Choosing an Android phone for low vision – Part 2: Display Technology and Resolution.

The quick recommendation:

LCD screens are often brightest, whereas glare sensitive users may prefer Amoled.  Resolution has some impact on some apps.

The longer answer:

Display technology

There are a number of technologies and terms around mobile phone screens:  Amoled, Super Amoled (After reading the technical stuff, I still choose to believe it’s Amoled that wears its underpants on the outside), and LCD are just some of the terms you will come across.  In a sentence, LCD generally produces more realistic colours, higher brightness and better visibility outdoors, whereas AMOLED displays generally show deeper blacks, wider viewing angles and more energy efficiency.  If you are glare sensitive or otherwise prefer light text on a dark background, the deeper blacks of an AMOLED display may be beneficial, whereas for others, the higher brightness and better outdoors viewing of LCD may work better.  At the end of the day, you may not even notice the difference so it’s really worth trying to get to see them side by side to get a good comparison.

Here are some articles if you are interested:

http://www.android.gs/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-displays-of-the-android-smartphones-lcd-vs-amoled/

and

http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/amoled-vs-lcd-which-screen-is-best-for-your-phone/

and

http://www.phonedog.com/2013/03/03/thoughts-on-amoled-and-lcd-displays-in-2013-is-there-a-clear-winner/

Resolution

Resolution is how many pixels a screen is made up of – a screen resolution of 1080 x 1920 for instance, means that there are 1080 pixels from the left to the right of the screen, and 1920 from the top to the bottom.  The higher the resolution, the crisper and sharper things will appear, whereas the lower the resolution, the more ‘pixelated’ things will appear – like letters are made up of lots of square blocks (which essentially, they are) instead of perfectly smooth lines and curves.

On a PC, lowering the resolution makes everything bigger.  On mobile phones you can’t generally change resolution.  The majority of apps are written to look the same at different resolutions, but if an app doesn’t, then on a lower resolution device it will appear normal (like it’s screenshots on the play store) and on a higher resolution device, it will appear smaller or not work correctly.

Pixel Density or Pixels Per Inch (PPI) is how closely spaced pixels are from each other.  A 3.5” screen at a resolution of 720×1280 will have a much higher density than a 5” screen of the same resolution.  Arguably most fully sighted folk won’t notice the difference once it’s over 250PPI or so and I suspect many people looking at a blog like this (such as myself) won’t be able to tell PPI differences between ANY two phones available.

There are arguments both ways here, try to see one or two phones in action before you buy if you can.

Extra reading for more info:

http://www.sammobile.com/2013/02/16/too-many-pixels/

and

http://www.achaphone.com/Phone-Specifications-explained.html

Summary:

LCD has higher brightness and better outdoor viewing, whereas AMOLED has darker blacks and a wider viewing angle.  Resolution may may a small difference one way or the other.

Have you found any other factors in choosing an Android phone as a large print user?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Choosing an Android handset for low vision – Part 1: Screen size & Aspect Ratio

The quick recommendation: For the biggest text, go for the biggest screen (see, it’s not rocket science after all).

 

The longer answer:

One of the main reasons I like Android as a large print user are the larger screens available.  Android phones have screen sizes ranging from 3” up to over 6” (measured diagonally like a TV).  In contrast, the newest iPhone 5 has a 4” display, before that it came with a 3.5” display.  The advantage of a bigger screen is that without doing anything else, the text on a Galaxy Note II (5.5” screen) for instance is 63% larger than equivalent text on an iPhone 4s.

 

Some people don’t like to have such a large phone as it can be harder to fit in a handbag or pocket, and harder to use one handed, particularly if you have smaller hands.  I’d still argue the merits of at least a 4.5” screen.

 

While it’s best to compare phones in person, and 3.5” and 5.5” can be just numbers on a blog, there are web sites which will compare phone images next to each other scaled to your monitor size so you can see just what the difference is.  Several are:

 

http://mobiledevicesize.com/

and

http://phone-size.com/

 

Aspect ratio

Aspect ratio is how wide something is compared to how high it is.  The standard 6” x 4” photo has an aspect ratio of 3:2.  A4 paper is just slightly squarer than that.  Televisions and computer monitors initially used 4:3  but now mostly use a “wide” aspect ratio of 16:9 – that is, for every 16 inches (or centimetres) the screen is wide, it is 9 high.

 

Mobile phones and tablets vary from the almost square 5:4 to 16:9.  There is no set answer as to which is best.  A phone with a narrower aspect ratio, such as 16:9 held in portrait (upright) mode is easier to use one handed and in landscape mode you can read a longer line of text, which is great when using large print, however a squarer 4:3 ratio gives better ‘perspective’ to show more of the text above and below the line you are reading, and in portrait mode it’s easier to read large print.  All my smartphones have been 16:9 so I haven’t had extensive experience with both for a personal comparison.  On a PC I was slow to move from 4:3 because I see much better with my left eye so a squarer image fills my field of view more naturally whereas a wider image may work better for someone with proper binocular vision.

 

 

A couple of interesting articles if you would like further reading:

http://www.gottabemobile.com/2011/05/24/android-tablets-arent-made-the-wrong-way-to-be-held-the-right-way/

and

http://winsupersite.com/mobile-devices/device-screen-sizes-and-aspect-ratios

 

Summary:

The main consideration for a large print phone is screen size – the bigger the better, though be sure and check that you are comfortable with the size of it.  Aspect ratio can make a difference but often isn’t the biggest deciding factor.