How to Make Text Larger and More Readable on iOS 7 and Up

iOS 7 Logo iPhone mobile app icon
 Hoch Zwei/Corbis via Getty Images

The introduction of iOS 7 brought many changes to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Some of the most obvious differences are design changes, including new styles for the fonts used throughout the operating system and new looks for once-familiar apps like Calendar. For some people, these design changes are problematic because they’ve made it hard for them to read text in iOS 7 and up.

For some people, the thinner fonts and white app backgrounds are a combination that, at best, requires a lot of squinting. For some people, reading the text in these apps is all but impossible.

If you’re one of the people struggling to read text in iOS 7 and up, you don’t need to throw up your hands and get a different kind of phone. That’s because the iOS has some options built into it that should make text easier to read. While you can’t change the background colors of apps like Calendar or Mail, you can change the size and thickness of fonts throughout the OS.

Even more changes were introduced in versions of the OS released after iOS 7. This article covers accessibility options available in all versions of the operating system.

How to Invert Colors on iPhone

The source of some people's problems with reading in iOS 7 and up has to do with contrast: the color of the text and the color of the background is too close, so letters don't stand out. A number of the options mentioned later in this article address this problem, but one of the first settings you'll encounter when investigating these issues is Invert Colors.

As the name suggests, this transforms colors into their opposites. Things that are normally white will be black, things that are blue will be orange, etc. This setting can make your iPhone look a bit like Halloween, but it may also make text more readable. To turn on this setting:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Accessibility.
  4. Tap Display Accommodations (you can skip this step on older versions of the iOS).
  5. Tap Invert Colors.
  6. Move the Smart Invert (or Classic Invert) slider to on/green and your screen will transform.
  7. If you don't like this option, simply move the slider to off/white to return to iOS 7's standard color scheme.

For a more extensive discussion of inverting colors and your options, check out How to Invert Colors (aka Dark Mode) on Your iPhone and iPad.

How to Text Larger on iPhone

The second solution to text being hard to read in iOS 7 and up is a new feature called Dynamic Type. Dynamic Type is a setting that allows the users to control how big the text is throughout the iOS.

In past versions of the iOS, users could control whether the display was zoomed in for easier reading (and you can still do that now), but Dynamic Type isn’t a kind of zoom. Instead, Dynamic Type changes the size of text only, leaving all other elements of the user interface their normal size.

So, for example, if the default text size in your favorite app is 12 point, Dynamic Type would let you change it to 16 point without having to zoom in or change anything else about how the app looks.

There’s one key limitation of Dynamic Type: It only works in apps that support it. Because it’s a relatively new feature, and it introduces a pretty big change to the way developers create their apps, it only works with compatible apps — and not all apps are compatible. That means that using Dynamic Type will be inconsistent right now; it will work in some apps, but not others.

Still, it works in the iOS itself and some apps, so if you’d like to give it a shot, follow these steps:

  1. Tap on the Settings app on your home screen.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Accessibility.
  4. Tap Larger Text (or Larger Type, on earlier versions).
  5. Move the Larger Accessibility Sizes slider to on/green. The preview text below will adjust to show you the new text size.
  6. You'll see the current text size in the slider at the bottom of the screen. Move the slider to increase or decrease the size of the text. 

When you've found a size you like, simply tap the Home button (or swipe up from bottom on iPhone X) and your changes will be saved.

How to Make Text Bold on iPhone

If the thin font used throughout the iOS is causing you a problem, you can solve it by making all text bold by default. This will thicken any letters you see onscreen — on the lock screen, in apps, in emails and texts that you write — and make the words easier to make out against the background. Again, this works in compatible apps.

Turn on bold text, follow these steps:

  1. Tap on the Settings app on your home screen.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Accessibility.
  4. Move the Bold Text slider to on/green.

A warning that your device will need to restart to change this setting pops up. Tap Continue to restart. When your device is up and running again, you’ll see a difference starting on the lock screen: all text is now bold.

Adding Button Shapes in iOS 7 and Up

Many buttons disappeared in iOS 7. In previous versions of the OS, buttons had shapes around them and text on the inside explaining what they did. In this version, though, the shapes were removed, leaving just text to be tapped. If tapping that text proves difficult, you can add button outlines back to your phone, by following these steps:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Accessibility.
  4. Move the Button Shapes slider to on/green.

How to Increase Contrast on iPhone

This is a more subtle version of the Invert Colors tweak from the beginning of the article. If the contrast between colors in iOS 7 — for instance, the yellow text on a white background in Notes — you can try increasing the contrast. This won't affect all apps, and it's likely to be somewhat subtle, but it may help:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Accessibility.
  4. Tap Increase Contrast.
  5. On that screen, you can move sliders to turn on Reduce Transparency (which reduces opacity throughout the OS) or Darken Colors (which makes text darker and easier to read).
  6. If you go to the Display Accommodations screen (see the instructions for inverting colors earlier in this article), you can also enable Reduce White Point (which dims the overall whiteness of the screen).

How to Enable On/Off Labels on iPhone

This option is similar to button shapes. If you're color blind or find it hard to make out whether sliders are enabled based solely on color, turning on this setting will add an icon to make clear when sliders are in use and not. To use it:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Accessibility.
  4. In the On/Off Labels menu, move the slider to on/green. Now, when a slider is off you'll see a circle in the slider and when it's on a vertical line.