RAZ Mobility MiniVision2 Mobile Phone for Users with Visual Impairments (2024)

Steve Kelley

Maybe the smartphone is really the mobile phone that's easy to learn, has buttons you can feel, and a spoken menu from the moment you turn the phone on? Or the phone with a couple handy applications, like a voice recorder, sending a text with voice dictation, or making a shopping list, instead of a bazillion apps and icons that clutter up the display and open when you're trying to find something else? If you think a phone with a bazillion apps and icons that clutter up the display and open when you're trying to find something else isn't exactly "smart." Then check out the Raz Mobility MiniVision2, a streamlined mobile phone with a couple handy applications, like a voice recorder, text messaging via voice dictation, and list making.

The Raz Mobility MiniVision2

The MiniVision2 is the size of a small smartphone, about 5 inches by 2.5 inches. At 2.3 inches, the display is slightly larger than what you'd find on a flip phone, with a sharp QVGA screen. Below the screen are five menu controls located above a push button number pad. The menu controls include two control keys on both sides of a navigation pad in the center. The keys are high contrast white-on-black, larger than what you'd find on a flip phone, and have strategic tactile labels. On the left, for example, the control key to answer a call has two vertical raised dots, and to the right the power on/off and end call key has three raised horizontal dots. Likewise, the navigational pad is made of four raised lines around a smaller square key. The raised lines provide directional navigation: left, right, up, and down. The center key is used to confirm or enter a choice.

A speaker is centered above the display and on the top edge, just above the speaker, is a small, very functional, LED flashlight. On the bottom edge of the phone, below the number pad, is a standard 3.5 mm headphone jack for earbuds (included), a mini-USB charging port, and contact pads for the docking station (included with the phone). On the opposite side of the display are the 2-megapixel camera, a centrally located SOS button, and an external speaker. The back cover is removable, allowing access to the rechargeable battery and SIM card. There is also a slot for a micro SD card, up to 32 GB, although the MiniVision2 comes with 4 GB of memory—plenty for photos, text messages, and voice memos.

Accessibility Features

The Raz MiniVision2 has accessibility features for both low vision and blind users. Turn on the phone and it starts up with text-to-speech enabled. All the menus and text on the phone are accessible with the built-in text-to-speech. In the Settings menu, there are a number of options for speech, including "Premium" voices of higher quality. By default, a female, non -premium voice is installed, which can be quickly upgraded to a premium male or female voice with a free download. Users can select from 28 languages and adjust the rate of speed for the text-to-speech from one of nine settings from Very Slow to Fastest.

For users who rely on the display, text-to-speech can be turned off from the Settings > Vocalization menu, and the display can be customized for greater visual access. The menu for Settings > Display contains ten options including Brightness, Font, Font Size, Bold, Text and Background Colors, Display Mode, Text Scrolling Speed, Text Scrolling Delay, and Screen Off. Font size includes four settings from Small to Very Large. With the text set to Very Large and Bold turned on, two lines of text appear on the screen in the menus, with eight characters visible. The font appears somewhat smaller in the Notes and Messages apps, with about 13 characters per line. Text that doesn't fit on a line scrolls from right to left at a speed that can be adjusted by the user.

The Text and Background Colors menu option includes six high-contrast color options: black on white, white on black, yellow on blue, blue on yellow, yellow on black, and black on yellow. This writer found that using the very large text size with bold and yellow text on a black background provided a crisp, high-contrast display with two lines of text showing while moving through the various menus.

Applications

The MiniVision2 is an unlocked phone that can be used on the GSM cellular networks like AT&T, T-Mobile, MINT Mobile, etc. It's a 4G network phone, so data speeds are quick if you have a data plan, and it's also Wi-Fi enabled, so it has a number of great features, like dictation, weather, and a GPS feature called "Where Am I?" that rely on a network connection. Also included as a menu option is FM Radio, which interestingly requires the use of earbuds as an antenna for reception.

In total, there are 19 applications, or menu items. These include: Phone, Contacts, Messages, Alarm, Calendar, Camera, Gallery, FM Radio, Light Detector, Color Detector, Bank Note Recognizer, Calculator, Voice Recorder, Notes, Flashlight, Weather, Emergency, Where am I, and Settings.

Voice Navigation

To move between menu items, the Up and Down keys on the navigation pad are used and then entered or confirmed using the center part of the pad. To get to the beginning or end of the menu options, just press and hold the Up or Down key to skip over the other menu items. The Left and Right keys on the navigation pad decrease and increase the volume.

Navigating through the menu and performing a task like making a call or sending a text can also be done using voice commands from the Home screen. Just press and hold the center navigation pad button, wait for the beep, and speak the menu item or command. For example, "Call [any name listed in Contacts]" to make a phone call to that contact. For a text message, "Send a message to [any name listed in Contacts]". Also, just speaking the menu item after the beep will open the application. To quickly turn on the flashlight, for example, just press and hold the center of the navigation pad, wait for the beep, then say, "Flashlight," to turn it on.

This same great dictation feature can be used in any edit box on the phone. For example, in the Notes application, if you press the Menu button (located just above the call button), then select "New Note," then press and hold the center navigation pad button you can dictate the note following the beep.

Best Apps

Several apps included on the MiniVision2 are worth highlighting, including Where Am I?, Bank Note Recognizer, and Light Detector. The camera on the MiniVision2 is an acceptable 2-megapixel camera. It takes and saves a picture to the Gallery. It works great with the Bank Note Recognizer app, which identified a bill quickly when placed about 10 inches above the bill, regardless of the orientation of the bill. In the Light Indicator app, as the phone is moved around, a tone, like a high-pitched flute, indicates the light level in the direction the camera is pointed. The higher the pitch, the more light is detected.

Both the Voice Recorder and Notes apps are easy to use, and really add to the utility of the MiniVision2 for creating shopping and to-do lists, making personal notes, and recording all kinds of information. Both are quite easy to use.

The one app I really wanted to love was the Where Am I? app, because of its simplicity. On the Home screen, open the app using the voice command, "Where am I?" Within a second, a location was provided. The first several times, the address provided was several blocks away, but more recent tries have been spot on. It's unclear what has enabled the greater accuracy—access to a Wi-Fi network, or a better view of the sky for GPS tracking. It is such a simple and potentially useful tool for someone unfamiliar with more sophisticated GPS apps or devices.

What's Missing?

The MiniVision2 is an easy-to-use phone, largely due to its simple navigation, and a menu structure that really embraces less-as-more, and focusing on the most used utilities for apps. That said, a useful addition to the Voice Recorder app might be the ability to transfer audio files to the phone. The adventuresome user may find that it's possible to add to the Voice Recorder's library via the micro SD card, but this was not possible with the USB cable. The micro SD card is located inside the back cover of the MiniVision2, beneath the battery, so it is easily accessed to add files, but not nearly as convenient as an external slot or using the USB cord for swapping out files.

The voice commands and dictation on the MiniVision2 make it easy to use, and the dictation is quite accurate. In the age of Siri, Alexa, and the Google Assistant, adding access to one of these assistants or something similar would really be a great touch.

Wrap Up

For anyone looking for an accessible, easy-to-use cell phone with a tactile keypad and some really handy features, the Raz MiniVision2 is definitely worth checking into. The MiniVision2 provides access to text-to-speech and large print menus, voice commands and dictation, and simple GPS and voice notes. If you're looking for an alternative to your antique flip phone and don't need the learning curve of a smart phone, the MiniVision2 may be just the ticket. You can buy the MiniVision2 from Raz Mobility for $309. Many video tutorials are available if you'd like to learn more about how the phone works.

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

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