Launchers Part 3 – Mainstream Android launchers with large print

The quick recommendation: Lightning has more flexibility than Big Launcher, but not everything is large print.

The longer answer:

There are several launchers which were designed as lightweight, mainstream launchers, which just happen to have some large print features worth looking at.

Lightning Launcher (Free, several free and paid add ons).

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.pierrox.lightning_launcher&hl=en

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Lightning was designed primarily as a lightweight launcher to work on any phone.  It doesn’t have large print contacts or features like Big Launcher, (we can use other apps for this which I’ll cover in a future post) but you can zoom in on the home screen and you can set the all apps list to be a list with print as large as you like.  The launcher works with Talkback, although when you’ve zoomed in, Talkback still finds icons in their original position (ie, in the top left quarter of the screen).  Text in the setup menus for Lightning are 12pt and it can take a bit of extra tweaking compared to say EqualEyes.  It does offer a lot of customisation and access to the full range of widgets.

I used Big Launcher on my 4” phone; however on the Note II with its 5.5” screen, I’ve been trying Lightning with 3 x 4 icons, which also gives me full size widgets.  Default setup is one massive ‘page’ you can add as many icons you like in any direction, zoom in manually and scroll either in one or both directions.  I have setup pages of 3×4 icons which take up full screen automatically.  To do that:

  1. Tap the phone’s “Menu” button and choose “Customise Lightning”.
  2. In “Current Screen”:
    1. Under “Layout” set “Grid Columns” and “Grid Rows” both to fixed size, set Columns to size 150 and rows to size 190
    2. Under “Zooming and Scrolling” ensure that “Enable pinch zoom” is checked.
    3. Under “Items”, set font size to 20pt (or whatever size you like).
    4. In “General”, “Events and Actions”, set something (I use Double tap on empty space) to “Zoom full scale”.
    5. Use the “Widget Options” of the “LL Widget” screen switcher widgets to add multiple pages.
    6. Setup your screen(s) with no more than 3 x 4 icons and double tap on a blank space to zoom in to maximise them.  You could set the screen to 2 x 3 or even any other number but you might need to tweak the column and row size values from my suggestions above to fit).

LightLaunch (Free).

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.suphi.lightlaunch&hl=en

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LightLaunch is another lightweight launcher.  It gives you a simple grid of all your apps which you can scroll up and down through.  You can set it up fairly easily to 2 column, 3 row, 200% size icons.  Like Lightning, it doesn’t provide a replacement dialer etc, so a 3rd party large print replacement would be needed.  I couldn’t quite figure out the app sorting order, but you can hide apps from the list which is useful.  Font can be set up to 14pt and icons are up to 27mm high.  Having large, scrolling icons is nice though lack of sorting is frustrating.

Summary

Lightning is a good option if you would like a grid size other than 2 x 5 and bigger widgets, but not everything is large print like it is in Big Launcher.

If you’ve found any other launcher options, please let me know.

Quick update on Talkback

I thought I would deviate from my series on launcher options today to post two things about Talkback, the screen reader on Android for those who use it.

 

Firstly Google released an update to Talkback on the Play store yesterday with a couple of nice new features.  Here is the list from the “What’s new” section:

 

-Earcons and TTS pitch changes to indicate text formatting

-Automatic scrolling of lists during linear navigation

-Spells text replacements after speaking them

-Moved granularity selection to the local context menu

-Gestures previously used for cycling reading granularity can be used to jump to the first or last item on screen

-Stability improvements to the explore by touch tutorial

-Bug fixes

 

One I quite like there is the automatic scrolling of lists, which has seemed a little disjointed previously.  Now as you swipe through a list it will automatically scroll the page once you reach the last visible item.

 

Talkback support for last week’s list of simplified launcher.

 

Also potentially of interest to any Talkback users reading this, I did make some brief notes on the Talkback accessibility of the simplified launchers I reviewed last week and then completely forgot to include it in the post!  So for you, here is a little bit on each one.  For a full review of the launchers themselves from a large print point of view, see last week’s post: “Launchers Part 2: – Simplified Launchers”:

 

EqualEyes – As mentioned, EqualEyes works very well with Talkback (including implementing explore by touch on older phones)

 

Odinhome – text labels (calendar and applications) read but other buttons are unlabelled

 

Fontrillo – works well in many areas, but not all buttons are labelled

 

Phonotto simple phone – Buttons are listed twice when swiping with Talkback (once as simply “button” and once named correctly), otherwise seemed to work ok.

 

Seniors phone by mobile – most buttons have visual text labels and work well although several image only like the ‘back’ button read simply as button)

 

Phone for Elderly people – main buttons read, battery status etc don’t read.

 

 Coming soon I’ll be posting part 3 of my series on launchers, which will look at a couple of ‘mainstream’ launchers not specifically designed for large print users, but which can be adapted.

Launchers Part 2 – Simplified Launchers

The quick recommendation: EqualEyes gives speech access in older phones and comes pre-configured but is very expensive.  Seniors phone is a neat simplified package, my personal favourite is still Big Launcher.

The longer answer:

As well as Big Launcher, there are a number of launchers which have been designed for the vision impaired or elderly, most of which try to make the interface as simple as possible and in many cases restrict the features you can access easily.  Because of this, I would recommend them to someone who really needs a simplified phone, with other features hidden from use.

EqualEyes Accessibility – $64 (Free 30 day demo) https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.equaleyes
ImageEqualEyes comes completely pre-configured.  It has three screens with two columns of five icons already setup.  The icons are about 14mm high, single colour (green by default) and the launcher automatically uses Talkback speech.  One great feature for speech users is that it implements its own ‘explore by touch’ which means that it’s completely useable without sight even on Android 2.x.  It also includes an OCR app built in, phone book, dialler, call log, messages, weather, ‘Where Am I?’ and more.  The font varies from 9pt for the icon labels, up to 34pt for messages.  The biggest drawback for many will be that a 2 year license is an in-app purchase for $64.  The demo works for 30 days.

OdinHome by Colin A Jones – Free – https://play.google.com/store/search?q=odinhome&c=apps
ImageA basic single screen, which gives you access to a few of the phone’s default key functions (though some of the buttons didn’t work on my Note II).  It does give you access to the all apps list, though not in large print and nothing else is modified – it also only displayed on about ¾ of my screen.  With Talkback, text labels (calendar and applications) are read but other buttons are unlabelled.

Fontrillo, the Easy phone – Free (Beta), full version released soon – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fontrillo
Image10 screens & an SOS button: settings & Quit, Memo, Flashlight, Camera, Gallery, clock, contacts, messages, dialler and call log.  Font sizes range from about 10pt in call log received time, to 18pt for the name of the caller.   Works well in many areas with Talkback, but not all buttons are labelled.

Phonotto Simple Phone Seniors – Free – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gammapps.SimplePhone
ImageA single screen with clock, three contacts shortcuts, dialler, call log and text message functions.  Text sizes vary – Text message contact is about 28pt but the message itself is only 14pt.  Using Talkback, buttons are listed twice when swiping (once as simply “button” and once named correctly), otherwise seemed to work ok.

Seniors Phone by Mobili – Free – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=me.simplymobile.simplephone
ImageA single screen with buttons to call contacts or send pre-set text messages, including location information or SOS message.  Weather, time and battery also displayed on screen.  Most details are in 16pt.   With Talkback, most buttons have visual text labels and work well although several image only like the ‘back’ button read simply as button).

Phone for Elderly People by App Maker It – Free demo, full version costs $2.37 – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=peplite.b4a
ImageOne screen with up to six big buttons to directly call contacts, however the setup screens are in about 8pt.  With Talkback, the main buttons read, but battery status etc don’t read.

Summary

EqualEyes looks promising though the price is very steep and the fonts vary in size.  Most of the others here are much more restricted and also vary in font sizes.  Seniors Phone is a great neat package for what it does.  Personally for many large print users I’d still recommend Big Launcher.

Launchers Part 1 – Stock vs Big Launcher

The quick recommendation:

Big Launcher is the launcher I would recommend for most large print users.

 

The longer answer:

The launcher is the main part of Android you interact with when you are not in an app specifically.  When you press the “home” key – you generally go to the launcher’s main home screen.  The layout of the icons and widgets and how many home screens you can move between are all set by the launcher.  You can’t change the launcher on the iPhone, but Android’s play store has many paid and free alternatives to the default launcher which comes with your handset.  Below is a comparison between the default launcher and Big Launcher.  In future posts I’ll cover some other options.

 

Firstly for comparison, the default launcher

While launchers vary from phone to phone, most stock launchers have a grid of 4 x 4 icons per screen, with a ‘dock’ of up to 5 permanent icons at the bottom.  You can have multiple screens you swipe between.  Some stock launchers (such as HTC’s) have issues with inaccessibility with Talkback.  For straight Talkback use, Apex and Nova are both excellent replacements.  Neither offers anything for large print unfortunately.

 

Using this default launcher, even on my Galaxy Note II with its 5.5” screen, icons are, at most, barely 8mm square, which is not very big given the complexity of many app icons.  The text labels on these icons are about 6pt – that’s only 2mm high.  The list of all apps is a 5 x 5 layout.

 

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Default (Samsung) launcher with a big clock widget (Left) compared to Big Launcher (Right).

 

 

Big Launcher.

Big Launcher gives you a home screen with two columns of four icons.  A clock and battery indicator take up the top two positions on the first home screen, and you can add as many screens as you need.  Icons are around 2cm high – 250% bigger than the default.  Big Launcher also increases the font size of the contacts, call list, dialer, SMS and app lists as well as its own preferences, all up to 25pt.  It comes pre-setup with the one page including an “SOS” button to immediately call or SMS someone.

 

You can set the theme from light to dark or numerous colour themes and icon packs to match.  I found you have to wade through menus a bit to setup multiple pages and populate them, but once done it’s a fantastic experience to use.  You can also use 1×1 widgets.

 

Big Launcher costs $10 however they regularly have it on sale for $5.  There is also a free demo version.  Big Launcher works on Android 2.1 and later.  It has full Talkback support from Android 4.1

 

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Default Android 4.1 all apps list (Left) and Big Launcher’s all apps list (Right)

 

Summary

Big Launcher gives you large icons and large print (up to 25pt) list of your apps, contacts, phone calls, text messages and the option of an SOS button.  It’s the largest print launcher I’ve found.