I received my first Android smartphone when I was in middle school, and I remember being super excited about the seemingly endless customization options for Android phones, including several low vision Android accessibility applications. My first ever blog post on Veronica With Four Eyes was called “Make Any Android Smartphone Accessible for $8” and was all about my favorite third-party Android accessibility apps that could be downloaded for $8, including defunct apps such as Buzz Launcher and Thumb Dialer. Unfortunately, as several apps have been discontinued and I’ve discovered other paid applications I like better, I’ve updated this post and increased the budget to $20- though it’s worth noting that these are lifetime licenses that users will not have to re-purchase if they get a new phone.
Here are my favorite third-party low vision Android accessibility apps that can make any Android smartphone easier to use for people with low vision, vision loss, seniors, and other people who benefit from a visually simple layout.
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 $25 Google Play gift card which can be found at most stores and then added to the user’s account.
- Google And Android Archives | Veronica With Four Eyes (veroniiiica.com)
- App Archives | Veronica With Four Eyes (veroniiiica.com)
I’ve been designing my own custom Android home screens for over ten years now, and first started exploring the concept of making Android phones easier to use with low vision when I was a sophomore in high school. My first custom home screen design featured custom app icons with photos of my best friends that I had designed in a photo editing app, as I liked being able to see large photos that made me happy on my phone, instead of having photos on my home screen masked by a bunch of icons. Over the years, I have experimented with a few different Android home screen layouts and launcher applications, and discovered that gesture-based UIs/interfaces with a colorful phone wallpaper work best for me.
After my previous favorite home screen customization app was discontinued (RIP Buzz Launcher), I went looking for another custom home screen app that would support a custom gesture UI and other customization features. I found that the Microsoft Launcher app would work perfectly for what I was looking for, and have been using it every day since. I’ve linked an in-depth post on how to create a custom Android home screen with Microsoft Launcher, aimed at users with low vision/vision loss, as well as other posts on organizing device homescreens.
- How To Create A Custom Android Home Screen With Microsoft Launcher
- How I Arrange My iPad Homescreen
- Choosing Device Wallpapers and Backgrounds With Low Vision
- Ten Ways to Reduce Eye Strain With Technology
- Microsoft Launcher – Apps on Google Play
BIG Phone by Big Launcher
I previously used a different app for a speed dial on my phone called Thumb Dialer, and was sad when it was removed from the Google Play Store. Another reader contacted me asking if I had a recommendation for a large print dialer that is different from the built-in phone app, and I recommended BIG Phone, as it has a high contrast display, options for starred contacts, and bold icons and text. I have not tested this app with a screen reader, as I prefer to use Google Assistant to make phone calls without looking at my phone, and the default Android dialer works well with TalkBack.
BIG Phone can be used for free, or a premium license can be purchased for $9.49. With the free version, only the five most recent calls are displayed in the call log and the phone keypad is not usable during a call. I’ve seen multiple discounts on this app in the past, so the cost may fluctuate.
- BIG Phone for Seniors – Apps on Google Play
- BIG Launcher | BIG Phone | BIG SMS for seniors
- Mainstream Technology and Low Vision: Smartphones
- Mainstream Technology and Low Vision: Feature Phones/Landline Phones
- How To Use Select-to-speak on Android
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 $4. 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 should experiment with different font sizes to find one that works well for them.
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.
- Low Vision Accessibility Settings For Android Phones
- My Favorite Free Fonts For Print Disabilities
- Big Font (change font size) – Apps on Google Play
Mood SMS by Glad Appvestor
I’ve switched back to using Google Messages for sending texts since I no longer had a need for a ton of customization options for displaying text messages, but for years I used Mood Messenger by Glad Appvestor to make it easier for me to read and send text messages. I like that Mood SMS displays large font sizes better than competitors like Textra, and there are several customization options include:
- Custom colors for sending/receiving bubbles- I use teal and orange in dark mode
- Adjustable font sizes
- Options for customizing fonts, including bold and weighted fonts
- Dark mode (which was around before system-wide dark mode became a thing)
- Options for increasing the font size with volume buttons
I find that the current Google Messages app is enough for my texting needs, but for people looking for a highly customizable messaging app, Mood is free with options for paid plans depending on the user’s home country
a.i Type by a.i
a.i Type has several options for customizing the look, feel, and functionality of the phone keyboard, and keyboard information is not uploaded to a cloud or otherwise stored. Some of my favorite a.i Type features include:
- Customizing keyboard font
- Increasing font size of keys, including expanding letters/numbers to fit the size of the keyboard
- Turn off flashing effects
- Turn haptic feedback/vibration and touch tones on or off
- Rearrange layout of top and bottom keys
- Customize colors and themes for keyboard- I use the Around the Clock theme which changes throughout the day
a.i Type can be downloaded for a free trial, and a lifetime license costs $3.
- ai.type keyboard Plus + Emoji – Apps on Google Play
- Mainstream Technology and Low Vision: Keyboards
- Learning How To Type With Typer
- Learning To Use Dictation As Assistive Technology With Low Vision
More of my favorite low vision Android accessibility applications
- Google Lens Review For Low Vision
- Using Google Live Transcribe With Low Vision
- How I Use Google Assistant While Traveling
- Smartphone Apps For Orientation and Mobility
- How I Use Be My Eyes With Low Vision
- Why Every Student Needs Microsoft Office Lens
- Five Accessible Calculator Apps For Low Vision