I have been an avid Android user since I got my first smartphone, and have used many different Android apps for accessibility, especially low vision accessibility. While I love trying out new apps to expand the functionality of my phone, I have used the same five apps every day for the last seven years to do basic functions on my phone such as typing, making phone calls, sending texts, and even organizing my phone home screen. These are the perfect apps for getting started with Android for seniors, someone who has trouble seeing their phone, as well as low vision Android users who want to make their phone easier to use.
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. Users do not need to purchase a special phone for low vision Android apps.
Why I am recommending paid apps
While a large portion of Android apps for accessibility are free, some of them do require a one-time purchase, though if the user gets a new phone they will not have to purchase the app again. Users do not need to use a credit card in order to purchase applications on the Google Play Store- I highly recommend getting a $10 Google Play gift card which can be found at most stores and then added to the user’s account. The total cost for all of the apps for this post is about $8, so there will still be some money left over.
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. In my opinion, this is one of the best Android launchers for seniors and the easiest Android launcher to use, just because there are so many customization options.
Another cool function is a built-in light filter that filters out blue lights that cause eye strain. 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.
Buzz Launcher is the first app I download when I get a new phone. After almost seven years, I can’t imagine using any other home screen replacement.
- Link to my Buzz Launcher theme
- Ten Ways to Reduce Eye Strain With Technology
- How To Create A Custom Android Home Screen For Low Vision
- Download Buzz Launcher
Thumb Dialer by welldonecom
This is a gesture-based dialer which is an alternative to the traditional speed dialing on an Android phone.
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.
Thumb Dialer costs $1.37 and can be purchased on the Google Play Store.
- Download Thumb Dialer
- How To Transfer Information To A New Android Phone
- Why I Use Accessibility Support Phone Numbers
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 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, but users might want to play around.
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.
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.
The main reason I love the app is that it features a high-contrast night mode setting. 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.
- Mood Messenger download
- Texting etiquette for vision impairment
- Using Emoji with vision impairment
- Print disability-friendly fonts
a.i Type by a.i
a.i Type replaces the standard phone keyboard. It 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 for activation.
Summary of how to make any Android smartphone accessible for $8
- Buzz Launcher allows users to create custom homescreen layouts
- Thumb Dialer lets people use a gesture-based layout to quickly make calls
- Big Font increases the system’s default font size
- Mood Messenger is a high contrast messaging app that allows custom fonts
- A.I Type is a large print keyboard option with lots of customization options