Cell Phone Access
An Accessibility Evaluation of the Samsung Gusto 2 from Verizon Wireless
AccessWorld reviews of cell phone and other mobile technology have been among our most popular articles, and although much of the excitement in the mobile device world has centered on powerful smartphones, such as the iPhone and the various Android devices, many AccessWorld readers tell us they are interested in the simpler, more basic mobile phones known as feature phones. The Samsung Gusto 2 is one of these feature phones, and this article reviews the accessibility designed into this phone to accommodate people who are blind or have low vision.
The last feature phone examined in AccessWorld was Verizon's Samsung Haven, evaluated in the November 2010 issue. The Haven is a very accessible feature phone and quite popular with AccessWorld readers. The Gusto 2 arrived on the Verizon Wireless shelves just as the Haven was disappearing, leading many to assume that it was a replacement for the Haven, but our contacts at Samsung claim that it's not intended to be a replacement. Nevertheless, it's listed on Verizon's website as a phone that accommodates people with vision impairments, and that, combined with requests from readers, prompted us to examine this phone.
In evaluating this phone, we will take into consideration its physical description, keypad, voice output, the quality of its visual displays, menu navigation, documentation, and several of its features.
The Samsung Gusto 2 is a compact, dark gray rectangular flip phone weighing 3.5 ounces and measuring 3.8 by 1.9 by 0.75 inches when closed. It's about 7 inches long when opened up. The Gusto 2 features two visual displays: a 1.1 by 1.4 inch display on the outside of the device and a 1.75 by 2.5 inch internal display that can be viewed when the phone is flipped open.
Along the left side of the phone are two tactile volume buttons and the charger port. On the right side are a camera button, a speaker button, and the audio jack. Although the buttons are tactile and easy to feel, the audio jack is a nonstandard 2.5 millimeter jack that will not fit standard headphones. The camera lens is just below the outside visual display.
The phone features a standard 3 by 4 grid of dialing keys, which are slightly convex. Above those keys is a five-way navigation control with four directional buttons surrounding an "OK" button in the middle. Above the navigational control is a "Voicemail" button with soft keys to its left and right. To the left and right of the navigational control are an "In Case of Emergency" button and a "Text Messaging" button. Below the navigational control are the "Send," "Clear," and "End" buttons.
Caption: The Samsung Gusto 2
We could not find any accessible user guides for the Samsung Gusto 2. It comes with print documentation that is in a small 9-point font, generally too small for people with low vision to read. We searched on the Internet for electronic documentation but only found an inaccessible, poorly designed user guide in PDF format. Although Verizon Wireless does have a useful website with some accessible user guides, the page only has the user guide for the original Samsung Gusto and not the Gusto 2.
Tactile Nature of Keys
The keys in the 3 by 4 dialing grid are slightly convex, providing a tactile feel that helps to identify and use them. Although the manufacturer does provide nibs to help identify the "5" key, they have placed two nibs to the left and right of the key instead of on the actual key. We would much prefer one nib in the middle of the 5 key, and it should be more substantial to provide a better tactile feel.
The five-way navigational control is easy to identify and use, and although the other control keys surrounding it are less tactile, one can get used to using them non-visually.
The Samsung Gusto 2 does have voice output, which is provided by a synthetic female voice. However, it's somewhat muffled and is not as easy to understand as we would like it to be. Also, unlike the Samsung Haven, whose speech output supports all of its features and functions, the Gusto 2 speech output supports a very limited array of features.
By default, when the phone is turned on for the first time, the voice output is not activated, and there is no accessible method to turn on the speech. When first obtaining the Gusto 2 phone, a sales representative or sighted helper will need to go into the menu and activate speech. Following this activation, the voice remains on and does not need to be reactivated.
You cannot adjust the pitch or rate of the speech. However, the volume of the built-in speech can be increased or decreased using the volume rocker on the left side of the phone. One somewhat frustrating aspect is the fact that the speech was lagging in its response with a delay of about a second or so before responding to key presses.
The Gusto 2 also has a clearer recorded human voice for speech output, but it's used only in conjunction with the Voice Commands features discussed later in this article
This is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of reviewing this phone. Although the voice does read the menus, albeit with an aggravating delay, you always wind up at a dead end. You can successfully navigate the menus and submenus with speech support, but as soon as you choose something to do, speech disappears, rendering this talking menu navigation absolutely worthless. It makes us wonder what the engineers were thinking when they designed something so ridiculous. Without question, every feature of the phone needs speech support to make it accessible to people with vision loss.
The Gusto 2 does have talking caller ID, but you will need sighted assistance to activate it initially. When you get an incoming call, the synthetic voice speaks the phone number of the incoming caller or the caller's name if you have it entered into your Contacts list. However, it speaks the caller ID information only once, and you can't repeat it if you missed it.
Like the Samsung Haven and several LG phones from Verizon Wireless that we have reviewed over the years, the Gusto 2 has several voice commands you can use to control your phone. The Voice Command feature is activated by pressing and holding the "0" key or the "Speaker" button if the phone is closed. A clear, easy-to-understand recorded female voice then prompts you by saying, "Please say a command." You can then speak a command or use the five-way controller to arrow through your choices and then press "OK." The less clear synthetic voice will speak your choices as you arrow through them. The accessible commands are as follows:
Call a person in your phonebook or your voicemail.
Check your voicemail, the time, signal strength, battery status, volume level, and your account balance.
Call, readout, create new, modify, or erase contacts.
Call the last number you called.
Hear about how to use voice commands.
Other voice commands are not fully accessible, and they include the following:
Send a text or picture message, but speech does not support the process.
When choosing this option, you are prompted by the clear recorded voice saying, "Which shortcut?" However, the process for setting up shortcuts is inaccessible. Additionally, most of the phone's features for which you would set up a shortcut are not accessible anyway.
This option will open up an inaccessible Verizon Wireless Mobile Web search screen that sighted people can use to search the Internet.
This option opens an inaccessible screen with your account information, such as your minutes remaining and your balance due.
The Contacts application on the Gusto 2 is the first item in the menu. It includes many features, such as the ability to add a new contact, browse your list of contacts, and create favorites, speed dials, and emergency contacts. Although none of those features are supported by speech, you can at least use voice commands to use some Contacts features. With voice commands, you can call, readout, modify, erase, or create a new contact. However, you can't browse through your contacts, so you will have to know the names of your contacts to access them.
Although there is some limited accessibility with the Gusto 2 text messaging functions, it's not very useful at all to a person with vision loss. The major problem is that the speech will not support creating text messages. The synthetic speech will read you incoming text messages as you receive them, but it also speaks some fairly useless metadata that can be confusing. It only reads the entire message all at once, so you can't read by line, word, or character. Although you can use the menus to navigate to your inbox, the speech does not work as you scroll through your received messages. You could randomly select a message, and then the speech, surprisingly, will read the message along with the confusing metadata. However, this is not a very efficient or effective way to do text messaging.
The Gusto 2 has two visual displays: a small external display used when the phone is closed and a larger internal display used for menu navigation and advanced features. Both displays are bright, full color, and high contrast. The external display uses a large 20-point font, but even at the largest setting, the internal display uses only a 12-point font.
In the AFB Tech Optics Lab, we can measure the amount of contrast provided by visual displays. We found that the contrast for the Gusto 2 measured at 71 percent, which is in the middle of the pack as far as the devices we have measured. It's low, however, when compared to the 95-percent contrast ratio of the Haven.
When we purchased the Samsung Gusto 2 from Verizon Wireless in July 2012, the full retail price was $199. With a two-year contract, the price drops to $129, and we also found an online discount for $79 with a two-year contract. Those prices are for "post-paid" contracts, not for the pre-paid version of the phone that you can buy without a contract. Of course, those prices are subject to change.
The Bottom Line
If you have read this far, you obviously realize that we were not impressed by the accessibility of the Samsung Gusto 2. Only a few features are supported by speech, and that limited support has not been done well. Although a phone like this may have been acceptable five or ten years ago, we have now moved well beyond half-baked access, and we're definitely tired of talking menus that lead to absolutely nowhere.
Many of our AccessWorld readers have told us they want a low-cost accessible feature phone, but this phone is not the answer. Although Samsung did a very good job with the accessibility of their Haven phone, they practically missed the mark entirely with the Gusto 2. We contacted the folks working on accessibility at Verizon Wireless and told them how poorly the Gusto 2 performs from an accessibility standpoint, and they informed us that they have contacted Samsung to ask for accessibility improvements. As a result, Samsung has promised updates to the Gusto 2, but only the post-paid version and not the pre-paid version.
On a positive note, Verizon Wireless has just announced that they will be offering Code Factory's Mobile Accessibility, a screen access product, for their customers with vision loss who use Android phones.
Verizon's announcement says the following:
The Mobile Accessibility application is available on all Verizon Wireless Android devices that have an operating system of 2.2 or higher, and supports the Verizon Applications catalog. The Mobile Accessibility application is found in the Verizon Applications catalog on the device, in the Productivity & Tools section under Utilities. There is no cost to purchase the application, but data charges may apply when downloading.
You can go to their website to read the full announcement.
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