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Magnifier: Apple’s Hidden Accessibility Tool

Magnifier

At 63 years of age, my eyes aren’t quite as sharp as they used to be. Sometimes I really struggle to read small print on menus, boxes, and forms. Fortunately, there’s a handy and free accessibility tool on iPhone and iPad that can help out. Magnifier is a powerful utility that acts as a digital magnifying glass. Let’s take a look at this accessibility assistant from Apple.

Revealing the Magnifier App

If you look for the app on your iPhone or iPad, you probably won’t find it. It’s an accessibility option, and isn’t revealed until you enable it in Settings like this:

  1. Launch Settings
  2. Scroll down to Accessibility and tap it
  3. Under Vision, tap Magnifier, then tap the button to enable the app (the button turns green)
To enable Magnifier, tap the button on the right side. It will turn green
To enable Magnifier, tap the button on the right side. It will turn green
Magnifier app icon
Magnifier app icon

Launching Magnifier

Now that you have unhidden the Magnifier app, you can launch it and start using it. As a typical Apple product, there are several ways to do this in the app:

  1. Find the Magnifier app (see app icon at left) and tap it
  2. Ask Siri to “Launch Magnifier”
  3. Triple-tap the power/sleep button

The triple-tap option may display a dialog with a choice of accessibility options. For example, I have hearing aids so my iPhone asked if I wanted to access Hearing Devices or Magnifier (see screenshot below).

If you have more than one Accessibility Shortcut enabled, a dialog like this appears
If you have more than one Accessibility Shortcut enabled, a dialog like this appears

For fast access, add the Magnifier to Control Center. It looks like a small magnifying glass icon with a plus sign ( + ) in it. To add it to Control Center:

  1. Launch Settings
  2. Scroll down to Control Center
  3. Find the control for Magnifier. If Magnifier is already in Control Center, it’s probably listed under “Included Controls.” Otherwise, look below under “More Controls” and tap Magnifier to add it to the controls.
How Magnifier appears in Control Center (highlighted in red box)
How Magnifier appears in Control Center (highlighted in red box)

Using Magnifier

Once launched, Magnifier displays whatever the iPhone or iPad rear camera is looking at as well as a set of controls. Let’s go through these controls (seen below) one by one:

Onscreen controls for the Magnifier app
Onscreen controls for the Magnifier app

The slider with the yellow dot seen at the top of the screenshot is the zoom control. Sliding it right towards + increases magnification, sliding it back toward – decreases magnification.

The Middle Row of Controls

In the next row from left to right, we find:

Brightness: displays another slider that makes the image brighter or darker. Slide left or right and the brightness button turns yellow. To bring the brightness back to default (center), just tap on the center tick mark. Tap the button again to make the slider disappear.

Contrast: increases or decreases contrast with a slider. Less contrast reduces the difference between black and white, more contrast increases that difference. Most people find higher contrast text easier to read.

Filters available in the Magnifier app
Filters available in the Magnifier app

Filter: The next button displays an array of color filters. These filters change the magnified image (see image above). Various eye conditions can make it easier for someone to read text that is inverted (white letters on black background, for example) or another color. The available filters include:

  • No filter
  • Grayscale
  • Red on black
  • Yellow on black
  • Yellow on blue
  • White on blue
  • Inverted
  • Inverted grayscale
  • Black on red
  • Black on yellow
  • Blue on yellow
  • Blue on white

Flashlight: The flashlight button turns on the rear flash while magnifying an image, making it easier to read or see items in darkened rooms

People Detection: For those with really poor eyesight, it is useful to know when someone is nearby. People detection can be enabled in Magnifier to identify people in the vicinity and even tell you how far away they are.

The Bottom Row of Controls

At the bottom of the Magnifier controls we find the familiar “Settings” gear button on the left. Use it to change the Magnifier controls. You may never use filters or people detection, so eliminate the unused ones.

Filters that are never used can be turned off, and there is an entire set of controls for people detection.

People Detection Settings

People detection can use metric or English units to define how far away a person is, and if you’re using sounds (it makes a continued beeping noise when someone is near), the pitch of the sound can go up when a person is within a pre-set range.

There are also options to have your iPhone or iPad speak the distance to you, or use (on iPhone only) haptic vibrations to notify you when someone is nearby.

Capture Images

The “target” button in the middle of the bottom row of controls snaps pictures of the magnified image. This is useful, for example, if you want to take images of items on a menu for future reference during a meal. By default, the images are not stored in your Photos library; they’re just available while you’re in the Magnifier app. They can be shared in the usual manner through AirDrop, Messages, Mail, and other means.


Even if you have perfect eyesight, the Magnifier app can be useful! It’s worth enabling for those times when you wish you had a magnifying glass with you.

I find it discouraging that there are a lot of similar apps in the App Store. Many users may buy an app unnecessarily when there’s a free one available in iOS and iPadOS. Be sure to keep this free, built-in utility in mind for friends and relatives with compromised eyesight.

Check out this other accessibility tip from Apple World Today!

Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Steve is the publisher and editor of Apple World Today and has authored a number of books about Apple products. He's an avid photographer, an FAA-licensed drone pilot, and a really bad guitarist. Steve and his wife Barb love to travel everywhere!