In a previous post I talked about a couple of new Android access options that allowed hands-free control of an Android device. These were the new Google accessibility feature that is in a beta test at the moment, Voice Access and the EVA Facial Mouse which allows you control a pointer through the front facing camera using head movements. In this post I’m going to look at some Android phones/tablets that might be appropriate devices to run these apps. First thing we need to do is to check what requirements (if any) these apps may have. EVA developers have started a document with the results of all tested devices however the sheer number of devices and regional variations might make it difficult to keep up to date. Apart from appearing on the list linked above there is no sure way to tell if EVA will work without testing. Certainly if the device supports a mouse you are half way there but there may be other barriers. There seems to be difficulties with manufacturers who implement their own User Interface (UI) over stock Android (Samsung and Huawei among others do this). This might indicate the best bet would be to go with a Nexus phone as being a Google device they tend to stick with a more pure version of Android (no matter who the actual hardware manufacturer is).
The requirements for Voice Access seem a bit more clear-cut and are laid out on the Voice Access support page here. Minimum requirements tell us we need Android Lollipop (Version 5.0) or later and we must have the Google App installed. They go on to give a recommended configuration which tells us to make sure we have the most up to date Google App , the “OK Google” detection turned on as well at the Google Now launcher installed. This is all fine as these free apps can be downloaded and installed on all recent Android devices. However they finally recommend using a Nexus device for best results. The cynic might think this is a marketing ploy for their own hardware however speech recognition is heavily dependent on the quality of the microphone (among other things) and one way Google can be sure the hardware is up to scratch is by recommending their own device. That said the Androids listed below as alternatives to the Nexus should be up to the task also.
Listed below are some Android devices I’ve identified for use with the apps above. Each have advantages and as you see there is a considerable price difference. Please note that as yet I have not tested either Voice Access or EVA Facial Mouse with any of the phones below so there is no guarantee they will work. That’s the next step. I didn’t include the Samsung Galaxy S7 because although it’s probably the best Android phone available at the moment it’s prohibitively expensive (won’t get one for under €600 unlocked). There are a few things all devices below have in common and in fact many other devices could have also been included, so this list certainly not exhaustive. First thing I was looking for was a large screen. Users of the above apps will most probably have the devices mounted or placed in front of them. A screen over 5.5” will be an advantage for visibility and should make control using EVA Facial Mouse easier. The second thing I was looking for was a reasonably high spec. Specifics on processors and RAM are beyond the scope of this post other than to say only phones with more than a Quad core processor in excess of 1.5/2GHz and 3GB of RAM were considered. Finally only devices with Android 5 or above. This last point is important because many phone manufacturers do not seem to update their devices after initial release and with Android 7 on the horizon you don’t want to get stuck with an operating system 2 to 3 years old for the next few years.
The Nexus 6P is made by manufacturer Huawei who although haven’t the brand recognition of someone like Samsung in this part of the world, do have a reputation of making good hardware. Being a “Nexus” phone however comes with advantages. The Nexus brand is owned by Google who partner with different manufacturers to release high end Android devices. In terms of spec, design and build quality they are usually up there with the likes of Apple and the higher end Samsung and Sony devices. Also being a Google phone all Android accessibility features will be included and they are always the first to get updates. This would be a big advantage to us, being able to check out new Android features as soon as they arrive. The downside of this phone is that is has been out a while and there may be a new Nexus out soon (might mean there are bargains available though).
- 5.7″ Screen with 2560×1440 pixels
- CPU: Qualcomm® Snapdragon 810 v2.1, 2.0 GHz octa-core 64-bit
- GPU: Adreno 430 GPU,
- 3GB RAM,
- 32GB Storage,
- 3450 mAh battery
- Android 6.0 Marshmallow,
- Silver | Unlocked
Price €510 on Komplett
This is a giant among phones with its 7” screen which is the main reason for including it here. Although it has been on the market for over a year now its spec still stands up. It was originally shipped with Android 5 but apparently there is an update to Android 6 on the way (if you believe that..). Other more recent offerings from Huawei should also be considered like the 6” Huawei Mate 8 or the smaller 5.2” Huawei P9. Both are newer and more powerful than the MediaPad featured here just with smaller screens.
- 7” Screen with 1200 x 1920 pixels
- CPU: Octa-core (4×1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & 4×2.0 GHz Cortex-A53)
- GPU: Mali-T628
- 3 GB RAM
- 32 GB Storage (for model linked below)
- 5000 mAh battery (non-removable)
- Android 5 Lollipop
Price €430 on Amazon.co.uk
These next 2 phones are from lesser known Asian manufacturers (although OnePlus are building a good reputation in this part of the world). While this can be a risky move they both seem to have been well received (based on reviews) and have very impressive specs for the price.
This phone has been consistently at the top of many of the “Best Android 2016” lists. It’s sold out at the moment but should be available early September. In terms of spec it beats the Nexus in almost every area but that doesn’t always tell the full story.
- 5.5” Screen with 1920 x 1080 pixels,
- CPU: Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 820 Quad Core, Kryo 2x 2.2 GHz, 2x 1.6 GHz
- GPU: Adreno 530
- 6GB RAM
- 64GB Storage
- 3,000 mAh (non-removable) Battery
- Android 6.0 Marshmallow,
Price €400 from https://oneplus.net/ie (available Sept 9th)
The Cuebot Cheetah could be considered a real gamble. On paper its spec looks great but many of these unknown brand Chinese phones fail to live up to the expectations generated by their apparent high spec. This however is the only phone on this list that I have actually had hand on with. It feels solid with a responsive screen and I tested it with the EVA Facial Mouse app, it worked a treat. Its processor is a little slower than the others on the list but it will be sufficient to run all but the most demanding games.
- 5.5” Screen with 1080 X 1920 pixels
- CPU: MT6753A , 1.3GHz Octa-Core
- GPU: Mali – T720
- 3GB RAM
- 32GB Storage
- 3050 mAh (non-removable) Battery
- Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Price €162 from Tomtop
In the next post we will be testing Voice Access and the EVA Facial Mouse on both the Nexus 6P and the CuBot Cheetah. By testing them on both a premium and budget (high spec) Android device we should get a clear picture of the potential of each app across the board.