Samsun Haven: Is it for everyone?

By Michael Barber
Contributing Writer

The Samsung Haven, released by Verizon in July of this year, has turned out to be a cell phone that is remarkably accessible to and usable by people who are blind or visually impaired. It is neither a smart phone nor a PDA–it is just a phone. It does not provide for Internet access, nor does it allow for sending and receiving e-mail. It also does not have a camera.Samsung Haven

The wonderful thing about the Samsung Haven is that it is accessible–almost right out of the box. This is important because it means that you do not need to spend approximately $300 to add screen-reading software.

Form Factor: Clam Shell (flip phone).
Price: $39.95 (with two-year contract). 

Features
• Keys that are easy to feel.
• Menus that talk.
• Synthesized speech that is fairly easy to understand.
• Shortcut keys for Menu, 911, Contacts, In Case of Emergency (ICE), and Speaker Phone.
• Display screen that is easy to read.
• Built-in accessible calculator.
• Accessible tip calculator.
• Accessible calendar.
• Accessible text Messaging capability.
• Caller ID Announcement.
• Verbal phone Status Report.
• Five hours of Talk Time.
• Two Weeks Stand-by Time.
• Numbered Menus. 

Phone Layout
With the phone open and held vertically so that the display screen is at the top, the buttons are arranged as follows:

Top Row (just below the Display Screen):
Top Left: Menu Button/Left Soft Key.
Top middle: Shortcut key for calling 911.
Top Right: Shortcut Key for Contacts Screen.

Next Row Down:
Left: Shortcut to In Case Of Emergency Screen (ICE).
Middle: Four-way button with up, down, left, right arrows and OK button in the middle.
Right: Speaker Phone Button.

Next Row Down:
Left: Send Button.
Middle: Clear Button.
Right: End Call Button (also used to power on and off the phone by holding down for 2 seconds.
The telephone keypad is below these buttons. The number 5 key is denoted with a dot on either side of the button.

Configuring the Phone for Audible Output
It is important for you to know exactly how to configure this phone for audible output before you go to the Verizon store because it is likely that most representatives will not know how to do this. Follow these simple steps after you’ve powered up the phone:

1. Press the Menu Key.
2. Press Number 6 on the keypad to enter the Settings Menu.
3. Press Number 1 to enter the Sounds Menu.
4. Press Number 5 to enter the Voice Commands Menu.
5. Press Number 6 to enter the Full Readout Menu.
6. Press the Down-Arrow Key to select On and press the OK Button. After about a two-second pause, you should hear speech.
7. Press the End Call Button to return to the Home Screen.

The accessibility features of this phone allow you to enter your own contacts, make your own calendar entries, set alarms, send and receive text messages, and make adjustments to many of the menus to help you configure the phone to match your personal preferences. Truly, this is an excellent phone for those who are looking for inexpensive nonvisual access.

I’ve used this phone for a little over two months and was very impressed with its ease of use and the quality of the voice which spoke all the menus. However, there were some drawbacks for me which forced me to go back to my HTC Ozone smart phone.

First of all, the Samsung Haven does not permit you the ability to synchronize with Microsoft Outlook so all your appointments are on your phone. You can certainly input each appointment, but if you have several appointments, this takes a considerable amount of time. 

Next, although you can send and receive text messages on the Samsung Haven, editing is much more difficult. You can move character by character through a message, but when you press the up or down arrow key, you don’t get to hear each line read. Additionally, you have to use the number pad to text, and this is slower than using the qwerty keyboard of the HTC Ozone. 

I am certainly not trying to discourage anyone from getting the Samsung Haven. I am merely saying that if you need to synchronize your phone with your PC, send or receive e-mail, or browse the Internet, you will want to choose another phone. But if you are interested in making and receiving phone calls, sending and receiving text messages, setting alarms, making entries to the calendar, and having complete access to all the menus without having to buy an additional (and possibly expensive) cell phone screen reader, the Samsung Haven may be the phone for you.

Final Notes
You will definitely want to purchase the extended battery for the Samsung Haven. I found that using the speech with out it tends to deplete the battery fairly quickly.

You can also get a Braille manual from Samsung by doing the following: First, obtain the HEX number of your Samsung Haven. To do this, remove the battery and have someone read the number found in the battery compartment. Then, call Samsung customer service at (888) 987-4357. The manual should arrive in about four weeks. 

Additional Resources
Listen to an excellent podcast with in-depth details about using the Haven

If you have questions about this phone, you may e-mail me at michael.barber@blind.state.ia.us

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