CTIA 2009 is the conference for consumer telecommunications devices, with companies like LG, Samsung and Kyocera announcing their latest products for the office, car and play. The latest phones channel Apple’s iPhone, with multi-touch and application stores.
Multitouch phones — where fingers are used to navigate — aren’t accessible to many different types of disabilities, such as those with sight impairments. But multitouch combined with QWERTY keyboards and other tactile keys provide an additional layer of accessibility.
This year’s CTIA showed a few: The Samsung Impression was a clear frontrunner. The Impression is a multitouch phone with an icon-based design. It has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard that’s spacious and tactile. CNET says it “stands out in a crowded field as the one of the best-designed messaging phones we’ve seen in a while.”
HTC announced a U.S. version of Snap, a Blackberry-type phone with a physical QWERTY keyboard. The handset is clearly designed for hard-core e-mail and messaging. CNET says the Snap’s QWERTY keyboard “has good-size buttons with nice, tactile feedback so it is comfortable and easy to type messages. You also get a standard navigation array of two soft keys, Talk and End buttons, a Home shortcut, a back button, and a new trackball navigator.” The phone also lets you press a special button that will boost e-mails from a preselected group of people to the top of your in-box for easier replies.
On the new Nokia E71, CNET says “the buttons are fairly large with nice, tactile feedback,” though “users with larger thumbs might run into some problems.”
While a lot needs to be done to make phones more accessible, the integration of keyboards on newer multitouch phones definitely opens the market to more people with disabilities.