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All 25 iPhone side button shortcuts, ranked


All 25 Side Button Features
The side button does much more than you think. Who needs an action button?
Image: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Rumor has it the iPhone 15 will replace the mute/silent switch with a customizable button that can do a number of actions you pick, much like the Apple Watch Ultra’s Action button. However, there’s already (sort of) a feature like that you can use right now on any iPhone. After you set it up, you can simply triple-click the iPhone side button to turn on up to 25 advanced accessibility features.

You can’t do things like launch a shortcut or turn on your iPhone’s flashlight, but a lot of people can benefit from these features. Here are all 25 of the features you can assign to your iPhone’s side button — and what they do.

Hands-on with 5 powerful accessibility features in iOS 17


Awesome Features for the Rest of Us
What’s new in iOS accessibility? You might be surprised.
Image: Antonio Cruz/Wikimedia Commons/D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

If you haven’t looked at any of Apple’s accessibility features because you’re not blind or deaf, and don’t think they would make your life easier, you might be surprised.

Apple built a handful of accessibility features into iOS 17 that let people with various disabilities use the iPhone in new and unexpected ways. However, absolutely anyone can take advantage of these tools, which prove surprisingly helpful in certain situations.

You can already get live captions to watch videos silently, lock your phone into one app to keep people from snooping around, play soothing ocean or forest sounds and more.

In iOS 17, five accessibility features take things even further. Assistive Access simplifies your phone to its bare features to make it easier to use; Live Speech and Personal Voice let you type on the keyboard to speak using your own voice; Detection Mode and Point and Speak help you get around using your iPhone camera.

Our hands-on demo will show you what these features can do for you.

Apple’s new Personal Voice tech might make texting more personalized


Apple’s new Personal Voice tech might make texting more personal
Imagine getting a text from a friend and your iPhone reads it to you in your friend’s voice.
Photo: Rodolfo Clix/Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple’s newly announced Personal Voice technology enables an iPhone to read text in the user’s own voice. The same tech could be used to read incoming text messages in the sender’s own voice, making them feel more personal.

This isn’t a theory — Apple submitted a patent for exactly this idea in early 2023.

Apple promises Live Speech, Personal Voice, and Point and Speak are coming to iOS


Apple promises Live Speech, Personal Voice, and Point and Speak are coming to iOS 17
Apple will bring Assistive Access, Live Speech and Personal Voice to iPad and iPhone.
Photo: Apple

Just can’t wait for WWDC23? Apparently, Apple can’t either because it’s already starting announcing new features that will almost certainly be in iOS 17, iPadOS 17 and macOS 14.

These are aimed at those with disabilities, and include Live Speech and Personal Voice. These will allow those with speech disabilities to participate in conversations in a synthesized voice that sounds like the user.

Enable iPhone ‘guest mode’ before handing it to someone else


Keep your kids out of your phone
Lock your kids into a game (like Zookeeper) when they have your phone.
Image: MIKI Yoshihito/Wikimedia Commons/D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

You can use a feature called Guided Access to lock down your iPhone to a single app before you hand it to a kid or someone else. You might want to let your offspring play a game, or pass your phone around for controlling music, or hand it off to show someone a video … but you probably don’t want them going rogue and reading your texts or calling your mom.

In Accessibility settings, you can enable Guided Access to limit your iPhone to a single app before you hand it off. It’s a kind of quick and dirty “guest mode.”

This will help you keep your phone — and your privacy — safe. You can even disable features like the volume buttons and set up time limits.

Always squinting? Zoom in on your Mac display.


What Does That Say?
Sometimes it can be hard reading your screen.
Image: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

It’s easy to zoom in on your Mac display and get a closer look at your screen. If the text is just too small to read, or perhaps you’re making some graphics and you need pixel-perfect alignment, a simple tweak to your Mac settings is all you need.

Using your Mac’s Zoom feature, you can hit a keyboard shortcut or use a multitouch gesture to zoom in on your screen. I’ll show you how to use this handy feature. Plus, I’ll cover Hover Text and Display Scaling, two more features that help you embiggen the words on your Mac screen.

Turn on gentle rain and ocean sounds while you work


Relaxing Rain Sounds For Work
Chill out and silence the sounds of your environment with the sounds of rain, the ocean and more.
Image: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac/W.carter/Wikimedia Commons

Working in an office or in the city, you’re probably inundated with noise from people chattering, cars running and nearby music. Your iPhone has a built-in feature called Background Sounds for playing rain noises or white noise to tune it all out.

You don’t need to download any apps or pay a cent; it comes for free on your Mac and iPhone. Let me show you how it works.

How to use Live Captions to get subtitles for absolutely anything in iOS 16


Live Captions will let you read a podcast! …kinda.
Live Captions are great! You’ can watch videos wherever you are, in places where you can’t be loud and you don’t have headphones, like late at night in bed or on the train. At least, you will once it works.
Image: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Live Captions, in iOS 16, generate subtitles of any audio playing in any app on your iPhone. Powered by the Neural Engine in Apple’s custom silicon, the capability to turn words from music and/or videos into real-time text is a boon to many users, in many different situations.

If you’re hard of hearing, for instance, the ability to see instant captions on the screen is a game changer. Or, if you don’t have headphones when you’re sitting in bed late at night and your partner is asleep – or you’re in any situation where you don’t want to make noise, like on the bus or in an office – you can turn on Live Captions to get subtitles.

The applications are endless and exciting. Here’s how to use Live Captions in iOS 16.

Did the FDA just green-light Apple’s next wearable?


A product design Apple would be proud of - Signia Active Pro hearing aids.
A product design Apple would be proud of -- Signia Active Pro hearing aids.
Photo: Signia

Apple’s next big thing might not be a car or an AR headset. Thanks to a rule change announced this week by the Food and Drug Administration, Cupertino could soon add hearing aids to its product lineup. The potential market is huge, and Apple stands uniquely positioned to disrupt the status quo.

The new rules allow companies like Apple to sell hearing aids over the counter and online, so buyers can set them up in the comfort of their own homes. Previously, if you wanted to buy hearing aids, your only option was to make an appointment for a hearing test and fitting at a specialist store.

This small change looks set to have a big impact. FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf told CNN he expects the ruling “will unleash the power of American industry to improve the technology.” And there’s one company in particular that has all the know-how to do just that — Apple.

Apple develops Door Detection for blind or low vision iPhone users


Apple develops Door Detection for blind or low vision iPhone users
Door Detection can find and verbally describe a door to an iPhone or iPad user.
Screenshot: Apple

Apple’s Door Detection uses advancements in hardware, software, and machine learning to help people who are blind or low vision use their iPhone and iPad to navigate the last few feet to their destination.

This is one of several innovative software features unveiled Tuesday with new ways for users with disabilities. These include Live Captions, Apple Watch Mirroring and more.