Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Better Smartphone For Me

As mentioned in my previous post, I recently bought a LG smartphone with Android 5 OS.  While the accessibility options in the Android OS made the phone somewhat easier for me to use, I want something even easier.  To that end, I have installed an app called Big Launcher(BL).  This app replaced the phone's home screen and made some other functions even easier to use.  The app costs $10 and well worth the price.  There is even a free version of this app but with some limited functions.

The original home screen has many small icons and poor contrast.  The BL home screen only has the essential functions with big icon and good contrast.  You can still access other apps under the app icon.  The default BL home screen has the phone, message, camera, and couple other basic functions icon as well as the clock, signal strength and battery status.  The default home screen layout can be change and all the icons can be customized.  See the user manual for full detail.

BL Home Screen
Original Home Screen

Touching the phone icon will bring up the big dial pad.   Even with my poor eyesight, I can see the huge high contrast numbers.   While the big dial pad is good, it wouldn't access my voice mail when long touch number 1 button.  There may be a way to set this up but haven't found it yet.  To get around this, I put my voice mail number and PIN in my contact list in the following format: 7205551234,,6789.  The first 10 digits are my voice mail number, the 2 comma to insert 2 seconds pause, and last 4 digits are the PIN.
Big Dial Pad
Original Dial Pad

Touching the envelope icon would bring up the messaging app but I found the tiny on screen keyboard on the messaging app was really difficult and time consuming to use.   I couldn't see the small letter on the buttons and couldn't't touch type like a real keyboard, so I had to depend on Talkback to let me know that my finger was on the intended letter.  I can type about 50 words per minute on a real keyboard and I can only enter about 4 letters per minute on this tiny keyboard. 
Tiny On Screen Keyboard
Then someone mention why not use voice input to enter my message. But I couldn't find the microphone symbols on the keyboard to let me do the voice typing.  I figured the LG keyboard probably don't support voice typing so I replaced it with the Google keyboard, and I was correct.  With voice typing, I couldn't enter message much faster.  I was very surprised that the voice typing works fairly well even with my heavily accented English.  Learn something new everyday.
Then someone told me to try a voice messaging app called Whatsapp.  This app would let me send a voice message or text message on WIFI connection.  Too bad, the buttons in this app were not labeled.  It took me a while to figure out which button do what function.  Initially I was also confused by the two microphones symbols on the screen, one called Voice Message and the other called Voice Input.  The first one would be used to send voice message while the other one for entering text message via voice input.  To send a voice message, I just touch and hold the voice message button to record my message and release the touch to send out the voice message.  I could also attach photo or other stuff with the voice message.  I really like this app, it is so simple to use.  This app is free for the first year then $1.00 per year after that.
Since this smartphone is essentially a portable computer, I plan to  build an electronics multi-tool out of this smartphone.  Read my next blog on this.
There are many settings under the accessibility option that you can adjust to best help your visual need.  In addition to the Talkback, I found the following settings most helpful for me:
  • Larger font - make the font larger in all applications
  • Color inversion - light text on dark background.  This setting can be quickly toggled on or off at the status bar by tapping the icon.
  • Power button to end call - let you hang up by pressing the power button, this is easier than tapping the hang up icon on the screen.



  1. Hello,
    This above post is such a nice post. Its quite helpful for blind peoples. I got a clear information regarding low vision aids. Nice post.

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