How iPhone’s Live Text OCR works in iOS 15

Live Text is a new iOS 15 feature that brings OCR to the Camera and Photos app.

When it comes to iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, it's all about refinements. We didn't get a lot of brand new features, but instead, we got improvements to existing features that will make them even better than before. These changes include FaceTime, Messages, Focus, and more. But one of the smaller things that was glossed over in the WWDC21 keynote was Live Text.

Live Text is basically bringing optical character recognition (OCR) natively to iOS without the need for a third-party app. But with iOS and iPadOS 15, Live Text lets you have OCR functionality right in the built-in Camera app, and it can also be retroactively applied to existing photos and screenshots.

What devices can use Live Text in iOS 15 and iPadOS 15?

One thing that Apple did not mention right away in the WWDC keynote is the fact that Live Text is only available on specific devices. The key component is that the device must have an A12 Bionic chip or better. That's because of all of the processing power that is involved with the Live Text feature.

Here are all of the best iPhone and iPad models that will be able to use Live Text:

So even though the compatibility list for iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 go back to devices from six years ago, not all of them will get the latest features.


How to use Live Text in the Camera app on iPhone in iOS 15

  1. Launch the Camera app on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Point the viewfinder at something with text until you see a yellow viewfinder rectangle appear on the screen.
  3. Once the Camera app recognizes text, tap the Live Text button (it looks like a viewfinder square with three lines inside it) in the bottom right corner.
  4. The text captured will remain on the screen. From here, you can use the contextual popup menu to select, copy, look up, translate, and share recognized text.
    • When you have text that is recognized as phone numbers, emails, dates, addresses, etc., those become live links that can be activated through a long press.

As you can see, it's easy to use the Live Text feature right from the Camera app to do all kinds of things with recognized text. If you are having issues with it, the best fix is to move the camera closer to the text. Live Text should also work with stylized fonts and even handwriting, though it may not always recognize characters with 100% accuracy.


How to use Live Text in the Photos app on iPhone in iOS 15

  1. Launch the Photos app on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Look for an image with a lot of text in it and view it.
  3. If it has recognizable text, tap the Live Text button (viewfinder square with three lines in it) in the bottom right corner to recognize all text in the image.
  4. You can also swipe or tap the text in an image without tapping Live Text first.
  5. You can now do all of the Live Text features, such as select, copy, look up, translate, and share. Items like phone numbers, emails, addresses, etc., become live links that activate with a long-press.


Live Text and handwriting in the Photos app on iPhone in iOS 15

During the WWDC keynote, Apple showed off Live Text recognizing handwriting. We tested that out too and – at least for now in the beta – it works, but the accuracy may depend on the handwriting being a bit more legible than mine.

Here’s how Live Text worked with my messy print and a little bit of cursive:

From personal to work and more, there are lots of use cases for iPhone Live Text OCR. What are you excited to use the new feature for? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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