Use live text to copy physical text straight to your phone

Use live text on your phone to quickly copy physical text directly to your phone. It's easy to use and really powerful.
24 January 2022

With the release of iOS / iPadOS 15 you now have the option to quickly scan text with your camera and copy it straight to your phone.

It’s honestly such a great feature that not enough people know about, and while you might not use it every single day you should learn about it - to save yourself time in the future.

So what is live text and why would you want to use it?

Live text gives you the ability to point your camera at any text and copy it directly to your phone, it’s a simple but powerful feature.

Take for example a scenario, you’ve printed some details that you now need on your phone, let's say an email address or phone number. Normally you’d have to type it out, but that’s now an old-school way of copying information.

The quicker and more efficient way of copying text into your phone (which uses fancy machine learning) is to use live text, which is fast and accurate.

Live text on existing photos

Live text also works on any photos you’ve already taken, giving you the same selecting and copying functionality

So if there’s an important piece of text you don’t have time to write down or copy, simply take a photo and you can copy the text in your own time.

Live text uses

Here’s some examples on when you may want to use live text

  1. Copy (relatively) large amounts of text fast, directly to your phone 
  2. Don’t want to keep double checking that email or bank account detail you just typed is correct
  3. While studying, digitise key notes 

I’m sure you can come up with some examples of yourself, but I found the above the typical reason I turn to live text.

How do you use live text

Let’s get to the most important part, there’s two main ways you can access this feature.

Option 1: By long pressing in a text box and clicking the “ Scan Text” option that appears

Scan Text Screenshot

Option 2: Opening the camera app, pointing it at some text and clicking button when it appears (Note: it might take a few seconds for the button to appear)

Camera Live Text

Live text is super easy to use, the hardest part is remembering it exists.

Live text usage notes

With Option 1, it’s good to note that text is automatically copied into the text field and you can’t manually select from a large piece of text on a page.

Whereas Option 2, will take a temporary photo where you can select what you want to copy.

What are some downsides of live text?

While it works 95% of the time, I noted it failed in a few areas.

  1. Low light conditions
  2. Hand written notes
  3. If letters or numbers are too close together

Chances are, if you can read the text you want to copy clearly - your phone can to..

What iPhone and iPad supports live text?

This feature (which leverages machine learning) will require newer hardware and software to run properly. So if you’re still using an iPhone X or older phone, you unfortunately won’t be able to use this feature.

Now to use live text you’ll need to have iOS 15 or iPadOS 15 at a minimum and an iPhone/iPad that’s newer than the ones listed below

Supported iPhone Models

  • iPhone Xs / Xs Max
  • iPhone SE (2020 or newer)
  • iPhone 11 / 11 Pro / 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone 12 / 12 Mini / 12 Pro / 12 Pro Max
  • iPhone 13 / 13 Mini / 13 Pro / 13 Pro Max

Supported iPad Models

  • iPad mini (5th generation and later)
  • iPad (8th generation and later)
  • iPad Air (3rd generation and later)
  • iPad Pro 11-inch (all generations)
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation and later)

Live text is useful when needed

It’s hard to knock a feature that’s main focus is on saving you time, which live text certainly can do, for example some of this article was copied and pasted from my notes.

Have a great use for live text? Why not share it with me in the comments.

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