Samsung Galaxy S4 accessibility

Monday, 18 March 2013 15:49pm

Samsung’s latest smartphone, the Galaxy S4, was launched on Friday with Samsung claiming the device would “bury” its biggest rival, the iPhone 5. Samsung announced a suite of new features, including some that have benefits for people with a disability such as eye-tracking, enhanced gestures and improvements to the voice-activated assistant, S Voice.

Samsung is yet to release a list of the phone’s key specifications, including which assistive technologies it includes. The Galaxy S4 runs on the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system which comes with a screen magnifier, screen reader and gesture mode by default. However, as Android is open source, manufacturers such as Samsung can pick and choose which features they include. This explains the wide inconsistencies in levels of accessibility across Android smartphones and tables.

The Galaxy S4 also includes a number of features that have caused a stir in the mainstream technology space. Smart Scroll scrolls the screen up or down depending on the movement of the user’s eyes and the tilt of the phone. Similarly, Smart Pause automatically pauses a video when the phone detects that you are no longer looking at the screen. Both these features could be useful for those who lack dexterity in their fingers while blind and vision impaired readers will be pleased to know that you can turn the features off.

Samsung's voice assistant S Voice has been improved in the Galaxy S4. Similar to Apple's Siri, S Voice allows you to use voice commands to perform functions. It also provides audio feedback and reads text messages and emails out loud.

Finally, Air Gesture allows you to control navigation through hand gestures, rather than touching the screen. Air Gesture lets you navigate different windows and even 'preview' other opened content through motions made directly in front of (but not touching) the screen. This is another feature that could be useful for people with limited mobility. At the very least, the versatility of ways users can interact with the device is promising.

Media Access Australia will report on the Galaxy S4’s assistive technologies once information becomes available.

Cost and availability

Samsung is yet to release information on when the phone will be available in Australia or how much it will cost. Its predecessor, the Galaxy S3, retails for around $650 for a 16GB model.

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