I have been an avid android user since I got my first smartphone almost seven years ago. While I love exploring new apps, there are some things that I just don’t like messing with, and those are the ones that control basic functions on my phone. Without these, I wouldn’t be able to use my phone as efficiently as I do. You don’t need to have blindness, low vision, vision impairment, or a background in assistive technology to use these apps- they are very easy to use.
Here are five apps that I use multiple times a day and that are so simple, I don’t even have to think about using them. These settings have been tested on Samsung Galaxy, Motorola, Nexus, Huawei, LG, HTC, OnePlus, and Google phones, but should theoretically work for any phone that runs Android and that can download apps from the Google Play Store.
If you’re looking to buy a phone but are sensitive to flashing lights, read this post about choosing a phone with photosensitivity here.
This app replaces the typical home screen layout with icons that are difficult to see, and allows the user to enlarge icons or even switch to a fully gesture based layout with no icons at all. No account is required to use it, and there are no ads. I have uploaded the theme for my home screen here so users can download it. Another cool function is a built in light filter that filters out blue lights that cause eye strain (read more about reducing eye strain with technology here). I use a gray tint for my phone display and it helps me greatly, without it being distracting for other people who may borrow my phone. The entire app is free, and always will be. There’s no ads either. It is the first thing I download when I get a new phone, as I have used this app for five years and can’t imagine going without it. Get it here.
Thumb Dialer by welldonecom
This is a gesture based dialer. To set it up, the user chooses a gesture and assigns a phone number to it. For example, by swiping from left to right on the top of my screen, I can call my family’s landline number. It can support up to twelve phone numbers with the presets, and after the initial set up, it can be used without looking down at the screen. There are options for sound feedback and for the numbers to be read out loud before completing the call, making it accessible for people with blindness or very limited vision, but I prefer to turn these effects off because I can see the large print. It costs $1.37 and is worth every penny. Get it here.
Big Font by Sam Lu
When the largest font on the system font isn’t big enough, this app can increase the font size by up to 250% for free, and up to 1000% for $3. I set my system font to the largest, high contrast version of the system font (learn how to do that here), and then use this app to increase the text size by an additional 250%. I have never felt a need to have it larger than that, though users with significant vision loss or small text on their phone will benefit from this. One downside is that I can’t see the clock in the top status bar on my phone, however that does not bother me because I can’t see it with the smaller font anyway. I have used this app for four years and never had any issues with it. Get it here,
Mood Messenger by caLea
While the Big Font app makes it possible to use the messaging app that came with my phone, I prefer to use this well designed messaging app instead. It displays texts on a dark background when night mode is enabled, a setting I recommend enabling whenever possible. The user can also choose custom colors as the message background- I chose teal and orange. Different fonts for the messages are also available, including bold weighted dyslexia-friendly fonts. This app is free, has no in-app purchases, and also integrates well with the built in Android screen reader. Get it here.
To learn more about texting etiquette when talking to people who are blind or visually impaired, read this post here.
a.i Type by a.i
This app replaces the standard keyboard on the phone, and does not store the information you type, meaning that the company cannot see your data. The text can be scaled to fill up the entire slot for a letter, and flashing effects can be turned off. Touch tones and vibration can be customized or turned off. Themes and colors for the keyboard can also be customized- I use the around the clock theme which changes depending on the time of day.
One function I really like is the custom autocorrect dictionary, where I can type in a series of letters and have it correct to a sentence. Some phrases I have input are “iham” meaning I have a migraine, “icst” meaning I can’t see that, and “dywgf” meaning do you want to get food. The app has a free trial, but requires a $4 purchase to use in full. I have used this app for three years and have never switched keyboards since. Get it here.
How to buy Google Play credit
Google Play gift cards can be purchased at almost any store that sells gift cards and come in various increments. Users can also choose to connect their credit or debit cards to their Google account. Oh, and if you have a Chromecast, there are free Google Play credits all the time in the offers menu- read my review of the Chromecast here.
For less than $10, you can have any Android phone you want and have it be accessible for someone who has low vision, blindness, print disabilities, seniors, or anyone who wants a phone that they don’t need their reading glasses to use.