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Smartphones and Tablets

A smartphone is a mobile phone built on a mobile operating system. The first smartphones combined the functions of a personal digital assistant (PDA) with a mobile phone. Later models added the functionality of portable media players, low-end compact digital cameras, pocket video cameras, and GPS navigation units to form one multi-use device. Many modern smartphones also include high-resolution touchscreens and web browsers that display standard web pages as well as mobile-optimized sites. High-speed data access is provided by Wi-Fi and mobile broadband. In recent years, the rapid development of mobile app markets and of mobile commerce have been drivers of smartphone adoption. The mobile operating systems (OS) used by modern smartphones include Google's Android, Apple's iOS, Nokia's  Symbian, RIM's BlackBerry OS, Samsung's Bada, Microsoft's Windows Phone, Hewlett-Packard's webOS, and embedded Linux distributions such as Maemo and MeeGo. Such operating systems can be installed on many different phone models, and typically each device can receive multiple OS software updates over its lifetime. A few other upcoming operating systems are Mozilla's Firefox OS, Canonical Ltd.'s Ubuntu Phone, and Tizen. (Wikipedia)

In the UK in 2012, 39% of adults had a smartphone, but only 2% of those aged 65 or over had one (Ofcom,2012).

The main difference between a smartphone and an ordinary mobile phone is the amount of processing power. Typically, with a smartphone, the user can download extra application software (often referred to as 'apps') for specific tasks. Frequently a geo location system is built into the phone such that application software can use the current location of the user.

Many smartphones do not incorporate a keypad but use a virtual keypad on the touchscreen; with small screens such virtual keypads may be problematic for users with a hand tremor.

Apps vary in the level of accessibility they offer, but full accessibility for everyone is a utopia that does not exist in practice. However apps can provide significant help to many people with disabilities; some apps may provide alternative user interfaces whereas others may help with communication or travel. The accessibility of various apps may be affected by which operating system is used by the individual's mobile phone.

Apps for people with disabilities vary considerably in price, and some of the claims made by developers are questionable. Users are recommended to read a variety of independent reviews before making a purchase. The lack of an agreed set of guidelines for the accessibility of mobile apps mean that the situation is unlikely to improve in the near future.

Checklist for smartphones and tablets

Further information


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