Apple adding Live Captions to iOS 16

17-9-2022
To my great disappointment Apple did not include Live Captions in the official iOS 16 release. So much for deaf accessibility progress. But there is a work around. It is still in beta version, hence not very reliable.

When smartphones started to become mainstream my first one was the iPhone 3G, followed by the iPhone 4. Both which I used for about 3 years each. It was in the years just after I had lost the rest of my hearing and became 100% deaf. I feel like I have to explain this because people tend to confuse ‘deaf’ with ‘hard of hearing’. But I am deaf, I can’t hear anything at all.

Back then there were no accessibility apps for deaf people. Except, since then, everyone can send text messages more easily with touch screens than back when we had to use a phone keyboard. Plus notes app to write down what one wants to say.

Slowly things started evolving with apps to control digital hearing aids through Bluetooth, and settings for hard-of-hearing people when using the phone for calls. It is only in the last couple of years that live captions started working well enough to be useful.

After the iPhone 4, I switched to Android because the closed system of the iPhone wasn’t fun to me. When Google released Live Captions it was a big milestone for deaf and hard of hearing people. Unfortunately, it took years for it to work well enough to be used in a conversation. For me personally, it is usable enough as long as the person speaking speaks clearly and not too fast.

When Google released Live Captions it was a big milestone for deaf and hard of hearing people. Unfortunately, it took years for it to work well enough to be used in a conversation.

Even in Dutch, it works well. “Fun” fact, it took even years longer for it to work well in Dutch because the AI system did not have enough data on Dutch spoken words and sentences. But it seems to have caught up.

Until early this year I was still using an Android (Oppo Reno2) phone but I felt tired of needing to get a new phone if I wanted to keep getting major OS updates with possible new accessibility functions. Also, the Live Captions would not work for videos and podcasts as Google said it should. I contacted the makers through several channels but never got a reply. Plus all Android phone makers ditched small phones for huge phones. I don’t need nor want a mini tablet as a phone. Hence the iPhone Mini started looking very attractive.

After doing a pro vs cons of my current Android (Oppo Reno2) phone and the iPhone mini 13, I went ahead and switched back to iOS after all those years.

Photo of pro and cons of Oppo Reno2 vs iPhone mini 13
My pro and cons list to decide if I should switch to iPhone. My bank did not support paying with iPhone but they have added support since. I do still miss the fingerprint identification as it is faster than Apple’s Face ID. The Oppo Reno2 camera is also superior to the iPhone and iPhone mini (the max and pro excluded), which proves that tech sites don’t really test them well to make honest comparisons. Otherwise, I am happy with the iPhone mini and its small form factor.

I do miss having a Live Captions app for when I’m having a conversation with someone. Hence, I still have the Android which I now use exclusively as a Live Caption device. Because while it will not work for videos and podcasts the app on itself does work well when I talk with people in real life.

Apple announces Live Captions with iOS 16

Luckily seems like I don’t have to wait long for Live Captions on the iPhone because Apple is adding it to iOS 16. Apparently, this was already known since the summer but I don’t deep dive in tech news regularly so it’s only now that iOS 16 is being released that I came across the news.

Cult of Mac did a hands-on try out with Live Captions in July. It doesn’t work seamlessly yet, although I hope that was the beta version and that it will work better with the official release. It also doesn’t seem like it can be used as a standalone app, but is only turned on in the accessibility settings for use with videos and podcasts.

Another great thing is that Apple does provide OS updates for older phones, unlike Android. Hence, Live Captions will be available:

“iOS 16 is compatible with every iPhone released in 2017 and later: the iPhone 8, X, XS, 11, 12, 13 models and iPhone SE (both second and third generation).”

It will be interesting to see how well Live Captions will work on the iPhone and if Apple will keep actively improving it. I hope to will have or will get a standalone app.

Finally, because I know people will wonder; no, Auto Captions in YouTube are not functional enough to depend on them. Make sure you correct them after they are generated by YouTube. Otherwise one won’t be able to follow along due to all the mistakes.

And yes, I am bummed that Apple discontinued the Mini. Even tho I just got mine. Hopefully, they will reinstate them or the SE will keep getting good enough to match the Mini.