You have a photo on your iPhone or iPad that contains text you want to copy, access, or research. You could turn to apps like Google Lens or Office Lens, but with the update to iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, searching live text is now built into Apple’s mobile operating system.
Thanks to a helpful touch of artificial intelligence, the new Live Text feature can identify text in order to copy and paste it, place a phone call, send an email, translate text, or run a web search.
Live Text also works with live images in the real world. Aim your iPhone or iPad camera at a sign, document, or any other physical image with text, and the feature kicks in. It even works on websites with images that contain text.
Live Text Compatibility
The Live Text feature only works on some of the latest iPhone and iPad models. This includes all iPhone 11, 12, and 13 models, as well as the iPhone XS and XR (sorry, iPhone X owners).
The iPad Pro 12.9-inch model (third generation or later), iPad Pro 11-inch model (all generations), iPad Air (third generation or later), iPad (eighth generation or later), and iPad mini (fifth generation or later) are all supported.
You will also need to be running iOS 15 or iPadOS 15 or higher to use Live Text. Go to Settings > General > Software Update. You’ll be told that iOS is up to date or be prompted to download and install the latest update.
Finally, Live Text only supports English, Chinese, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, and Spanish as translatable languages at this time.
Enable Live Text
Before you try to use Live Text, make sure the feature is enabled. Go to Settings > General > Language & Region and turn on the switch next to Live Text if it’s turned off.
Copy and Paste Text From Photos
To copy text from an existing photo, launch the Photos app and open a photo with text. Press down on any word in the text until it’s selected and a menu appears above it. Drag the circular grab points around all the words you wish to capture, then tap Copy to grab the text. You can also tap Select All to highlight all visible text in the image, then tap Copy to grab it.
Now open the app to which you want to paste the captured text, tap in the right spot, and choose Paste from the menu.
To copy text from a sign, document, or other physical item, aim your phone’s camera at the object. Tap the indicator button that appears in the lower-right corner of the viewscreen. Then swipe or tap the text to select it or simply tap Select All to highlight all text in the image.
Tap the selection to display the Copy command and tap the button. Move to your destination app and use the Paste command to paste the text.
To copy text from an image on a website, press down on the image. From the pop-up menu, choose the Show Text option, which selects the text. Press down on the selected text and choose Copy or Select All and then Copy. You can then paste the text into the destination app.
The only drawback with copying text from an image is that you may need to reformat the pasted text, specifically by adding or removing paragraph returns. Otherwise, the AI built into Live Text generally does a good job of getting the text itself right.
Make a Phone Call From a Number in a Photo
You can make a phone call from a phone number displayed in an image. Open to the image in the library for the Photos app. Press down on the number and tap the number displayed to place the call.
You can also aim your device’s camera at a phone number to make a call. Open the Camera app and point at the image. Tap the indicator button, then press down on the displayed phone number. Tap the number to call it.
Send an Email From an Address in a Photo
Sending an email through an address displayed in an image works the same way. To use an existing photo, press down on the address and tap the command for New Mail Message to compose and send your email.
To use an address on a sign, poster, or other physical item, aim your iPhone camera at the object and tap the indicator button. Press down on the address to send your email. You can also select an email address displayed in a photo on a website by tapping it and then choosing the displayed address to compose your email.
Translate a Language From Text in a Photo
To translate text in a photo or image in your library, open the image and press down on the text to select it. Tap the right arrow in the menu and select the Translate command. At the Translate screen, tap the option for Change Language, then tap the Play button to listen to the original text and the translation. Tap Copy Translation to copy and then paste the translated text.
You can translate text from a physical object as well by aiming your iPhone’s camera at the object and tapping the indicator button. Press down on the text and tap the Translate command, then change the translated language as necessary.
To translate text displayed in a photo or image on a website, press down on it and select the displayed text. Tap the Translate command to see and hear the result.
Open a Web Search From a Photo
You can also conduct a web search from text in an image on your device if you press down on the text and select the Look Up command. From the list of suggested websites, tap the one you want to open.
To search text on a physical object, aim your iPhone’s camera at the item and tap the indicator button. Press down on the text, tap Look Up, and select the site you wan from the results.
You can also look up text in a photo on a website. Press down on it and select the Look Up command. From there, you can choose the site you wish to see from the suggested results.