New in iOS 10: Magnifier

Magnifier captured an image of a keyboard and user applied yellow/blue high contrast mode 15x magnified keyboard key using Magnifier

Apple's newly released mobile operating system includes a new accessibility feature called Magnifier. The feature uses the device's built-in camera to enlarge objects placed in front of the camera. This can be helpful for people with visual disabilities who need to read small print. The feature can be enabled by navigating to Settings > General > Accessibility > Magnifier. Once enabled, Magnifier can be accessed by triple clicking the home button.

Magnifier's interface looks very similar to the camera apps interface with a few notable changes. One change is that Magnifier has a freeze frame button rather than a shutter button. Pressing this button freezes the image instead of taking a picture. Magnifier also has a zoom slider that is large and always visible on screen. The zoom slider allows users to zoom in further than is possible with the camera app. Magnifier allows users to zoom in up to 15x compared to 5x with the camera app (iPhone 7 Plus has optical zoom). However, the further a user zooms in the more pixelated the image will become. Magnifier also includes several high contrast options that can be applied before or after a freeze frame is captured.

Magnifier has several advantages over taking a picture with the camera app and then enlarging the image from the camera roll. The first advantage is that freeze frames are captured in full resolution. This means that users can zoom out after the freeze frame is capture. In the camera app, once a picture is captured using zoom there is no way to zoom out again. Another advantage of Magnifier is the high contrast modes that are available. Lastly, opening Magnifier by triple clicking the home button means that it is faster to launch than third party magnification apps.

There is one feature that unfortunately is not included in Magnifier which is the ability to save freeze frames for viewing at a later time. For example, if a person uses Magnifier to read a conference agenda the person may need to take multiple freeze frames of the agenda through out the day because only the most recent freeze frame can be saved.

It also may be difficult for some people to capture crisp images with Magnifier. At 15x zoom, even the slightest shake can make the image blurry. I wish Apple had added a capture timer to Magnifier. This could help eliminate minor shaking that occurs when a user reaches for the freeze frame button.

Overall, I think Magnifier will be greatly appreciated by people with visual disabilities and older people who have trouble reading small print.

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