The Magnifier in Your Pocket

By Steve Kelley

Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Is it usually handy? If so, you have a powerful video magnifier built right in, and chances are it’s as close as your pocket or backpack.

One of the simplest ways to magnify something is by opening the camera, pointing it at what you need to see enlarged and using a pinch gesture on the screen to zoom in or out. This will work on both Android and Apple smartphones and tablets. In many situations, this might be all you need to use.

There’s a lot more magnification features out there, however, that make these devices really powerful magnifiers. Let’s start with Apple’s iPhone/iPad because it has a Magnifier App built in.

“Hey Siri, open the Magnifier,” is an easy way to use Apple’s personal assistant, Siri, to open the Magnifier App that comes with iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. The Magnifier App adds quite a few features to the camera and makes it a handheld video magnifier.

Once the Magnifier App is open a rectangle appears on the screen with various controls. Use the slider to increase or decrease the magnification. The camera focuses automatically, and the image stays quite sharp, even at higher magnifications.

Like many stand-alone video magnifiers, you’ll also find controls to adjust the brightness, the contrast, and the 11 color filters available. Open the Settings menu to personalize the options so those that are used most often are readily available. Press the large circle in the Control window to freeze an image. Multiple images can be frozen by selecting the multi-page icon. Press the plus icon to capture each image. Captured images appear as small slides in the Control window so you can open them individually as needed. This is really handy if you want to save a couple pages from a book or magazine, or several bits of information you might need during a phone call. These images are not saved to the device like pictures taken with the camera. They disappear once End is pressed to end the multi-page feature.

Unlike Apple’s phones and tablets, Android devices do not have a built-in magnifier app. A quick trip to the Google Play Store will fix that deficit! A search for “magnifier” will turn up any number of magnifier apps, and one of the best is a free app, called Visor.

Once installed, Visor opens to a view through the camera lens. Several control buttons are near the bottom of the screen. The largest button, with a plus icon, increases the magnification through four settings. Repeatedly pressing the button cycles through the settings and returns to the default magnification. The image remains sharp at the highest magnification, and Visor will reset the focus when the screen is touched. To the left of the central Plus button is a button to turn on the light, and to the right of this is the button to select filters for the magnified image. Like the magnification settings, the filter options include 4 filters which can be cycled through with repeated touches to the filter button. Filter options include a grey scale, white on black, yellow on black, and yellow on blue.

The last control button, above the Magnification button, is a smaller button with an equal sign on it. This freezes the picture, until the button is pressed again. This is perfect for keeping information like a phone number or credit card number handy while you’re on a phone call, at the store, etc.

Take a minute to check out the iOS Magnifier app, or the Visor app for Android. While the smartphone or tablet in your pocket may not have all the features of a dedicated handheld video magnifier, it may just have what you need when you’re out and about.

American Foundation for the Blind

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