I was speaking to a friend about magnifiers tonight, after feeling really frustrated trying to read printed materials. She mentioned that she'd seen a magnifier on a shop but thought it might not be strong enough. It kicked me into action.
I decided to do a little research online and found all sorts of amazing magnifiers for all sorts of exorbitant prices. £60 for a gadget with 3x zoom; I don't think so. And then I remembered; we live in a mobile age, I bet there are apps for magnification which would work as well as these gadgets. And surprise, surprise, there are.
I have downloaded eight magnification apps onto my Samsung s5 this evening. Four I deleted almost immediately, they're not even worth mentioning; and four I tested pretty extensively, rated on the play store and will review below. I don't want to give too much away, but it's safe to say that my phone is now a magnifier.
Magnifier by mmapps mobile
This was the first app I downloaded. It was rated well (4.3) and had over a million downloads, normally a good sign. It looked really basic as I was starting it up and I didn't have great expectations for it, but I was wrong. It has a large area of view with simple use and the controls came naturally. I used it to read letters on white, red and green and it coped really well. It uses the phones light when it needs it and this can be manually overridden if needed. I even used it to read the words on a plastic bag at the other side of the room. It was really exciting, in a way you won't understand unless you've spent a couple of weeks unable to read anything you used to be able to read. I rated this app 5/5.
Magnifier 30x zoom by George Agbalyan
I was intrigued by the idea that an app could effectively zoom up to 30x. I didn't think it would be possible and expected it to fail in every respect. I was wrong. It really works and although it clearly couldn't zoom 30x when held by an instead hand over a letter, it brought the other end of my room right into my lap. The app is less user friendly than the first app, but then it had a lot more on offer. I was impressed and ready to rate it 5/5 when I decided to check it out just one more time; and that was it's downfall. I had to wait for a 30 second video to finish playing. Half a minute; it doesn't sound like a lot until you have to sit around just to read a letter or a note at a meeting, then it's an endless wait. This was the nail in the apps coffin for me, RIP 30x zoom.
My Reading Eyes free by myworkingapp.com
This app caught my attention because the image is an eye; I'm an easy sell. When I read the information I was sure this would be the best app for me; it had been made to help the developers friend who was living with vision loss. From the opening of the app it is clear how much work has gone into it and the passion behind the development. It has great features and it works well. But there's one big flaw; the size of the screen showing the magnified object is restricted to about 2/3rds of my phone screen. Of course if I had a tablet with a back light I could use that and barely notice the smaller proportion of screen usage; but on my S5 it is too restrictive. I've left this in the rating 4/5 and hope the developer might work on this aspect, but until then it isn't right for me.
And so to my final app review.
Magnifying Glass + Flashlight by RV AppStudios
I decided to try this app because it rated higher than most of the others available, 4.3/5. I didn't hold out a lot of hope, something about it's name lowered my expectations. I was wrong. This app is really good, it has clear controls and just felt really obvious to me. It reads clearly on all sorts of paper colours and distances and has a good zoom which can be easily adjusted. There's honestly not a lot between this and the first app I reviewed, but this will be the one I'm keeping on my S5 for use until I find anything better. Mind you it might be so good that I don't need to look any further. I rated it 5/5.
Again tonight I am so thankful that I'm living in this technological age. I have a kindle which zooms and can read to me. I have a tablet and a smart phone which have screen zoom, enlarged text in all apps and text to speech software and now even magnifiers. Thankyou software and hardware developers, you are making such a difference to my life.