Great smartphones for hard of hearing people

Discussion in 'Deaf Products & Technologies' started by GadgetQueen, Mar 4, 2010.

  1. GadgetQueen

    GadgetQueen New Member

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    Is a great smartphone for deaf people the same as one for hard of hearing people? Maybe, maybe not. The Sidekicks on T-Mobile were inaccessible to a lot of hard of hearing people for a long time because they generated significant interference with hearing aids.

    I'm currently without a working smartphone and have been debating a LOT about what to buy to replace my dead one. I've been considering the Blackberry Curve, the Palm Pre, the Samsung Moment, the Treo Palm Pro, some HTC phones, the Droid and the Nexus. I just returned the iPhone and will discuss that in a separate posting.

    Nowadays smartphones seem to be a lot better about not creating so much interference, but they can vary a lot in how good the audio is. Some phones have been noted as having very good call audio quality, while others may have static or a tinny sound to them. Some manufacturers and cell phone providers actually discard some of the low frequency sounds that hard of hearing people need in order to understand someone's speech; when that happens, the hard of hearing person is further disadvantaged.

    There are issues about how strong the vibration is on a phone and how loud the ringers and alerts are. Speakers that are too puny to provide low frequency sounds aren't going to produce ringtones audible to a lot of hard of hearing people. There can be significant consequences for missing an incoming phone call because you can't hear the alert or feel it.

    Some phones have impressive technical specifications. I think I read that the iPhone had a range of 20 hz to 20,000 Hz. That's amazingly low, and useful for hard of hearing people. If there was a phone that could only provide a range of 400 hz to 3,000 hz, that might be good enough for hearing people but my beet is that the narrow range would make speech inaudible for a lot of hard of hearing people. I myself have a ski slope hearing loss and hear only to about 1000 Hz; if a phone doesn't provide low frequencies, it's like the sound that I hear the best has been knocked out. The only sound left to me would be the sound between 400 and 1000 hz, which would be inadequate for good speech discrimination and which would also sound terrible.

    So, audio quality is pretty important for hard of hearing people, but messaging and web browsing is important, too, as an accommodation for the hearing loss. For emergency purposes and for every day use, it's really useful to be able to look up information on the web easily, which would mean having a keyboard that's easy and fast to type on.

    There can be other neat things about a phone or even its operating system that might be particularly helpful to deaf and hard of hearing people. If there's ever a phone that would have a front-facing camera to shoot video, this would be helpful for both deaf and many hard of hearing people. Maybe one operating system will eventually support the display of captioned videos and/or Hulu.com captioned programs, and others won't.

    Also, some phones support the display of Web CapTel or the use of other relay services, and others don't.

    I'm hoping this will be a thread to keep feeding over time as new phones comes out. Let us know what you think about your smart phone for its browsing and messaging capability and other features, even if you don't know what the audio issues are like. Let us know what operating system you're using and what the version number is. Please change the title of your posting to reflect the name of the phone you're describing.

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. jewels10

    jewels10 New Member

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    That's a lot of info GQ. Thank you. It is interesting what you have to say about the iphone having a good range for H of H. I understand that the iphone is not hearing aid compatible!

    I am looking at the Blackberry Curve or Bold and the HTC Hero. I have tried out the Blackberry and the sound clarity is pretty good. I have not been able to tryout the HTC.

    Also - I really like Scrabble so the quality of Scrabble app is important too - though not as important as being able to hear.
     
  3. GadgetQueen

    GadgetQueen New Member

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    Apple iPhone and thoughts about other options

    Actually, just because a phone doesn't have a T rating doesn't mean that it can't be used with the telecoil on a hearing aid. It only means that the manufacturer didn't go through the time and expense of getting the rating. Quite a lot of unrated phones can be used with the telecoil, especially if the volume is put on the high setting. How much immunity your own hearing aid or CI has from radio frequency interference (i.e., how well the internal components are shielded) will also make a difference in the quality of the audio that you hear from the phone. It's thus really important to try out phones in the store and in a variety of environments; how far away you are from the transmitting tower can make a difference in the radio frequency interference.

    A friend of mine recently discovered that when listening to the iPhone on the speakerphone setting, he didn't hear interference. When I myself tried the iPhone with my hearing aid on the regular phone setting, I only heard minor interference. Perhaps because of the very low frequencies that the iPhone is able to provide, I could communicate on the phone without my hearing aid, too, using the headphones that come with the phone. My mother, who is hard of hearing, also liked the audio quality of the phone.

    Another thing that's a really nice accessibility option on the iPhone 3GS only is the ability to select mono audio, which delivers the same sound to both earphones. That's important for people with uneven hearing. (It's also supposed to be available on the two most expensive iPod touch devices, but not the most affordable one, which I think was a very wrong-headed decision by the company.)

    Still another useful feature of the iPhone is that it's apparently possible to use Web CapTel with it and to hear the other caller at the same time (which makes it Mobile CapTel-to-Go). Few phones have the capability to do that; at this time, the CDMA carriers (Verizon and Sprint) can't because CDMA doesn't provide simultaneous access to voice and data at the same time. That was an accidental feature, however, that Apple and AT&T didn't deliberately facilitate. (I had trouble getting the Hamilton Web CapTel to work on the iPhone but didn't troubleshoot it enough to know what was going on.)

    Unfortunately, Apple hasn't done much about providing access to people with hearing loss in other ways. I saw an uncaptioned video podcast from Apple about how to find podcasts (including video podcasts, which can be musical), and Apple doesn't seem to have addressed providing accessible podcasts or to facilitate captioning of the podcasts themselves, let alone finding captioned podcasts. By not providing captioned educational videos about how to use its own products or features within iTunes, it is really being insensitive to our needs and lagging far behind companies like Microsoft and Google.

    I found the virtual keypad too slow to type on, so that makes responding to emails and messages too frustrating and difficult. Voice Control isn't practical for people with hearing loss who don't speak perfectly.

    I liked a lot of things about the iPhone----it's fast, it's fun to use, there are lots of free apps for it, the phone is well made, etc. I couldn't justify the high monthly cost for myself, which would have been $94 a month for me (basic data plan, 450 voice minutes, plus 200 text messages for $74.99 plus $19 of taxes and fees.) AT&T's data plan would have cost $50 a month and voice minutes would have cost 40 cents a minute. By using WiFi, the two most expensive iPod Touch can provide access to a lot of the same features without a monthly cost, and other phones may be able to provide access to similar features as well.

    Because we have to make a two-year commitment to a phone, we need to think ahead to the future and to evaluate a company's track record with respect to addressing our needs. Apple unfortunately appears to have some serious impediments about providing access to the largest group of people with disabilities---hearing loss----and it hasn't shown us that it will adequately address accessibility for us in the future. I have a bit more confidence in Google's Android system because Google itself has been a leader in providing access---it created a system for captioning videos automatically, for example, and I'd hope to see access eventually to captioned YouTube videos through Android. Blackberry has concentrated on improving the accessibility of its phones and provides different vibrating options, among others. Sprint markets phones that use its relay services and offers the most competitive data plan at $29.99 a month, but the data plan is unfriendly to hard of hearing people since it actually blocks incoming voice calls on some phones and charges 40 cents a minute for outgoing long distance calls (20 cents for local calls). Verizon Wireless has the most expensive data plan of $54.99 a month but doesn't apparently block voice calls, and they would cost 20 cents a minute. The pre-paid carriers like BoostMobile, Cricket, Virgin Mobile are interesting alternatives but they don't use the best smartphones. (For hard of hearing people who want to have mobile access to incoming voice calls and access to Web CapTel on the road, cheap voice phones from those carriers may provide an affordable addition to Sprint phones that use the data plan.)

    It's a bit frustrating that the needs of severely hard of hearing people aren't being addressed well. Severely hard of hearing people need access to the web and to data because they receive information much better this way, but they may express themselves to humans much faster and better by talking rather than by using sign language or texting. They shouldn't be penalized for wanting to use their voices to communicate, or having a few people in their lives that they *can* communicate with by voice, but Sprint's data-only plan does this. They need access to an affordable, telecoil-compatible, user-friendly phone with affordable fees that can provide both voice and data (especially for emergency purposes), but I don't see any carrier really addressing this need well just yet. (The smartphones from the pre-paid carriers aren't necessarily telecoil-compatible, and it can be hard to try them out in advance to see if they are.)
     
  4. goldpony

    goldpony Member

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    Which cell phones are the best or the worst?? I'm doing some research on cell phone before I make my decision before October.. I have a blackjack and I'm not very happy with it.
    Thanks.
    Lauria
     
  5. SouthFella

    SouthFella New Member

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    I used to be a sidekick junkie till we moved to another house. The signal here for Tmobile was terrible . So, when our contract with Tmobile ended, we went and checked out AT&T.
    The AT&T Bold 9000 is what I selected over the Curve. The Bold keyboard was much easier to handle than the Curve keyboard. and the sound quality with the Bold is great with my hearing aid. I haven't tried the Captel on the Bold yet. I am experimenting with the Home ? Phone Caption for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Telephone for Deaf | PhoneCaption.COM VCO feature for a few days to see how it works out for me.

    So, yes I can relate to the frustrations we folks with a hearing loss go through to find a cellphone to fit our needs. It takes lot's of research, and time and patience.

    Do keep us posted how it unfolds for you and let me know if anyone have any questions.

    The Iphoney is an overpriced market hyped phone. ( my opinion )

    Smile
     
  6. GadgetQueen

    GadgetQueen New Member

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    Variables for hard of hearing cell phone users

    Lauria, I don't think there's a cut-and-dried answer to this question. There are so many different variables for hard of hearing people to consider, and some of those variables will be more important to you than to other people. The nature of your hearing loss can also make a difference; you might be able to hear some alerts that I don't, and vice versa.

    For example, some variables are:

    Strong telecoil compatibility with present hearing devices (instead of narrow sweet spot or weak signal)

    Good call audio (incoming and outgoing)

    Broad frequency range for all sound from the phone (and quality)

    Loudness and clarity of speakerphone

    Loudness of ringers (low frequencies may not be loud enough)

    Audibility of alerts (once optimized)

    Ease of typing without mistakes (on physical or virtual keyboard)

    Strong vibration alerts (some phones have weak vibration)

    Mono audio option (iPhone 3GS accessibility option)

    Compatibility with hearing-aid compatible accessories (Bluetooth, etc.)

    Ability to use WebCapTel (and overall cost of access to both voice and WebCapTel)

    Access to the web (and affordability)

    Access to text messages (and affordability)

    Customization of music (like iTune's Equalizer)

    Provision of or access to accessible applications like TuneWiki (YouTube app is not provided with access to captions, though it could be)

    Future:
    Support for Mobile DTV (which supports captions)
    Support for Flash (needed for many captioned videos)

    There are of course other issues of concern to all users, like ease of use, speed or delay issues, call drop-out, coverage issues, etc.

    If people could try to rate their smartphones with respect to the above variables on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best, that would be helpful. Copy the above list and then provide your numbers.

    Lauria, why aren't you happy with the Blackjack? If you give us specific feedback about what you do and don't like about it, that will be useful information. Please put basic info about the phone and carrier in the subject line.
     
  7. hugoboss84

    hugoboss84 New Member

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    That was a wonderful post GQ, and definitely a thread that should continue as new technology comes out for the deaf. I believe that there is no one perfect phone for the deaf as individual preferences vary greatly, and cellphones were not specially tailored for the deaf until the FCC ruling and the Sidekick popularity.

    So most of the last 10 years, I have been on Nokia devices (before I had my CI and before my hearing deteriorated further), and found them to be really very clear. As time passed by, I kept trying out various phones, mostly the flip ones as some say that it reduces interference due to the distance to the antenna. My first smartphone was the HP Ipaq and it was terrible!! I used it 95% for texting, and even that sucked because of a buggy Win OS and it was an old device anyway. After I got my CI, I decided to get a Blackberry, though I didnt get to try it out much. I was excited and astonished how much technology had changed, and with all my trust in the FCC rating, I was relieved to have found a good phone. Over time I realized that it was a great phone for heavy texters, but very bad for those who want to use it with their HA/CI telecoils. In fact, it should have been M3/T1 !!! I managed it for 2 years without telecoil, and struggled because the only place I could listen clearly would be my quiet home! Here are some things about the BB Curve:

    Reliability - average. wont last you beyond 1.5 years.

    OS stability - just because RIM launches a new OS doesnt mean everyone gets it; it is carrier specific. OS crashes, freezes and takes long to load up. At least it is not as buggy as the Win Mobile OS.

    Battery - it is just average. Even if I had less activity going on, no apps at all to use, the battery drains very fast taking all the juice for the Network (I didnt even have Wifi on the curve, and it was 2G).

    App Support - There are few applications designed for the Blackberry. It will be a real battery drainer for sure. And it takes a huge chunk of the phone memory.

    Very recently, I purchased the BB Bold 9700 and love the technology designed for this device. As for call quality is concerned, GSM is the carrier and I have for long being aware of GSM devices delivering static interference. What made me buy this was during my trial in the store, it was so clear that I could talk easily with my CI telecoil. I got it home, tried some more and it worked. Suddenly, the network switched to EDGE (2G) and resulted in 90% static interference. Now this is something - 3G is for data speeds and should have the same quality as 2G, but whenever I am on 3G and I make calls, it is really good on telecoil as well as microphone (acoustic). 2G/EDGE just makes it worst. So I am going to try for another week and see if it is worth keeping around.

    I also tried out a few phones in the Sprint store - they have amazing Plans right now - $69.99 for unlimited text, data and voice. As for devices, BB Curve 8530 seems to be the best with M4/T4 rating, next follows the Samsung Moment and HTC Hero. Never used a Google Android phone before, but I am also looking for something with better reliability and stability. The problem is that none of the people I know use Sprint, so I need to know what are AD users' experiences on Sprint voice quality and data speeds. I am not a heavy Data user other than for my email and IM.

    Does anyone have anything to say about Sprint, the FCC ratings and any good devices a CI user would benefit from most?
     
  8. SouthFella

    SouthFella New Member

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    Spring was or still is one very crooked company when it comes to billing. Many of my ex clients and friends got overbilled by Sprint and it was next to impossible to get the bills corrected. Now, Sprint seem to do more for people with a hearing loss community than other phone carriers as far as I can tell . So, go through your monthly bill with a magnifying glass every month.

    I rarely have had a " crash " from RIM OS .

    I have a CI and the ATT Bold works fantastic for my needs ... I am very happy with ATT product and services for over a year now.

    Keep up the good work ATT !!!
     
  9. purplecatty

    purplecatty Active Member

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    I do use T-coil when I talk on Sprint 8330 Curve. I had no problem with it. Even without using T-coil and it still clear.

    I used to have Tmobile SK2 and its signal is sooo annoying cuz of data signal while I was trying to listen and talk on phone. It sounded like "TAK TAK TAK 3 times every seconds). I decide to distance it or even reversed the SK2 and it did help reduce annoying signal that my T-coil picks up.

    It depends on which phones and I know it sometime hard to pick the right one. Some Cellular companies offer 15 or 30 days trial if you don't like the phone, you can always return it and have it refunded or swap the phone till you get the one that you can hear better and like it's OS setups.

    I'm thinking about getting iPhone or Sprint Samsung Android phone (any touchphones). My Sprint contract expire this July so I'm waiting for new one come out so I can try it. I want fast and reliable OS that don't bog down cuz of memory leaks that Blackberry Curve had.

    Catty
     
  10. kokonut

    kokonut New Member

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    I don't need or use my t-coil. Speaker phones work great, too, for hands off conversations.
     
  11. GadgetQueen

    GadgetQueen New Member

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    Thanks, Hugo.

    Just to clarify, though: this particular thread was created to focus on smartphones for hard of hearing people (including people with CIs) due to the numerous audio issues we have that completely deaf people don't. So although you spoke of technology "for the deaf" above, this particular thread is focusing on smartphones that also address the audio needs of hard of hearing people (including people with CIs).

    I think you meant that AT&T was the carrier. There's no carrier in the U.S.A. named GSM, as far as I know.

    I've been using Sprint since the summer of 2004 and will probably continue using that carrier. I have good coverage in the areas where I need it and their prices are more competitive than Verizon's, the other major CDMA service provider. Each individual needs to check out the coverage where they'll need it.

    I've never had a problem with overbilling in more than 5 years.

    General issues about network issues can be better researched elsewhere, though (phonescoop.com, etc.), where lots of people can provide feedback on the carrier.

    Sprint provides a number of relay services for deaf and hard of hearing people, and I think that's a major reason why they offer a comparatively low-priced data plan for deaf and hard of hearing users at $29.99 (although it's not good for voice users). Sprint thus has a financial interest in serving deaf and hard of hearing people (to encourage them to use their relay services).

    In my opinion, the other major carriers with contract plans offer higher-priced data plans that aren't competitive with Sprint's at this time, though the carriers that offer services without a contract, like Boost Mobile and Cricket, offer attractive rates (but with fewer data features). (Boost Mobile offers an
    inclusive plan for $50 a month and Cricket was offering one for $40 for a limited time, but I don't know if they would work with relay services or would continue to do so.)

    BTW, one thing I really didn't like about AT&T was that they didn't have an automatic 15-day trial period for the phone. AT&T charges a $36 activation fee unless you return the phone within 3 calendar days (not even three full days, so it can really be just a little over two days that you get to try the phone). For people with hearing loss who might experience intolerable interference outside of the store (as you did, Hugo) and who need to try the phone in different places that might be quite a distance from home, three days isn't anywhere enough time to find that out. It also takes a lot of time to find out whether other features of the phone are accessible, like whether you can get effectively notified of an incoming call when you're already on a voice call. (I once was horribly inconvenienced because I missed an incoming call from a tow truck driver.)

    I think all the carriers should provide a 15-day trial period. Otherwise, people with hearing aids or CIs are very much at risk of wasting their money. A carrier like AT&T or T-Mobile which is more likely to create interference with hearing aids or CIs depending on coverage issues, but all phones can be at risk of not being accessible in some way----the vibration may be ineffective, the ringer may be inaudible, or messages may be missed because the alerts weren't effective. (I have hard of hearing friends who frequently miss phone calls because they can't feel or hear the the phone ringing, and that's a real problem.)
     
  12. GadgetQueen

    GadgetQueen New Member

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    I just saw an ad on this site for the Nexus One which said "It kills background noise." Ironically, the ad wasn't captioned! That feature would be an interesting one, though.

    The Nexus One, which is a Google phone, is supposed to be coming to Sprint, although no date has been announced, to my knowledge. It'll be interesting to see what the M and T ratings are like. It won't have a physical keyboard, however.
     
  13. Irish63

    Irish63 New Member

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    Simple phone for hard hearing people

    I have a difficulty in hearing ever since I was a child. But instead of using a smartphone, I prefer to use the Just5 simple phone. I find it more convenient to use because it’s very basic and it offers the features that are really essential to me. One of which is an amplified audio. I find it more ideal to use a simple cell phone, too, because it is safe from being hacked. I think we all know that smartphones are prone to that. Lastly, the cost of simple cell phones are more affordable. I only spent $89.99 for my Just5 and practically $.10 for each minute.
     
  14. Claire Menzies

    Claire Menzies New Member

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    I have an iphone love it.
    I am now go for change, I contact Motarola UK I ask them what Smartphone they have for Deaf people, they tell me 2 different phone
    Motarola Driod Bionic
    Motarola Atrix2

    I have order Motarola Atrix2 to try.
     

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