Windows Phone is a smartphone operating system produced by Microsoft with the latest version being Windows Phone 8.1, not to be confused with the desktop and tablet operating system Windows 8.1. Smartphones that primarily use Windows Phone include Nokia and Microsoft-branded products, although there are some other models available from companies such as HTC.
While Windows Phone represents a relatively small section of the market at 3.3% of global sales, its positioning as an affordable yet well-featured product has seen the platform gain popularity in some circles.
While Windows Phone is still an evolving platform, there are a number of accessibility features a available in Windows Phone 8.1 which may be of benefit, including:
- Narrator: a basic screen designed to provide text-to-speech for blind users
- Text size adjustment: the ability to change the text size, making it easier to see the text
- High contrast theme: the ability to make everything easier to read by changing text to black and white and provide a solid background behind words that would otherwise be on top of pictures
- Magnifier: allows for the use of gestures to enlarge any screen that is being viewed
- Zoom in on any web content: a magnification feature specific to content in the web browser
- Speech and voice assist: allows verbal comments to be used to interface with the device
- Browser Captions: provides global device support for the playback of captioned online video
- Text prediction for the on-screen keyboard
- Adjustment of tile sizes to increase the size of icons
Comparison with iOS and Android
Though a Windows Phone is generally considered both affordable and user friendly, the accessibility features are limited in their functionality when compared with other popular mobile operating systems. User testing has indicated that while some features such as the high contrast and magnifier work well, other features such as Narrator and text size adjustment are not effective. Narrator in particular is not currently reliable enough for daily use and can only be accessed if the smartphone is set to be localised for the United States. If you are considering the purchase of a Windows Phone for accessibility reasons, we strongly recommend considering an iOS-based device such as an iPhone, or a recent Android smartphone running version 4.2 or later. Further information can be found in the Digital Technology section of the Media Access Australia website.
For more information on the accessibility features of Windows Phone 8.1, there is a YouTube video on how to setup the Ease of Access app. There is also additional information on using Narrator on your phone and using your phone with Speech. Microsoft also provides an accessibility of my phone guide to help you personalise Windows Phone's built-in access features.
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