How to Make Text Larger and More Readable on iOS 7

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

The introduction of iOS 7 brought many changes to the iPhone and iPod touch. Some of the most obvious changes are design changes, including new styles for the fonts used throughout the system and new looks for common 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.

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

Even more changes were introduced in iOS 7.1. This article covers accessibility changes in both versions of the operating system.

Invert Colors

The source of some people's problems with reading in iOS 7 has to do with contrast: the color of the text and the color of the background is too close and do 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. Move the Invert Colors slider to on/green and your screen will transform.
  5. If you don't like this option, simply move the slider to off/white to return to iOS 7's standard color scheme.

Larger Text

The second solution to the text being hard to read in iOS 7 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 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 right now (and some may never be). 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 OS 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 Type.
  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 and your changes will be saved.

Bold Text

If the thin font used throughout iOS 7 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.

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.

Button Shapes

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, but in this version, 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.

Increase Contrast

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), Darken Colors (which makes text darker and easier to read), or Reduce White Point (which dims the overall whiteness of the screen).

On/Off Labels

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.