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Dear Aunt TUAW: My iPhone won't stop talking to me


Dear Aunt TUAW,

While playing around with his new iPhone 4S Monday evening, Tim's phone started responding to every touch to the screen -- identifying vocally everything he touched and giving instructions about what to do there. He can't figure out how he turned the function on -- and he sure can't figure out how to turn it off.

Your loving nephews,

Jim and Tim

Dear Jim and Tim,

Accessibility enhancements open up the iPhone to users with a range of disabilities. iOS features allow users to magnify (or "zoom") displays, invert colors, and more. VoiceOver provides a way that visually impaired users can "listen" to their GUI. The VoiceOver service converts an application's visual presentation into an audio description.

Don't confuse VoiceOver with Voice Control or the Siri Assistant. VoiceOver is a method for presenting an audio description of a user interface and is highly gesture-based. The latter two terms refer to Apple's voice recognition technology for hands-free interaction.

As this Apple tech note details, you can control accessibility settings either from iTunes (easier for most visually-impaired users) or directly on the iPhone. To disable VoiceOver on the phone itself, navigate to Settings > General > Accessibility > VoiceOver. Switch the VoiceOver option from ON to OFF.

Unfortunately, with VoiceOver turned on it can be tricky to get into Settings in the first place. If you have the triple-tap Accessibility setting turned on, you can try pressing the home button three times quickly, then double-tapping the "Turn VoiceOver Off" button. If triple-tapping does nothing, just push the Home button once. That will get you to the main page with the Settings app. Then use a series of tap-followed-by-double-tap selections to launch Settings, and then to move to the correct Settings page. Use triple-finger swipes to scroll the screen if needed.

Once disabled, the mysterious voice will be gone. Auntie hopes it wasn't too traumatic for you.


Auntie T.

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