Make Your iPhone Speak

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iPhone speaking

The accessibility features for iOS enable users with disabilities to operate an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. Some of these features are useful for all users. The “Speak Selection” feature is a handy way to have your iPhone speak text to you. By enabling this feature, your iPhone (or any iOS device) can read selected text aloud for you.

You access this setting by navigating to Settings > General > Accessibility > Speak Selection on your iOS device. From there, you simply turn on “Speak Selection”.

iPhone speak selection

You can also change the dialect. This is pretty impressive. For English, there is U.S, Australian, British, Irish, and South African. There are different dialects of Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese and Chinese.

It’s almost hard to belive such a cool feature isn’t on by default. This won’t automatically speak text for you. It simply adds “speak” as an option when you select text.

iPhone speak selection option

You can further tweak accessibility settings to enhance your iOS device. Many of these features are useful to any user.

What can you use this for? Perhaps a better question is: what can’t you use this for? It’s immensely useful. For example, you can create your own spoken newscast, and listen to it while you are otherwise occupied. This is easily accomplished. Simply cut and paste news stories into Notes, select all, and choose speak. This is easy to do if you use the “Reader” feature on Safari. It will extract the content of the news story, and omit extraneous information such as ads and other non-essential text. When you have the news story in Reader, simply select all and paste it into Notes. If you paste many news stories into Notes, you have your own newscast. Keep in mind, you can play any selected text in any app with this feature. You don’t have to use Notes. Notes is just an easy way to aggregate all of the text you want spoken.

It is important to note that the spoken text cannot be heard over AirPlay. I tried this using AirPlay mirroring, but the sound only came out of my iPhone and not my Apple TV connected television. Perhaps this is by design, as the intention is to facilitate a visually impaired user’s interaction with the device. Nonetheless, you will only be able to hear the spoken text as loud as your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch’s internal speakers or headphones can play it. You can amplify the sound by connecting your iOS device’s headphone jack to an external amplifier.

While the speech synthesis isn’t perfect, it is surprisingly good. It even takes punctuation into account — pausing on commas and raising pitch on questions. It doesn’t sound as good as a broadcaster. If you want to do this the easy way, there are myriad news apps, podcasts and streams, in addition to a good old clock radio. However, if you want to listen to specific news stories that you just didn’t have the time or energy to read, the Speak Selection feature is useful. (continue…)

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