including monitoring actions and observing all typed text. Read the app's privacy policy to find out about the types of information collected and shared. 

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What's it about?

GOOGLE TALKBACK is usually found in the Accessibility area of Android devices. Once you select it, you'll need to grant a series of permissions around what the app can see and control. There's a tutorial that walks you through its basic functions and the various gestures you can use to perform specific tasks, like swiping up and left or down and right. To select an app on a device, touch it once to hear its name, and then double-tap to select. The same is true for letters as you type. As you browse the web, tap a text block to hear it read.

Is it any good?

This assistive app seems to hit the mark for many users, but may not work as well for others. Google TalkBack has many features and gestures that will be helpful to those who need text read to them, but how easily it works may partly depend on your device and operating system. On a Samsung Galaxy Tab A running Android 7.1.1, there were many lags and some instances when text wasn't automatically read. However, that may not be the case for other Android users. Also, the text-to-speech voice and speech patterns sometimes didn't completely match the text, especially when there was all-caps emphasis. Because you'll hear the word "next" often as you tap the Next button, it would be great to have it read more accurately; as it stands, it's pronounced in a strange way. All in all, however, this free utility is a great addition for Android users who will benefit from having text read to them.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how apps like Google TalkBack might help kids with visual impairments use devices more easily. How does it help? Are there ways it could improve?

  • Talk about other ways kids with text-based difficulties can get extra help. Do fonts make a difference? Does it help to see only one line of text at a time?

App details

  • Device: Android
  • Subjects: Language & Reading: letter or word recognition, reading
  • Skills: Self-Direction: academic development
    Communication: listening
  • Price: Free
  • Pricing structure: Free
  • Subscription price: Free
  • Release date: January 25, 2018
  • Category: Utilities
  • Size: 8.61 MB
  • Publisher: Google LLC
  • Version: 6.1
  • Minimum software requirements: Android 5.0 or later

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