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Android 7.0: Making accessibility features powerful and intuitive

Updated August 13, 2016, with information about the final Android Nougat features and APIs.

A pair of really great features of Android N are things that most people won't ever use — new accessibility options. It's easy to take your hearing and vision for granted, but there are plenty of folks out there who need a little assistance seeing what's on these tiny screens, and some who just aren't able to use a smartphone the traditional way. Two new features — Screen Zoom and a "vision assistant" profile during setup — are there to help.

Screen Zoom is the biggest user-facing feature, and it's a great way to tackle the problem of not being able to see the tiny words and images on your phone. Rather than just display bigger text and images, Screen Zoom actually changes the display density to magnify or shrink everything on the screen. And everything means everything — even your status bar and on-screen navigation buttons change using the Screen Zoom tool.

Three levels of zoom

Screen Zoom works to make everything smaller and show more on the screen, too. The maximum zoom makes elements the same size they would be on a 320dp screen (exactly the size of the Nexus 4) , so the only thing developers need to do is make sure their app layout allows you to see enough to use the app at that scale, and make sure they use density-independent pixel units for sizing UI elements. Most of the apps you use every day will work just fine.

Setup Wizard

The other great new feature is how accessibility option have been folded into the setup wizard. It's easy to set up a new Android phone unless you can't see the instructions on the screen that guide you. Now users will be able to leverage the new zoom feature, as well as existing accessibility setting like larger fonts or the screen reader while they get things up and running. The Vision settings button is prominently displayed on the first screen of the process, and even flashes so the people that need to know it's there can easily find it.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

31 Comments
  • Great stuff, it's very nice to have accessibility options on the setup screen. Although I'd love it if they included dark mode or at least the invert colour toggle as well. Posted via the Android Central App
  • There's definitely an invert color already in marshmallow
  • On the setup screen? Nice! I've never set up a clean marshmallow install. Posted via the Android Central App
  • My bad I think you have to get past the setup first.
    Although it's been a while.
  • Sorry...no "vision settings" on my N6 in either place.
    Quad-checked
  • Your using the preview? Posted via the Android Central App
  • You should be using the preview to have access to it. I'm using the Zoom Tool right now, making the icons smaller, that way i have much more space in my home screen. I'm using a Nexus 6 by the way. The feature is so awesome that now i can't revert it back to normal.
  • Cool but I don't know how much I'd use zoom. Posted via the Android Central App
  • If they leave portable storage the way it is in MM I see either going back to iphone or windows phone in my future. No way to have portable storage (to keep backups) and also move some apps there then my reason for using android is no more.
  • wtf r u even talking about? the think u said is exactly possible in MM
  • The screen zoom reminds me of the DPI hacks people used to do a lot of back in my ROMing days. Cool Posted via the Android Central App
  • It is, in fact, effectively just an official way to make those same DPI tweaks. It's leveraging the same system, just making it more accessible now. Which, I have to say, is awesome, as that was one of the few things I would have still considered rooting to get. I like everything a little smaller than stock, especially on big screens - with all the real estate, it's a shame to not use it. Only other things I'd root for is night mode and customizing the quick settings page... But oh, Google's looking to add those, too. And multi window is icing on the cake. Android N is cooking up to be the release of Android I've been most excited for. Posted via the AC App on my Nexus 6P
  • You can change the DPI without root access using ADB. A small loan of a broken G4
  • True, but it didn't always play well with certain apps. SwiftKey on my Shield tablet decided to scale up the keyboard so far that only eight keys were visible when I used those ADB commands to change it at all, and wouldn't revert even when setting them back to defaults. Now, it's prominent enough more developers will keep it in mind when creating apps (hopefully). Posted via the AC App on my Nexus 6P
  • Yeah, same thing here. Maybe this will drive developers to make their apps scale well to different DPI levels.
  • I'm glad I'm not the only one. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Screen Zoom is actually a big deal to me. Mainly because I feel that the default DPI setting on most phones are just too big. A small loan of a broken G4
  • Yeah!!! you right, that's exactly what i think too.
  • The 3 taps to enable is idiotic, I hope the settings screen shown above means that we can now change that gesture to something that won't be constantly invoked accidently...
  • I've a friend that's legally blind who needs to magnify most text on his phone to be able to use it, he has used this setting and gesture since it was released. He's used it for years, and can not remember accidentally invoking the magnification....I suppose maybe some people just fat finger more than others?
  • Maybe, but there are games involving tapping and is also easy to do when the phone is laggy
  • I can definitely see that not going over well in games, as far as I'm aware that feature is just off in games. I'll have to test tonight to be sure..good point!
  • I have low vision and I totally agree. Ive been sending feedback to android for a while. I really hope they will change this in a future update. If not then they should at least adda wayy to quickly togge it (iOS triple tap home button).
  • I thought the iPhone used a 2 finger tap sequence which sounds much smarter.
  • They better change magnofication gestures. I have low vksion and it makes your phone crazy laggy. At last add a quick toggle.
  • I hope Android will have built in mono audio settings someday. Posted via the Android Central App
  • What about for us colorblind folk? I'm starting to see a few apps and/or games that have colorblind options. Is there any plans of making it system wide? Or is there already such a feature..?
  • http://www.androidcentral.com/android-l-includes-new-display-modes-color-blind-users. It's not present on all phones, though. I know Samsung has their own version but not sure about any others.
  • Awesome. I don't know how I missed it. I did join the dark side (iOS) for awhile around the time Lollipop was released so maybe that's a valid excuse haha Thanks though!
  • Thanks for all the content on 7.0 Jerry. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Thanks! And I love writing it. :)