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Your Phone’s Accessibility Options Are More Useful Than You Think

Buried deep in your phone’s arcane settings are a collection of features under the mundane banner “Accessibility.” These features seem as if they’re just for people who have special needs — like being colorblind or having poor eyesight — but many of the tools you can find there are useful to everyone.

There are slight differences in how some of these features are handled on iPhones versus Android phones (and even further differences from one Android phone to another), but the features we’ve rounded up below are generally available on most devices. They may be in a different place depending on your device, but if you explore your phone, you’re likely to find versions of these features somewhere in there.

One of the most universally useful accessibility features is changing the font size on your phone. As phones get bigger, they have more and more space for text. To the point that you could potentially fit whole pages of a book on your screen. Some phones default to having really small text so you can read as much as possible without scrolling, but this can also make text harder to read.

On iOS devices like Apple’s iPhone and iPad, you can find this setting under Accessibility, then Display & Text Size. From here, you have a lot of options, but the most relevant is labeled “Larger Text.” Despite its name, you can use this to make text smaller as well. At the top of the screen, you’ll also see a toggle labeled “Larger Accessibility Sizes” that give you even more text size increments. Adjust the text until it’s comfortable for you to read and go about your day.

On Android, Google’s mobile operating system, this feature can usually be found in the Settings app under Accessibility, often labeled something like “Font size.” Android doesn’t have quite as many levels of font sizes as iPhones do, but you can adjust the text to be anywhere from slightly smaller to a couple of steps larger than normal. You might want to turn the text size up to read it better, but you can also turn it down if your eyesight is good enough and you would like to read more on a single screen.

Text isn’t the only thing you can make bigger with your accessibility features. The buttons, boxes and various other visual elements in your apps can be adjusted as well. For example, your home screen can fit a certain number of icons on it. If you turn up the display size, you might not be able to fit as many, but the ones you’re left with will be larger and easier to hit.

In Android, you can adjust this in the Settings app under Accessibility by choosing “Display size.” Note that adjusting this setting will also bring the text size up or down with it, so you may want to start with this, then go back and tweak the text size if your changes make it too hard to read. Unfortunately, this feature doesn’t exist on iOS, but you do have a couple of toggles you can tweak to add shapes to buttons so it’s clearer which part of the screen you need to tap, or on/off labels for toggles that will tell you which position a switch is in.

In the most recent versions of Android and iOS, both platforms have rolled out a systemwide dark theme that is easier on the eyes than the searing bright white that most apps have leaned on in recent years. While iPhones treat this as a basic display feature, which you can find under Settings and then Display & Brightness, Android has it buried in the Accessibility section.

To turn it on in Android, open your Settings app, head to the Accessibility subheading and just under the font and display size sections, you’ll see a toggle for “Dark theme.” However, you have a few more options to play with. If you enable the hidden Developer Options menu, you’ll find a setting under Theming called “Accent color.” This will let you change the highlight color that’s used throughout the system for things like buttons or menu headings.

The accent color will be altered if you enable the dark mode on Android. By default, the accent color is a deep blue, but in dark mode, this color becomes a pale blue that’s not quite as easy to read against a black background. If you change the accent color to black — which, when inverted, will become white — you can get a much cleaner look.

In the early days of telephones, in order to hang up, you had to physically place the receiver down on the phone’s base. The action gave phone calls a satisfying finality that just isn’t achieved by lightly tapping a red spot on your screen. If you miss that — or just want a more tactile experience to let you know when you’ve ended a call (so you don’t start talking aloud about the person you were just on the phone with, only to realize you never actually hung up) — you can enable a feature on Android phones that lets you press the power button to end a call.

In the Accessibility section of the Settings app, you can find a toggle that reads “Power button ends call.” With this switch enabled, you can hang up on any phone call by pressing the power button on your phone. Sure, you can’t just slam your phone down on the table to hang up, but it’s still more tactile than tapping the screen. Plus, you can do it without looking.

Both Android and iOS have a handy shortcut to pull up a magnifying glass with a triple tap. In true Apple versus Google fashion, though, the two companies have very different definitions for this similarly named tool.

On Android, the feature allows you to triple tap your screen to zoom in on whatever is on your display. This is handy if, for example, you’re using Instagram, which allows you to pinch-to-zoom in on photos only as long as your fingers are in contact with the screen. As soon as you let go, the picture will zoom back out. With the Magnification tool, you can zoom in for as long as you want.

On iOS devices, the Magnifier tool has a different meaning. Instead of zooming in on what’s on your screen, this tool will use the camera to create a “magnifying glass” to let you look closer at physical objects. It’s similar to opening your camera app and zooming in manually, but a lot faster. This tool uses the same triple-tap gesture as the one on Android, though on older iPhones, it instead uses a triple-click of the home button where available.

Both Android and iOS have smart assistants that you can talk to with a collection of voice commands to quickly do a task. Most Android devices have a Google search bar on the home screen where you can type those same commands, if you’re somewhere that you would rather not be seen talking to your phone, or where it is too loud to be heard. Unfortunately, Siri doesn’t quite have the same flexibility. Unless you dig into your settings.

Under Accessibility, there is a section labeled Siri where you can find a “Type to Siri” toggle. When this is enabled, you can long-press the Side button (or Home button if your iPhone still has one) and instead of listening for a voice command, Siri will pop up with a keyboard where you can type a command. This is excellent for discreetly entering commands in the middle of that meeting that you’re definitely paying attention to.

Many more tools are available in the Accessibility section of your phone, including toggles to increase the contrast on certain text elements, reduce animations that might strain your eyes, or read text aloud. Some of these features differ from one device to another, so take a look through your phone’s settings to get an idea of what you can do with them.

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