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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Smartphone or Tablet: Which is Best for You?

Man holding Ipad

With smartphones growing ever larger and tablets ever smaller, the demarcation between the two devices is narrowing. Nonetheless, there are certain features native to each that may sway your decision as to whether you would be best served with a touchscreen phone, tablet, or perhaps one of each.


You can make phone calls and send text messages using a smartphone. You can make Skype video and audio-only calls on a tablet, but you will either need to be in range of a Wi-Fi connection or purchase a higher end tablet model with a monthly data connection, which costs extra.

Screen Size

Touchscreen tablets usually feature larger screens than smartphones. If you are a user with low vision, you will definitely benefit from the extra screen real estate, which will allow you to make text and images that much larger. This extra screen size comes at the expense of being slightly less portable, however. A smartphone will fit in your pocket or purse. A full-size tablet will not.

Some individuals with visual impairments also find it easier to type on a larger screen with more space between the touchscreen keys while others prefer the smaller screen as it means that less finger movement is necessary between keystrokes.


Most smartphones come with GPS, compass, proximity, and other sensors that are required for most of the navigation apps you may wish to use. Tablets do not always include these sensors.


Smartphones generally come equipped with better, higher-resolution cameras than do tablets. Smartphones also usually include a pair of cameras, one front facing and the other back facing. Tablets often include only one camera, though this is changing.

It may seem counter-intuitive to have a camera on a touch device you plan to use with a screen reader, but be assured: a camera can be one of your most useful accessibility tools. You can use a camera to read bar codes and get help identifying household items. You can even use a camera image to help you read your mail and other printed text.

It is not uncommon for people to purchase either a smartphone or a tablet, then, when they learn what is possible with the other device, decide they want the other, as well. Some enjoy having the option to use the different sizes and formats to accomplish different tasks. Others may wish to expand their capabilities by owning devices featuring more than one mobile platform.

In this guide we will describe and discuss four different mobile platforms: Apple iOS, Google Android, Windows Phone, and Windows 8.1 (the Windows operating system for Windows tablets).

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