Activate, Set and Use Speak Selection on iPhone

iPhone speak selection

Using iPhone Speak Selection within a Safari webpage.

Believe it or not your iPhone can read text for you! You can select any text from within a message, mail or the Safari web browser and ask your Apple device to read it loud for you. This can prove especially useful when you are in a rush and can’t read the text yourself, or if you wish to practice word pronunciation.

For example, you need to read an interesting article but are on the move. Simply select the text that you wish to read and tap the “Speak” command. You can listen directly from your iPhone’s built-in speaker, or connect your device to a headset and listen the read-out while totally focusing on driving, running, cycling or whatever else you are doing. This feature is called Speak Selection!

speak selection settings menu

Speak Selection settings menu.

How To Activate Speak Selection
My iPhone 5s did not have this feature activated by default and I assume that this applies to everyone else. To enable Speak Selection simply go to “Settings”, tap on “General”, continue to “Accessibility” and tap “Speak Selection”. Now tap the gray button to enable it and a small menu will drop down, identical to the one presented in the nearby image. This voice reading option can be disabled anytime by tapping again on the on/off button.

iPhone Speak Selection Features
Speaking Rate
Now, you can tweak the settings and personalize Speak Selection. After you use the feature for the first time you will notice that the defeault “Speaking Rate” is too fast and you might want to slow it a little bit down, by dragging the button to the left side of the screen, closer to the turtle :).

iPhone speak selection with highlight words

iPhone speak selection with highlight words unfolding.

Highlight Words
This is another great option that I recommend you to enable. It will highlight words as they are spoken, thus providing continuous feedback as how much of the text has been read and how much more lies ahead. It’s particularly helpful if you wish to exercise your pronunciation. You can see a brief example of this option in the nearby print-screen image.

One last setting allows you to change voices. You can pick from 26 languages which include English (default), Arabic, Chinese, French, German and many others. More, dialects for each language are also included like: United States, Australia, United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa for the English language, for example.
Voices also have the Enhanced Quality mode available for optimal audio quality. Do mind that enabling this feature will use an extra amount of disk space, anywhere between 30 – 400 MB, depending on the selected language.

How To Use Speak Selection
Once enabled and configured, Speak Selection can be accessed by selecting the desired text. This is done by tapping, holding and slowly moving your finger on the paragraph. Now, release and a sentence or a few lines of text will be selected. Tap one of the bars that delimits the actual selection and drag it until the whole paragraph or text turns blue.
Now, you’ll also notice the “Copy | Speak” pop-up. Naturally, tap on speak and iPhone will begin to read the text out loud for you.

Speak Selection Voice Gender
I performed this review using an iPhone 5s and iOS 7 and couldn’t find any option that would allow me to modify the gender of the voice within the Speak Selection settings. You’ll notice that the reading voice is female by default and can’t be modified.
I did change Siri‘s voice from female to male, but that doesn’t seem to have an impact on the Speak Selection voice.