How to use your smartphone at the beach
Taking photos outside – and seeing what you’re capturing – could be a challenge. Bump up the brightness on your phone to combat the sun’s shining rays.
Anti-glare screen protectors might work if they’ve got a “matte” finish instead of a “glossy” one.
Some smartphone users – especially among those who work in the field – like to use an anti-glare cover. Around $10 or so, these small covers physically shield the phone’s screen from sunlight.
Just like when you buy a smartphone case, you’ll likely need to buy one that fits your exact model, though some are adjustable to fit models anywhere from 4.5 to 5.2 inches. Most fold down flat for easy storage, while others are meant to suction to a windshield.
These might be tougher to find at retail, but the products are available online at Amazon and marketplaces like eBay.
Also, while you’re likely aware of screen protectors meant to reduce the odds of a scratch or crack, some products claim to reduce sunlight glare, too. Starting at about $5 for older models and $10 for newer ones, these “matte” screen protectors stick on top of your existing screen, so you’ll need to buy one that fits your exact phone.
Play with ‘Accessibility’ settings
Inverting the text on your smartphone – by reading white text on a black background – may help you see the words easier in sunlight.
When in direct sunlight, some phone users find it easier to read text – such as emails, text messages, or ebooks — when it’s white words on a black screen. It’s worth a shot, if you haven’t tried it. Enter your phone’s Accessibility settings to reverse the text color. It might be a tab you can touch called White on Black On/Off.
There are other Accessibility settings you may want to experiment with, such as Color Tint and other visual tweaks, along with the option to have text read to you if you’re having trouble reading it in the sun.
And don’t forget: you can dictate messages using your voice – utilizing personal assistants like Siri or Google Assistant – if you’re having trouble seeing the phone’s keyboard. Just be sure to double-check what’s transcribed on the screen before you hit “Send.” (Funny story: I once had a cold and said hi to my friend Mitch in a text message, but the words “Hi Bitch” was typed out and sent. Sigh.)
Better screens for outside
Cover your phone with these accessories that shield the screen from sunlight. This one is from TFY Universal.
A few factors contribute to how easy a screen is to read outside, including the type of screen it is (IPS, AMOLED, and so on), and how bright the backlight is (the larger the number of “nits,” the brighter it gets).
That said, you’re not likely to buy a smartphone that’s better to look at outside, but some are better than others. Newer and premium devices typically have higher-quality screens and with higher brightness.
And then there are phones designed to work in harsher environments. These “ruggedized” phones – such as the CAT S60, Sonim XP7, and Kyocera DuraForce — are waterproof and drop/shock-proof, and some advertise its anti-glare screens can also be used with gloves for those who work in the field.
Outside of phones, electronic book readers with “e-ink” screens are far better to read outside than backlit tablets. The new Kobo Aura H20 ($179) is also waterproof, as the name suggests.
Some devices, like ebook readers, are much easier to read in direct sunlight, compared to tablets and smartphones. This Kobo Aura H20 is waterproof, too.
Get out of the sun
From the “duh” department, sit in a shaded area if you want to see your phone’s screen clearly.
If there’s an important email you must read and respond to, sit under a tree or lean against a building and under an awning, until you’re done.
On a related note, if you’re looking at photos or videos you took on your smartphone, never delete unwanted ones from the phone when you’re out. Why? Wait until you see the shot bigger on a computer monitor as it may be better than you think. Plus, deleting media from your phone eats away at the battery. Since you likely have lots of room on your phone, just do it later from home or the hotel room.
Follow Marc on Twitter: @marc_saltzman. E-mail him at [email protected]
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