There are a huge range of mobile phones on the market, ranging from the most basic (all they do is make calls) to models more complex and powerful than a desktop computer.
Manufactured by Apple, the iPhone 3GS, 4, 4S, 5, 5C and 5S are touch-screen phones that come with a built-in screen reader called VoiceOver, and a screen magnifier, called Zoom. They can be used immediately without installing extra software, and they support Bluetooth refreshable braille displays.
Using a touch screen is different to using a physical keypad, and can take time to get used to. However, most users find it very intuitive after some practise. By touching the screen, you can access contacts, dialling, text messaging, voice mail, music, calendar, web browser and email.
iPhone 4S and later models have a feature called Siri which acts as a voice-activated personal assistant in your pocket. You can ask questions like "What's the weather like in Manchester today?" and it will provide the answer. You can also ask it to schedule appointments, send texts and emails.
iPhone memory ranges from 8-64GB. The more memory the phone has, the more expensive it will be. An iPhone can be purchased on contract from around £20 per month. The newest iPhone 5s starts at around £40 per month.
Alto 2 talking phone
The Alto 2 has been specifically designed for blind and partially sighted people and every feature and function is spoken. From the moment you turn it on, Alto 2 will talk to you. When you press a button, it will announce it. Listen to your contact list as you scroll through the phonebook and hear your text messages read aloud. The simplicity of the phone is part of its appeal. For more information please visit the RNIB Online Shop.
Nokia screen reader
Nokia's new free screen reader is available to download from the Nokia Store. It works on nearly all devices that run on a Symbian operating system, like Nokia Belle phones. This means you can now purchase a talking phone for around £125.
Android is Google's operating system, and comes in a number of versions. If you're purchasing an Android phone, we recommend you choose one with a physical trackpad or track ball (to make navigation easier) and one which uses Android version 4 or above, as these have the free screen reader, Talkback. Newer versions also support refreshable braille displays and screen magnification. Some Android phones include the ability to choose colour settings.
Mobile Accessibility (around £59) offers applications that make it easier to use an Android phone, including access to an on-screen keyboard. Other screen readers are available, such as Spiel (free), and Mobile Speak (which can be trialled free for 30 days).
Without purchasing extra applications like these, many blind people report that Androids are quite difficult to use. More confident users do like Android, but it's unlikely to be a first choice for a smartphone beginner. For more information, visit google.co.uk/accessibility/products/.
Nuance TALKS&ZOOMS, Mobile Speak and Mobile Magnifier
Nuance TALKS&ZOOMS, Mobile Speak and Mobile Magnifier are types of screen reader and screen magnification software compatible with phones running on certain Symbian operating systems. This includes some Nokia phones (check compatibility before buying). They work on phones with physical keyboards or touch-screens, and Bluetooth refreshable braille displays are also supported.
Demonstration software is available so try before you buy. For more information about Nuance TALKS & ZOOMS software, visit nuance.com/talks. For more information on Mobile Speak or Mobile Magnifier, go to codefactory.es/en. You can also find out more by calling us on 0303 123 9999 or visiting the RNIB Online Shop.
Doro design and manufacture easy-to-use mobile and landline phones. Their latest models include tactile number keypads, choice of on-screen print size and colour and most are hearing aid compatible. Some Doro models are available through high street retailers or through the RNIB Online Shop.
Windows Phone 8
Launched in November 2012, the Nokia Lumia range come with Windows Phone 8, which offers several accessibility features including text size adjustment, high contrast display and screen magnification. There is no screen reader currently available for Windows Phone 8 devices, although we expect this to change in the future.
The free BlackBerry screen reader launched in 2012 for BlackBerry OS7 devices. Compatible handsets cost around £15 per month. The 'Clarity for Blackberry OS5 devices' theme allows you to create large fonts and high contrast background that is easier to see. This free theme can be downloaded from appworld.blackberry.com
Simple Nokia handsets
The Nokia Asha 300 is a simple handset with tactile buttons, a 2.4 inch display, and adjustable text size in calendar, contacts and messages. The Nokia C3-01 combines traditional keypad with touch-screen, and lets you increase font size in messages and contacts. Both are available for under £80.
Watch our video
Watch our video where we take a look at the accessibility features of mainstream smartphones.
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