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 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 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.
It'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).
For those with hearing loss, a phone with video capabilities may prove to be useful.
You 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.
Some 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.
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.