Choosing a phone

There are more than 50 phones worldwide (as of August 2010) that run versions of the Android operating system. We will list a few of the more popular models below, but here are the most important things to know before choosing an accessible phone:

1. Android version. Each phone comes with a particular version of the Android operating system. While the operating system version can be upgraded at a later date, it is up to the individual carriers to make such updates available. Since it is hard to predict when these updates will occur, you should plan on purchasing a phone that already has features that you will be happy with. The following is a list of available Android versions.

Android versions are sometimes referred to by their code names, which are generally names of desserts starting with a successive letter of the alphabet.

Android 1.6 was the first version with accessibility support. Support was substantially improved in Android 2.0, and support for touchscreen-only devices was added in Android 4.0 For more information about what accessibility features were introduced in each version, see the Android Version Guide.

Important note:

Carriers and device manufacturers will sometimes create customized versions of the Android operating system. For example, HTC often ships phones that include a custom user interface called HTC Sense. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that devices with customized Android operating systems include accessibility support.

If you are wondering whether a particular device includes support for accessibility, you can check the list below. If the phone isn't listed there, it is best to check with the carrier or device manufacturer. Also, Wikipedia has a fairly comprehensive list of Android devices including information on the version number and whether or not there is a keyboard.

And be aware that even if a phone running a custom version of Android does include accessibility, the operating system may still have been altered enough that specific instructions in this guide may still not apply.

2. Keyboard and tactile buttons. Android phones come in a variety of different physical configurations. A physical QWERTY keyboard and other tactile buttons can make it easier to perform certain actions without using touch-screen controls. The following is a list of physical buttons that you might find on an Android phone:

The number of physical, tactile controls varies significantly by phone model. We recommend that you try out a phone at your local store to determine if it works well for you. If that is impossible, you can find detailed specs online and find a phone that has the keys that matter the most to you.

Some phones have touch keys, also known as capacitive keys. These keys are invisible and feel like they're part of the screen, but they're actually separate, discrete regions. The phone gives you haptic (vibrational) feedback when you press one of these keys successfully, but it can be hard to position your finger in the right place before you get the feedback. Some people put a small piece of tape over the keys to make them more tactile.

Known-accessible Android phones with "Explore by touch" (as of December 2011)

The following devices run Android 4.0 or above and are touchscreen-accessible via the "Explore by touch" feature.

Known-accessible Android phones with keyboards (as of August 2010)

The following devices are our top recommendations for accessible phones. All have full QWERTY keyboards and are known to work well. For each device we've included a description of the physical tactile buttons and any touch (capacitive) buttons and their locations on the device.

Phones with keyboards - accessibility unknown

Phones with keyboards that may not be accessible

The following phones have QWERTY keyboards but are known to have accessibility issues.

Phones without keyboards

With the exception of devices running Android 4.0 and above, we do not recommend Android phones without keyboards for accessibility. For your reference, here is a partial list of some of the more popular Android phones that do not have a keyboard.

If you have any information about other Android phones that are or are not accessible, please let us know!