Apple’s Magnifier app does just what it sounds like. It gives your iPhone or iPad a built-in magnifying glass — only way cooler. With iOS 14, Magnifier got new powers and is easier to locate and use more often. Magnifier uses your iPhone’s camera to make it easier to read tiny print, and after you enable it, you can place it directly on the home screen from the App Library, if you want.

How to set it up

You may already be familiar with Magnifier, as it has been around since iOS 10. You can find it via the Accessibility options of the Settings app, and you can still set it up as an Accessibility Shortcut by going to Settings > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut > Magnifier. Then triple-click the Side button on your iPhone or iPad to start magnifying while pointing your iPhone camera at the item you want to read. You can also set it up in the Control Center by going to Settings > Control Center. Then swipe down to find Magnifier and tap the Plus Sign next to it to add to your choices, then drag up or down to set its screen priority.

Magnifier functionality

Once you are in the Magnifier app interface, a slider lets you enlarge the tableau, adjust the contrast, or boost the brightness — or you can use pinch and zoom gestures or simply move your finger up or down the screen to adjust the magnification. While Zoom is the default primary control, you can elevate one other secondary control to the front of the interface: Filters, Brightness, Contrast, or Flashlight. Tap the Flashlight icon to turn on the phone’s LED light and hold the icon to adjust the brightness level. A set of filters lets you invert colors in various combos, where black text on white text can look like a photographic negative of white text on black. Other options include inverted grayscale and various combinations of yellow, red, and blue. These brightness, contrast, and color filters tweak what you see to make details more visible.

Once you get your print into focus, you can shoot a quick image of the screen’s content for more stable reading. Tap the Lens button to freeze the frame. Tap the Overlapping Rectangles at the right of the shutter to create a sequence of freeze frames, and tap View to review them or the Share button to message or email them. Tap End at the top left to exit that mode. With iOS 14, Magnifier lets you shoot multiple images in sequence, but these images are not stored in the Photos app.

Telescoping

While a real magnifying glass has a quite limited range, the iPhone’s Magnifier can enlarge distant objects by a number of feet using the camera’s 10x digital zoom, letting you decipher an object from afar. It’s not super elegant, but if you need to tell the difference between a leaf and a small bird, it can do that for you.

People detection

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A new Magnifier feature in iOS 14.2 for the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max lets your phone alert you when other people are nearby by using augmented reality (AR) and machine learning to detect the location of humans. This is especially useful for blind and low-vision users. These two iPhone models work differently from other iPhones because they incorporate distance-ranging light (LiDAR) technology that allows them to precisely calculate distance.

People Detection is a mode that you would use sporadically on an as-needed basis. To invoke it, you must tap the People icon. Then, when other humans enter the iPhone camera’s view, iOS recognizes them and uses your People Detection settings to alert you, dynamically measure their distance from you, and notify you with sound, speech, or haptic feedback. The feedback gets louder or more frequent as the other person moves closer to you — and you can adjust the frequency and volume of the feedback.

  • Tap the Gear icon in the lower-left of the Magnifier app.
  • Tap the Plus icon next to People Detection in the Secondary Controls and drag to the Primary Controls.
  • Tap People Detection.
  • Customize units (meters or feet), sound pitch distance (distance and pitch of the sound feedback), and Feedback (any mix of sounds, speech, and haptics).
  • Tap Done.

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