I was a late adopter of the iPhone technology. I thought I didn't need ANOTHER gadget to keep track of. It wasn't until I heard some friends discussing their iPhones that I realized that an iPhone could replace many of the gadgets I used. Not only did the iPhone cut down on the number of gadgets I needed to carry, but it saved me money too!
I was curious to see exactly how much money the iPhone could save me, so I went window shopping. I looked for the lowest priced gadgets that would provide the same functionality I have on my iPhone. I looked primarily at sites with products geared specifically for the blind and low vision community. While I am aware that other products do exist, the products mentioned in this article are the closest in functionality that I could find. Also, the apps listed are the ones I use. This is not an extensive look at the products available to the blind and visually impaired community, just a look at some gadgets and apps I use on a regular basis.
Currently, I use an iPhone 5s, which can no longer be purchased directly from Apple. As of this writing, Apple carries model lines from the SE to the X. iPhones range in price from $349 to $999. Prices depend on several factors including size and cell phone carrier. Apple has an accessible comparison tool on their website. My personal recommendation is to get at least 32 GB capacity. Some apps can be very large. While the prices may seem high for a cell phone, iPhones can do much more than calling and texting.
Movin' On Up
Have you ever been out walking by yourself and gotten lost? Perhaps you miscounted streets or houses and weren't sure how to get back on track? With the advent of talking GPS, this type of mishap can be behind you. Currently, the only new talking GPS you can buy is a pre-order for a victor Reader Trek from Humanware. Humanware anticipates shipping of the Victor Reader Trek to begin in the 4th quarter of 2017. With the Victor Reader Trek, you can switch between Talking GPS and a book you're reading with the press of one button. Finding out exactly where you are is equally simple with a button press. You can add voice tagged landmarks and the Victor Reader Trek will not only remember those landmarks, but also provide turn by turn directions to that location. If you want to go to a location that you haven't voice tagged, you can enter an address with the num pad on the front of the Trek. While traveling, you have the option of pedestrian or driving directions. The pedestrian directions will keep you safely off major highways. Additionally, the Victor Reader Trek has added blue tooth functionality.
If you have an iPhone, the built in maps app is a pretty good solution. If you'd rather be able to tag landmarks, you'll need an app like Blind Square($39.99). With Blind Square, you can find what interesting places and street crossings are near you. When paired with the maps app, you can get turn by turn directions to any of the places listed. In addition, you can get contact information, including phone number for the places listed. When combined with the Bard Mobile app (discussed later), you have all the functionality of the Victor Reader Trek.
Time keeps on slipping...
From appointments to timing a cake, keeping track of time is an essential every day task. The iPhone's native clock app allows for multiple alarms, one count down timer, time around the world, one count up stopwatch and a unique feature to remind you to go to bed if you tend to lose track of time. All the features are accessible via voice over. You can even set and turn on or off alarms with voice commands through Siri.
There are many talking watches and timers on the market. None I have found come close to all of the iPhone's capabilities. Even if you take away the voice control through Siri, you would still need to purchase multiple gadgets. A simple talking clock with one alarm costs $9.99 from Future Aids. You would also have to get a talking kitchen timer ($14.95 from multiple retailers) and still have no count up capability. Don't forget that the iPhone is portable and can be used anywhere, while most gadgets aren't. For a portable solution, a 4 Alarm Talking Stop Watch can be purchased from LS&S Products for $21.95, and you would still need the kitchen timer.
Bigger is Better
Magnification can give the ability to read small text to those with low vision. The iPhone comes with a built in magnifier that uses the back facing camera. It allows for changing magnification levels, color filters, additional lighting, locking the focus on an object, and saving the magnified image. To get similar options, along with the portability of an iPhone, you would have to spend $295 on the Pebble-Mini Portable Electronic Magnifier from Independent Living Aids
Read 'Em and Weep
The victor Reader Stream is a must for any bookaholic. It allows the reading of multiple formats, including NLS, Audible and mp3. With the built in text to speech engine, the Victor Reader Stream can read Daisy books from Bookshare as well. In addition to reading, the Victor Reader can connect listeners with their own mp3 music or any internet radio station. Taking voice memos is easy with the Victor Reader Stream's built in microphone or line in and its recording capability. Currently, the Victor Reader Stream 2nd generation sells for $369 from Humanware.
The NLS has provided users with a free iPhone app called Bard Mobile. The app provides all the same functionality as the bigger players the NLS provides. Likewise, Audible books can be read on its free app. There are 2 main apps for reading Daisy books on the iPhone. Bookshare's own Read2Go($19.99), which reads only Daisy books, and Voice Dream Reader($14.99), which reads many formats. Internet radio is at your fingertips with either (or both) free app IHeartRadio or Tune-in Radio. While you can subscribe to Tune-in's premium content, a lot of the radio stations, both internet and not, are free. One of the nice premium features is access to some audiobooks at no additional charge. Recording voice memos is likewise easy on the iPhone with the built in Voice Recorder app.
I Love This Bar
A bar code reader can mean the difference between putting stewed tomatoes in your fruit salad and pineapple in your soup. Envision America sells the popular i.d. mate models of bar code reader. The i.d. mate Galaxy is the current model and sells for $1299. In addition to identifying a product by its bar code or UPC, the i.d. mate allows users to add voice recorded information to existing products or their own barcodes.
If you are using an iPhone older than the iPhone 6, Digit Eyes, a $9.99 app, provides the same functionality as the i.d. mate. And, the iPhone is smaller and lighter than the i.d. mate. You can use Digit Eyes to make lists of items you have scanned. You can find out more about Digit Eyes on its app directory page. If you have an iPhone 6 or newer, the free Seeing AI app by Microsoft has a bar code reader, however, you cannot use it to record any additional information or bar codes. It is also only currently available in a limited number of countries.
Knowing that one sock is black and the other is blue is priceless. One way to easily identify which sock is which is with a color identifier. To buy a stand alone color identifier will cost $115.95 for the Rainbow Color Reader II from Independent Living Aids. And all it does is identify colors! Or you could add a free tool, like Seeing Assistant Home Light to your iPhone arsenal and have so much more.
Turn Off The Lights
To keep your electric bill down, you have to know which lights are on and which aren't. If you need assistance with that, you need a light detector. A light detector is a small unit that makes a noise with the intensity of the light it detects. A Separate unit will cost $45.95 for the Light On Light Detector from MaxiAids. Or you could use the already mentioned Seeing Assistant Home Light and get a light detector with your color identifier.
OCR On The Go
Do you find it frustrating to be at a restaurant and have to rely on someone else to tell you what's on the menu? Portable optical character recognition (OCR) is possible, but at a price. The Snow S HD 4.7" Portable Magnifier with Speech is $539 from LS&S Products. In addition to magnifying images up to 17X, it can also scan and speak snapshots of text. You can also freeze an image or project an image to your TV.
The iPhone, again, comes to the rescue with a cheaper alternative. Seeing AI has 2 different text reading modes. With short texts, text is read as soon as it is put in front of the camera. If you need a longer piece read, the documents mode assists the user in taking a picture of the document. Then the OCR magic happens, leaving the information readable by voice over while preserving much of the original formatting. Once again, the price of this priceless app is free.
Add It Up
One final gadget before we look at the savings of an iPhone, though. Ever need a calculator away from your computer? A talking large display desk calculator costs $4.99. If you need more advanced functions, you would have to get a scientific talking calculator for $249. Both calculators are available from Independent Living Aids.
Again, a native iPhone app comes to the rescue! If you open the calculator app on your iPhone with the phone in portrait mode (that is, the shorter edges are at the top and bottom)of the device, you have a standard 9-digit calculator. If you turn the iPhone so the phone is in landscape mode (the shorter edges being to the left and right), you now have an accessible scientific calculator.
enjoy The Savings
One of my favorite sayings is "I have an app for that". For every day tasks, my iPhone is indispensable. I have access to the functionality of many gadgets I couldn't afford as stand alone items. Below is the price breakdown of exactly how much you could save purchasing an iPhone over individual gadgets.
- Talking GPS navigation $599
- Talking Clock $9.99
- 4 alarm talking stopwatch $21.95
- Talking kitchen timer $14.95
- electronic magnification $295
- book reading $369
- Bar Code reader $1299
- color identifier $115.95
- light detector $45.95
- Portable OCR $539
- Talking calculator - basic $4.99
- Talking calculator - scientific $249
Grand total: $3194.78*
*Note: This price reflects only the purchase of the Victor Reader Trek as it has more functionality than the Victor Reader Stream.
- initial device (iPhone SE 32 GB) $349
- Talking GPS navigation $39.99
- Talking Clock included
- talking stopwatch included
- Talking kitchen timer included
- electronic magnification included
- book reading $14.99
- Bar Code reader $9.99
- color identifier $0.00
- light detector $0.00
- OCR $0
- Talking calculator - basic included
- Talking calculator - scientific included
Grand total: $413.97
Even if you were to go with the brand new iPhone X with 256 GB memory, the grand total would be $1113.97, or less than half of the cost to buy the gadgets separately.
What other gadgets does your iPhone replace? What apps do you find most useful for every day tasks? Is there a gadget you use that doesn't have a corresponding iPhone app? Let us know in the comments!