How to use live subtitles on an iPhone

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Closed captions are a must for the hearing impaired and are also useful for a variety of other reasons. What happens if a video or audio track does not have subtitles? That’s where the iPhone’s “Live Subtitles” feature comes in.

Introduced in iOS 16, “Live Captions” lets you view captions for just about anything that plays audio on your iPhone. That includes videos, music, podcasts, and even phone calls and FaceTime calls.

Note: As of September 2022, Live Captions is in beta and is only available in English in the US and Canada. You also need an iPhone 11 or later.

First, open the Settings app on your iPhone.

Next, go to the “Accessibility” section.

go to "Accessibility".

Now select “Live Subtitles”.

Select "live subtitles".

The first thing you need to do is simply turn on “Live Subtitles” at the top of the screen.

Active "live subtitles".

Alternatively, you can choose to only use Live Captions in certain apps. On that same page, you can toggle between “Live Captions in FaceTime” and “Live Captions in RTT” (Real Time Text).

Additional live subtitle options.

Now that we’ve enabled Live Captions, let’s customize how it appears on the screen. Select “Appearance” to continue.

Choose "Appearance".

The “Appearance” page has a few things you can customize. You have the option to modify the type, size, and color of the text, as well as the background color of the text box. The transparency of the Live Captions button can also be adjusted.

Appearance options.

Once you’re done customizing the look, we can go ahead and test it out! Just start playing something that has audio, like a YouTube video. A text box will appear, like the one shown below. You can drag it around the screen with your finger.

  • Arrow: Minimizes the text box into a small floating bubble.
  • pauses: Pause transcription.
  • Microphone: Switch to live audio transcription through the device’s microphone.
  • Full screen: Expands the transcript box to full screen.

iPhone Live Subtitles text box.

When the audio is not being transcribed, or you have collapsed the box, you will see a small floating bubble that can be dragged around the screen.

Floating button.

That’s all there is to Live Captions! This is a very powerful feature that can be invaluable to many people. Google Pixel phones have a similar feature with the same name. Accessibility is a big deal, and the iPhone has it covered.

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