Regardless if you have the opportunity to use your OWN synthesized voice, you may decide to use a device to vocalize. How luck are we that we are living in a day and age where this is possible? I mean, 20 years ago this wasn't even a THING!
There is the HARDWARE and this can be your phone or a tablet (or a computer). I use an iphone for a lot of my communication but when i want to have a more lengthy discussion i prefer to use a full keyboard and thus turn to my tablet.
Then there is your SPEAKER because you gotta be heard baby!
Finally the software/ app choice. So here are my thoughts and experience with each!
There are DEDICATED AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) devices. My first instinct was to go this route. These devices come loaded with software from the manufacturer. So you are making a simultaneous hardware/software choice.
What i found out fairly quickly was (a) they are EXPENSIVE - like 5-8k (b) my BCBS Gold insurance would not pay for one and (c) they seem to all have been primarily developed for users with cognitive issues and often physical impairments that would prohibit the use of a keyboard. In fact, even in the images below these hardware/software images show them in the 'grid' mode where you tap on pictures to talk. Well you can imagine that if i want to discuss architecture or the latest episode of Great British Baking...that isn't so helpful. My needs are not the same as a child or someone with cognitive challenges. We actually found that we were struggling to make them user friendly for someone who's main goal is to type quickly to engage as seamlessly conversation with natural speakers.
Many of the companies that make these have great representatives that will let you test drive their products. I highly recommend doing so. I will also say that my daughter spent a decent amount of time on the phone with reps getting them set up for the keyboard mode i would be using and loading my synthesized voice to see how it would work. So there was a fair amount of time involved in the test drive process.
Each one had a fixed built in handle. Which while mildly handy (badump bump), made them bulky when shoving in a purse/bag/backpack.
They all have an integrated durable case with kickstand. Kind of nice to have the protection, but again, making them bulkier than your average tablet.
Each has a built in speaker. NONE of the speakers was particularly robust. It was the three of us in a pretty quiet small apartment and if we had the tv on it was not always easy for the girls to hear me chatting. Outside in our courtyard it was a real challenge, and i can only imagine in a larger group of my family it would be impossible. So i figured that i would need an external speaker for ALL of them and it was NOT easy to get them to connect to bluetooth speakers.
None have an option for a keyboard from the company. I did pair external bluetooth keyboards with each one, with varying degrees of success.
Smartbox Touch Pad
Tobii TD I - 110