Humans invented technology to help us see things more clearly centuries ago. Glasses, bifocals, magnifying glasses, and microscopes were helping people read and see small things long before the invention of personal computers, tablets, and smartphones. However, smartphones continue to expand the options available for zooming and magnifying.
This article discusses who benefits from magnification and zoom options on phones, built-in features for magnifying and zooming in on digital content, and apps for helping people see and read the things around them.
Who benefits from smartphone magnification and zooming features?
Like most accessibility inventions, everyone can benefit from having magnification and zooming options on a smartphone. Even someone without visual impairments might find themselves needing to see something more clearly. And presbyopia, the loss of the ability to see things up close, is a normal part of aging.
People with low vision can also benefit from magnification and zooming features. Macular degeneration causes blurring and obstruction in a person’s field of vision. It is an age-related disease, so people are also likely to experience presbyopia at the same time. People with other causes of low vision, such as glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy, can also benefit.
Built-in smartphone magnification and zoom options
Both the iOS and Android operating systems have multiple built-in magnification and zoom options. iOS users can easily adjust brightness, which can help make things more visible for people with presbyopia or low vision. Android users can also adjust brightness. However, one drawback of increasing the brightness is that it drains the device’s battery much faster.
Users can also adjust the text size and make the text bold on both Android and iOS devices. However, this will only apply to apps that support dynamic text, such as built-in email and texting apps. App developers should support dynamic text to make their content more accessible.
There is also a zooming feature in the accessibility options of both phones. iOS users can turn on the zoom feature, which uses three fingers to control. Double tapping with three fingers zooms to that spot, and double tapping with three fingers again zooms out. While zoomed in, users can use three fingers to move around the screen. Alternatively, users can choose to keep a zoom controller open, which they can drag to the spot they want to zoom in on and double-tap to zoom at any time.
Android phones also have a zoom feature in the accessibility settings. Users have three options for accessing it: triple tapping, tapping an accessibility icon, or holding the volume keys. Once zoomed in, dragging with two fingers allows the user to move around the screen. The user can exit zoom mode by using their selected shortcut again.
Using your phone in place of a magnifying glass
People with low vision need to see and read things other than content on their phones. Reading glasses or magnifying glasses might serve their needs. Another option is using the camera on their phone, which allows for customization.
iOS has a built-in magnification app called “Magnifier.” To zoom in and out on an object, the user can drag a zoom bar or use a pinching gesture. Just as many analog magnifying glasses include a light, the app can incorporate your camera's flashlight.
The iOS magnifier offers many features an analog magnifying glass does not have. Beneath the zoom bar, the user can add another bar by tapping the icon on the left side to access several additional options. Changing the contrast can help the user in the same way better contrast on a screen helps. Similarly, using one of the various color filters can help people fine-tune contrast further.
These options are beneficial because they allow the user to make adjustments based on their specific vision needs and what they're trying to see.
Android users might have access to similar features depending on their phone. And both the iOS App Store and the Android App Store have several apps to download and try.
Magnification might not be enough to help people with low vision read everything. For example, macular degeneration can cause blurry spots in a person’s field of vision. These people can use Google Lens, which is built into a handful of Google apps. Using Google Lens, you can point your phone camera at text and simply tap the listen button to hear the text read aloud.
Both the iOS and the Android operating systems have built-in accessibility tools for enlarging digital content and zooming in on words or pictures the user wants to see better. Phones also feature powerful, customizable magnification apps that can help people interact with the world. As the population of the U.S. ages, the number of people with low vision continues to increase. Advances in technology can support people with low vision to continue to live full lives.