One of the questions I get from students, teachers and other users is “Why do I need a note taker or a handheld video magnifier if I have an I Phone?” There is no simple answer to this question. While the I-Phone and other smartphones have gone a long way to helping those of us with vision impairments meet our needs, I wouldn’t necessarily say they are the penultimate solution for every aspect of our lives. The magnification app on the I-Phone is a good product, but is it as effective as a dedicated handheld like the Pebble or the Looky? If one can use a smartphone to take some notes, does that mean that they make a note taking device obsolete? These questions can only be answered by the person using the devices, provided that she or he has had the opportunity to see if there are any alternatives that do what they need better.
I am an Android user and I use it for so many things outside of the office. I check my e-mail, listen to the radio and take quick notes when necessary, but if I have a meeting in which I need to take extensive notes I’m going to use either the ALVA BC640 connected to my Android or a Braille Pen. Both of these allow me to take notes with a keyboard and review what I’ve written in braille. I personally find that trying to take notes on the touch screen impractical. That being said, what works for me won’t necessarily work for someone else. I prefer to use a Braille display connected to my smartphone over a dedicated note taking device such as the Braille note Apex, but because I prefer that I cannot say that all blind people should be doing the same.
Perhaps the question shouldn’t be “why should I use anything but my I-Phone or Android?” maybe the question ought to be “Am I using the right product for the tasks I do?” Only the user can decide what works best for him or her. I suggest that while Smartphones are amazing tools, they do not always offer the person the same result as a product specifically designed for the blind or vision impaired. It is always best to evaluate your needs and to understand the options before settling on any device.