What is Apple Live Text and how does it work on your photos?


While at WWDC 2021, Apple introduced a new way to take advantage of text in photos, whether it’s pictures of places you’ve visited or your handwritten notes. The feature is called Live Text. It’s system-wide and works across all your Apple devices. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Live Text?

Live Text uses on-device intelligence and deep neural networks to unlock information, or text, captured in your photographs. The idea is you can copy notes from an image of a whiteboard from your meeting, or call a number off a restaurant menu you took a picture of last week. There are several use-cases where Live Text can help you quickly find what you’re looking for and discover more in your photos.

What can you do with Live Text?

Apple demoed Live Text at WWDC 2021 and gave a few examples of how you can use the feature in your everyday life, such as:

Copy and paste text

Apple gave the example of notes on a whiteboard – you can just take out your iPhone, snap a photo of the whiteboard, and an indicator will appear in the lower-right corner. When you tap it, the text will be highlighted, and you can use normal text-selection gestures to copy it. From there, you can switch over to your Notes app or Mail app and paste the text to either save for later or share with others. Handy, right?

Look up more information

Live Text works on photos you take in the moment and ones in your library. Apple used the example of a photo of a friend at a restaurant with words visible in the background on a building. With Live Text, you can easily select that text and then select Lookup from the available options that pop up to find out more, including which restaurant is pictured, what it serves, and learn its location. 

Make a call

Now let’s say you receive a photo from a friend in the Messages app. Live Text will work on those images, too. Using another example of a photo where a restaurant’s number can be seen in the background, Apple said you can simply zoom in on the number, tap the Live Text indicator, and then the text will be instantly recognised with a link. Tap it, and you’ll be able to give that place a call. 

Visual Look Up

Besides being able to manipulate and leverage text in photos, Apple said you can also use Live Text to look up information on recognised objects and scenes. Just tap on a photo and you can look up information like the breed of a dog or type of a flower. Live Text also works for art books, nature, pets, and landmarks. We’re guessing Apple will continue to add to what Live Text can do over time, too.

Does Live Text work on screenshots?

Live Text supports any sort of photos you take, are sent to you, or stored in your Photos library, and it works across Apple’s entire system, too, which means you can use it with screenshots, Quick Look, and even photos on the web. 

Which Apple devices offer Live Text?

Live Text will be available on the iPhone as well as the iPad and the Mac. That said, some reports have claimed Live Text on iPhone and iPad will only work on models featuring the A12 Bionic chip or better, which means you’ll need Apple devices from 2018 and onward to use it.

Which languages does Live Text support?

At launch, Live Text supports seven languages: English, Chinese (simple and traditional), French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese.

When will Live Text be available?

Live Text will be available when iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey roll out to consumers in autumn 2021. Currently, developer betas of those software updates are now available for testing purposes, and the public betas are set to arrive this summer. However, you’ll likely want to wait until they officially roll out later this year before you use them and Live Text, to ensure they’re free of any major bugs and glitches. 


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