Blackberry Passport

Blackberry Passport.

The Blackberry name was not a very popular name in South Africa amongst the blind and visually impaired users.

It was slow, crashed more than what was acceptable and generally provided a horrible UI that was slower than many things I can think of but, that I won’t mention here for the fear of not having enough server space to store the content thereof.

however, the Blackberry Passport was a refreshing change and Blackberry provided me with a test unit. Thank you.

The device feels very solid in the hand; a very sure 196 g, and comes with a physical qwerty keyboard.

Looking at the specs, one cannot really complain but, as a totally blind user, you would not really like the device.

The screen reader is still very unfinished and I wouldn’t use this phone as my primary phone.

However, the magnification features built-in are definitely of a decent standard thus, if you have some vision left and you can afford this beasty, I’d highly recommend it.

The phone is quite big and not the right size for everyone.

The Body Dimensions are 128 x 90.3 x 9.3 mm and as mentioned earlier, it weighs 196 g.

At the rear, toward the top, there’s a pannel that you can remove and there are two slots. One for the Nano-SIM and the other for the micro-sd card with a storage capacity of up to 128GB.

It is running BlackBerry OS 10.3, upgradable to v10.3.2 and sports a Qualcomm MSM8974AA Snapdragon 801 chipset with a Quad-core 2.26 GHz Krait 400 CPU.

The GPU is not as high as I’d expect but, Adreno 330 does the job.

If you love storing a lot of media, you will have little to complain about as the Memory options are decent.

The micro-sd Card slot that we touched on earlier, has a capacity of up to 128 GB and Internally we are looking at 32 GB with 3 GB RAM.

This hardware combination is awesome and I never experienced any sort of lag when switching from one app to another or when running multiple applications at the same time.

The sound on this device is amazing. At the bottom grill, we find the stereo speakers. These performed well on speaker phone and excellent when listening to music.

Talking about speakers, the 3.5mm jack is at the top, just a little away from the left corner.

Blackberry provided a 13 MP camera, with 4128 x 3096 pixels, autofocus, optical image stabilization and LED flash,

The standard geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, HDR, and panorama features are found to make up the rest of the camera offering.

Oh, I almost forgot about the video recording. 1080p@60fps, is the best the BB can do.

The front camera is a 2 MP, 720p camera and suffices for video calling and other functions.

I’m not going into all of the specs but, I must say that the Non-removable Li-Ion 3450 mAh battery really comes in handy. The standby time is really good and even if you are a somewhat heavy user, it won’t let you down.

Perfect for the business user and for those who love their qwerty keyboards; really hard to find fault with this phone apart from the lack of action in the screen reader department.

However, as you may have heard, Blackberry is soon coming out with an Android based device with a full physical qwerty keyboard. Looking forward to that one? Just wondering because, I am!

Thanks again to Blackberry South Africa for having made this device available to me.

If you have any comments or suggestions, why not hit us up on Twitter at @AccessZA? Participation is key.

What about AG Mobile devices?

It is hard to imagine that just ten years ago, we were struggling to find an accessible phone for the blind. yes, there were the Nokias running on Symbian but, that was basically what you had to deal with.

Today, thanks to innovation from Google, Microsoft and Apple, we have a choice between Android, Windows mobile and iOS. We also have a number of manufacturers giving us options in the hardware space. Huawei, Samsung, LG, Xiaomi, HTC, Nokia, etc.

However, as you know, we do not always know if the software works so nicely with the hardware as many network operators and manufacturers modifies the operating system features.

In this light, I have been asked how accessible this phone or that phone might be for a person here in South Africa who might be considering a new contract with one of the operators or who might be due for an upgrade on an existing one.

It is difficult to recommend phones if I have not worked with them myself. On paper, things might look (okay) but, many times, in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

AG Mobile is a new local mobile phone manufacturer on the SA landscape and I have been asked specifically about the accessibility of these devices for blind and visually impaired persons.

It would appear that this phone is primarily available from Cell C but, I might be wrong.

At this point, I cannot recommend any of the AG Mobile devices to any person who is blind or visually impaired, as I have not been able to test any of these devices thus far.

There are a number of really good phones and if you don’t have the funds to waste, don’t spend it on something that is not going to work for you.

I was very sad when I learned of a fellow blind person who was promised by a salesperson that this AG Mobile device would be perfect for her and that it is exactly the same as Samsung, if not better.

It is not exactly the same as Samsung, or Huawei, or HTC, or whatever other phone’s name you want to mention. It is exactly as the AG Mobile device it is supposed to be.

Be careful, guys and girls. Do not just sign up and believe the sales blabber that you hear. Their job is to sell to whoever they can. They don’t give a damn about the fact that you don’t earn a lot of money or that you are blind or visually impaired.

If you find that it works for you, please let us know. Let’s empower one another by sharing info.

UPDATE 9 May, 2016

I’ve had the chance to play with three of the devices and all I can say is: STAY FAR AWAY FROM THEM IF YOU ARE USING TALKBACK.

The phones were buggy, crashed, hanged, restarted on its own and generally didn’t perform well at all.

Sony Xperia S accessibility review

By Calvin Botha


Sony Xperia S accessibility review
Hi to you, dear reader! Thought I’d shoot through a
quick review of my experiences with my first android device and how accessible it is for those of us whose eyes don’t feel like working:).


the Sony Xperia s lt26I sports 32GB of internal memory, a 4.3″ HD Reality Display which, although quite large in phone terms, is extremely comfortable to use and, with the latest official updates, runs android 4.12.


In a word, jumping from good old symbian to android is akin to falling in love. OK, maybe a little dramatic, but you get the idea:).  The interface is snappy, the touch screen feels more interactive and the customization that is possible is staggering.


If you were as fearful as I was getting a touch screen device, android will put it to bed.


Dialing on my Nokia 701’s touch screen was always such a mission, but now, with the explore by touch feature (where you drag your finger across the screen and tap on the item you’d like), with the number pad taking up the entire screen, (feeling more like an old phone with physical buttons)), dialing is a breeze.


There were however 2 gripes. These were typing on the main keyboard and answering calls.


The built in xperia keyboard was totally unusable with talkback.

Fortunately, a few tests of the multitude of keyboard apps on the play store later, and I found swipe, created by nuance, the same company responsible for Talks.  Now I can qwerty type away!


Answering calls is for some reason also not supported on my device with talkback. It was quite frustrating tapping and swiping around as my device continued ringing. Fortunately, thanks to an app called easy answer, I now need simply lift the phone to my ear to answer it.


That summarizes my experiences thus far. The xperia S can now be added to the list of accessible devices.

The LG G3 in South Africa

It was recently confirmed by LG that the latest flagship phone, the LG G3 will be coming to South Africa.

However, this is not an accessible device for those within our borders. The overlay software that was plunked onto an otherwise accessible Android v4 Kitkat, broke all the accessibility.

LG South Africa refused to interact with us to fix these issues and snubbed all our attempts to communicate with them.

So, if you are blind or visually impaired and you were considering the LG G3, consider no more. You’ll be wasting your time.

The LG G2 was working fine whilst it was running on Android v4.2 but, LG broke most of the accessibility when the upgrade was released in March this year. So, the LG G2 with Android v4.4 is also a goner.

Sorry guys. I am also quite sad as I’ve enjoyed my LG G2 but, accessibility is more important than specs and good battery life.

I will update this post if anything changes.