Which mobile phone is right for you?

Jennifer Vesperman
Summary 
It is not easy choosing the right mobile phone. You need to think about how many calls and messages you plan to make. You also need to think about any special needs you have. Some mobiles have bigger keys that are easier to press. Others have big screens you can touch. Some have louder rings or can read messages to you.
Posted by: 
Jennifer Vesperman on 14/02/2011
A close-up of someone texting on their mobile phone
close up of someone texting on mobile phone

Finding the right mobile plan can save you a lot of money

Buying a new mobile phone can be very exciting. But determining the best connection provider, plan, and handset for you can be challenging.

Fortunately, DiVine is here to help. We have updated this story to include the latest phones available.

Provider and plan

What will you use your phone for? Do you need a minimum cost plan and will just use the phone for emergencies? Or do you need a fully-featured plan so that your mobile can replace your home phone?

Choose between voice and text services, or both. Text communication may be a cheap and easy way to communicate if you have hearing difficulties. Voice might be better for those with limited dexterity. If one suits you better, select a plan that gives you extra free calls of that type. You might save a lot of money even if it is at the cost of limiting the other.

For information on providers and plans, and on choosing handset features (including features for hearing-aid users) visit the Australian Communications and Media Authority website (opens new window)

Your handset must reflect your needs

The features you choose for your handset must reflect your needs. You might need to look for features like large or tactile buttons. Other considerations might include screen brightness and ring-tone loudness.

The keypad design is very important whether your handset has a touch-screen or tactile keypad. You need to be able to use every key and button. This includes those not on the main numeric keypad (such as the power button). You might also need cues to tell you where the buttons are (visual or tactile). The keypad should be logically laid-out and easily memorised. This is especially vital in an emergency. A logical layout is also less frustrating for everyday use.

Touch-screen phones

An Apple iPhone 3GSTouch-screen phones are very useful for people who need larger buttons. The virtual keypad is usually larger than buttons on a standard phone. Find one you can try out in-store. But remember some of them require you to use a pen-like stylus. A stylus might not be suitable for everyone.

The Apple iPhone is the most popular touch-screen phone. It has many fantastic applications available to download via Apple’s App Store. There are also now many other touch-screen phones. I like the Samsung Galaxy S. But remember that people with limited sight should probably avoid touch-screen phones as there are no tactile cues for button location.

Raised keys

The Samsung B2700 mobile phoneRaised keys are very important tactile cues, and not just for those with vision problems. They can also help people with dexterity issues. As an alternative, many phones will allow you to plug in a secondary interface. Interfaces might include a Bluetooth or USB keyboard, or a headset. A secondary interface can make up for a bad keypad design. But it is better to get a phone with a good design to start with.

I have found three phones which had good tactile number pads. Each was slightly different. Try them all to see which you like best. They are the Samsung E2120, the rugged Samsung B2700 and the Nokia 6303.

Verbal interfaces

The Nokia E71 mobile phoneIt's also possible to get phones with verbal interfaces. Some are already installed straight out of the box. Others are optionally downloadable from the phone manufacturer. These are great for people with vision impairment.

Almost all modern Nokia phones provide both voice actions and text-to-speech message reading. An example is the Nokia E71.

You can also install more extensive text-to-speech software (opens new window)

Video capabilities

For those with hearing loss, a phone with video capabilities may prove to be useful.

A Samsung C5200 mobile phoneYou need to make sure that the camera has a wide-enough view and sufficient resolution to allow you to lip-read or sign. Some people prefer to use SMS and email as alternatives.

A good phone to try if you are interested in video is the Samsung C5220. The C5220 has one-button videophone connections.

The iPhone 4 also offers a feature called facetime. Facetime gives you video-to-video phone calls to anyone else with an iPhone 4 with just a single button press. There's a camera in the front of the iPhone 4 that focuses on your face.

Loud ringtones

The iFloat mobile phoneSome phones are helpfully loud. Most will also have a vibration alarm.

Don't take the sales assistant's word for it. Make sure you can hear or feel the phone go off even when it is in your handbag or pocket. 

Try a phone designed for tradesmen. These phones have to be audible in a noisy building site. They are usually also able to handle a lot of misuse. An example is the iFloat.

Hearing aid support

I am still looking for a phone with decent hearing aid support. I have also been unable to find a mobile available in Australia with clarity improvement. Clarity improvement makes sound not just louder, but clearer.

Menu system

Finally, consider the menu system that the handset uses. Is it too confusing to use or to memorise? Do you have to go through too many steps to get to the functions you use most often?

Each manufacturer uses different menus so it is worth trying a few in-store before you buy.

 

Can you recommend a good mobile phone for other people with a disability? Let us know in the comments section below.

Readers comments (7)

Any comments on what phones are best for hearing impaired? I have hearing loss in both ears but don't wear hearing aids. I have an iphone and find I can turn the volume up much louder than my previous phones but the clarity is poor and I can't talk mobile to mobile, if I talk to someone from my mobile they need to be on a landline for me to hear them well enough.

These picees really set a standard in the industry.

Clarity and Audex are both companies which provide handsets specifically designed for the hearing impaired.
The down side is that neither sell in Australia, nor ship to Australia, and their phones may not be compatible with our systems.
However, the fact that such phones exist gives us hope!

There are amplifier devices - the first I found were at http://www.wom.com.au/
But amplification isn't clarity!

http://www.phoneclarity.net/ provides advice on improving the clarity of phones.

(Note to people with hearing aids who are interested in my response: the Nokia Loopset is a device designed to work with hearing aids. Other phone providers are also working on hearing-aid supporting phones. Check with your local mobile phone specialist shop.
http://www.wom.com.au/ also has loopset kits.)

My comment is re landline phones - I tried to avoid using my home phone because of my hearing loss - Eventually both phones died and and were replaced with two Siemmens phones - I chose Siemmens because they're a top name in hearing aids and I haven't been disappointed. They are an excellent choice.
T Parker

I have just replaced my mobile phone with a motorola defy because its specifications indicated it was hearing aid compatible and I am pleased with it.

Thanks for the article - it's well written and helpful.

If anyone comes across a phone with good visibility in daylight, I'd love to know!

It's all well and good to understand what type of phone is needed but many and if not all the clients we support are vision and hearing impaired and require the use of for example an apple iphone and a braille machine and other necessary equipment which can be very costly. Our problem is finding for clients who need these modified communication devices to communicate. This puts our clients at a great disadvantage then the community as they do not have a way to communicate other then with a support worker. If anyone knows where we can get funding or grants for this type of thing that would be much appreciated!

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