How to Speak Screen on iPhone and iPad to Have Anything Read to You

Jun 27, 2017 - 17 Comments

Speak Screen on iPhone and iPad

Did you know the iPhone or iPad can read aloud anything that is on screen? The Speak Screen feature of iOS is helpful for many reasons, but in order to use it you must first enable the ability within the device settings, and then learn how to use the speak function.

The Speak Screen feature is one of the two major text to speech options in iOS, but unlike the general text to speech ‘speak selection’ feature which only reads selected text, Speak Screen will read everything on the display of an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, including menu items, contacts, articles, web pages, notifications, messages, and much more. If it’s on the screen of the device, it will read it.

Here is how to enable this great accessibility feature, and how to use it.

How to Enable Speak Screen Feature in iOS and iPadOS

Before you can use the Speak Screen ability, you will need to enable it. This feature requires a modern version of iOS for iPhone or iPad, so if you do not find the option then you may need to update the system software of the device:

  1. Open the ‘Settings’ app in iOS
  2. Go to Accessibility (older iOS versions go to ‘General’ and then to “Accessibility”)
  3. Go to the “Speech” section and flip the switch for “Speak Screen” to the ON position *
  4. Enable Speak Screen in iOS

  5. Optionally, adjust the speaking rate and other and voice used (note you can adjust the speaking rate at any time when the feature is enabled as well)
  6. Exit out of Settings now that the feature is enabled

* (While in this settings panel you should also enable Speak Selection, which is a different text to speech ability but also quite useful)

When you first enable Speak Screen you’ll find a pop-up menu appears on the device display, but you can close that quickly by hitting the (X) button, or you can hide it by hitting the (<) back arrow button. This little pop-up menu is what controls the Speak Screen feature when it is accessed or in use.

Using Speak Screen in iOS

There are a few ways to activate Speak Screen once it has been enabled.

Activate Speak Screen in iOS with a Gesture

The first method of Speak Screen activation is with a multitouch gesture. To activate the Speak Screen feature on iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch this way, you must swipe down from the very top of the screen with two fingers.

Activate Speak Screen with a gesture in iOS

This immediately triggers the speech function which will read aloud whatever is on the display, and it also brings about the speech controls which allow you to skip, rewind, speed up, slow down, and pause the speech.


Activate Speak Screen in iOS with a Tap

The other method to enable Speak Screen is to use the on-screen activation button, which will remain on the display as long as Speak Screen is enabled, and as long as the button controls have not been closed.

Summon Speak Screen controls in iOS

Simply tap the little Speak Screen activation button to open the speech control buttons, then tap on the Play arrow button to begin speaking the screen aloud.

Play button to speak screen in iOS

You can show and hide the Speak Screen buttons and controls by tapping the hide or show button. When Speak Screen is no longer active or it has been hidden, the little on-screen activation button will dim but still be visible.

Note that if you hit the (X) button in the Speak Screen controls the feature will hide until it has been activated by the gesture, or until the feature has been toggled off and on again.

Speak Screen on iPhone and iPad

The Speak Screen feature of iOS is an invaluable feature to many users and it has a ton of use cases, some of which are perhaps less than obvious. For example, one particularly helpful trick for using Speak Screen is to have the iPhone or iPad read an article or ebook to you while you’re otherwise occupied, whether it’s during a commute, while wearing headphones, or even if you’re just laying down or relaxing.

Have any tricks, ideas, or advice for using the excellent Speak Screen feature of an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch? Let us know in the comments!


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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks


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  1. RC says:

    If you set up voice over, it works. Annoying that you have to turn it on and off vs just doing the two fingute swipe as before.

  2. RC says:

    I guess if you have a vision problem, you’ll have to pay to enjoy the kindle books.

  3. RC says:

    Same as Jill. I feel it was done deliberately so you have to but the audiobook. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  4. Robert says:

    Same problem as Jill. Wonder if Apple will fix or do I need to dump Apple and get an android,

    I have seen this DNLA streaming (IOS 11) and iTunes files. Apple blames the developers and the developers blame Apple and then then feature gets dropped. Looks like someone wants more money.

  5. Jill says:

    I have used screen speak with the Kindle app for a long time but it quit working 2/24/18. It will read the 1st page then when the page turns it skips to the last paragraph and continues to do that on every page after. Please bring it back.

    • logan says:

      Hi Jill, the same thing is happening to me. Very frustrating! Skipping pages when listening to kindle. and sometimes starting in middle of page.

  6. Dr Mel Ganus says:

    ad disappeared and then it worked! Amazon ad bug?

    • Lydia June Schnitta says:

      Not a bug. You just found an inaccessible PDF. The screen reader can’t find the text. It sees your PDF as a mostly flat image. You must use optical character recognition (OCR) to make the image readable. Even then, if the formatting is in columns or lots of pictures and text boxes in the margins, it probably won’t do a good job. Retrofitting inaccessible PDFS is the worst.

  7. Dr Mel Ganus says:

    Tried it on this article and it couldn’t get past the title without quitting?! Ironic bug. Using brand new iPad Pro. Curious about how to get past the title. It stops as it starts to read the Amazon ad after title. “Ama…”

  8. Mike Locke says:

    I’m learning French and I just tried it on one of my stories in French on a Kindle screen.
    Wow ! beautifully clear French speaker with perfect pronunciation, perfect to improve my skill at conversational speed French.

  9. Don Bruno says:

    Now how cool is that….what a wonderful feature I had no idea existed. Great tip…..hoping it will read an ePub …gave it a try and seems to work fine, thx for the tip.

  10. Ilias Iliadis says:

    I have the latest version of iOS (10.3.2) and an iPhone 7 Plus. There is no such thing as a “Speech Section” in Accessibility, or a “Speak Screen” function anywhere. I also tried the search feature of Settings and returned nothing for “Speak Screen”.

  11. John says:


  12. John says:

    …how to read the screen…? 😂
    Open your eyes, turn on your device… taka a look on the screen. It is working all platform and device (which has display)

    • Y says:

      Let me help you expand your brain and world just a little bit. There are many people who exist with special needs of all sorts who cannot read, for whatever reason fate has befallen upon them, but own a smart device.

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