Announcing Incoming Text Messages

My nephew has an Android phone that announces incoming texts when he receives them, then asks if he wants to reply. I just purchased an iPhone SE for my blind brother to use with VoiceOver. Is there some way to set up this feature on the phone for him?


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You can do this with Siri if you tell Siri to check notifications. Voiceover can also speak incoming texts when the screen isn't being covered and you can use Siri to reply.

Thanks, Jeff

"Voiceover can also speak incoming texts when the screen isn't being covered and you can use Siri to reply." I don't quite understand. By the screen being covered do you mean like when it's in his pocket? He doesn't have it in a case. If the texts cannot be verbally announced like in the Android phone, I just thought about changing the tone alert from tri-tone to maybe something like Sherwood Forest. Then he would just have to navigate to his message app to have the text read to him.

I'd like to know about "covered" phones too

I can't be sure, but I think I've heard Voiceover read text messages when my iPhone 6 is in my pocket. I usually have my phone sitting beside me on my desk, so it's uncovered and I can say for sure that Voiceover reads incoming texts in that case, even with the screen being locked.

If I'm quick enough to touch the screen before it relocks, I can locate the message and Voiceover will read it to me. I'm pretty sure that if I just press the Home button to unlock the screen, I can find the text message and Voiceover will read it in that case, too. If you don't clear the message from the screen, Voiceover will repeat it in about 2 minutes.

Of course, if multiple messages come in, only the last will be displayed on the screen. However, you can double-tap this message and the Message app will open. You can flick up or down for the actions menu and clear the message from the screen.

And as said before, you can ask Ciri to reply to the message.

If the top os the screen is

If the top os the screen is being covered, the part by the earpiece, then your phone won't announce notifications/texts/etc. If the phone is muted and is in your pocket, then it won't announce the texts either.

Well, dang. Who came up with that stupid idea?

If the phone is covered (such as in one's pocket or purse) is the notification sound also muted or just Voiceover reading the message? In other words, is there still some audible notification that a message has been received, even if it's not read, or must one check for new messages when they remove it from their pocket/purse?

I did some tests

I texted myself both when my iPhone was laying on a table screen up, and screen down while in a case. When screen up the text alert played and Voiceover read the text. When face down the text alert played but Voiceover did not announce the text. It may have to do to with how your phone is positioned in your pocket. Facing out you may have Voiceover announcing things. Screen facing twards you against your leg may stop Voiceover from speaking. I think it all has to do with how much the sencer is being covered to what degree I can not say for sure. When testing this just now I found that if you move the phone before it locks after the alert Voiceover will read the text.

Reading text messages

Hi Curious1, Even if the phone is in your pocket, the alert tone you've chosen will sound. Then when you press the sleep/wake button, VO will read the message. Then, what I do, is say to Siri something like, "Reply to Husband or whoever sent the message. You say your message, Siri will read it back and ask if you want to send it. You say, "Yes." and Siri says something like, "I'll Send it or there it goes or done, etc. And I've recently learned that you can say the punctuation marks you want in your message.

Speaking Text Messages

I have an iPhone 6 using VoiceOver. VoiceOver always announces text messages by speaking them, even when the phone is locked and in my ppocket. In fact, if I don't either dismiss the message or reply to it, the message is spoken again after two minutes to make sure I didn't miss it.

To reply to a text message, I simply pick up the phone, hit the home button, and say "reply to text". Then SIRI asks what I want to say, and when done, repeats my message and asks if that is what I want to send.

I believe that the mute button only mutes system sounds but not VoiceOver. I was in a concert once believing that my phone would be silent because I had the mute button turned on. Although when a message came in I didn't hear any system sound, VoiceOver did speak the message (much to my embarrassment!). so now when I don't want to hear anything from the phone I toggle the mute button to mute and also silence VoiceOver with a three finger double tap.


My experience is the same as Pete's

I also have an iPhone 6 and what Pete describes above is my experience as well. I think that sensor for covered phones is only on newer phones, perhaps.

Pete, another option for you to silence your phone is to turn on Do Not Disturb. You can do that from the control Center and it definitely mutes both system sounds and Voiceover's speaking messages. Well, it suppresses all notifications so there's nothing for Voiceover to read.

Re: Tip on Do Not Disturb


Thanks for the tip on using "Do Not Disturb". I will try that. I've always been annoyed while exercising to podcasts and the podcast is suddently interrupted by one of those announcements.



Thanks to all!

All replies have been helpful. My biggest problem was finding someone not too busy to send me a text with which I could practice. I don't have any kind of a second phone. I have a 6-Plus and carry it in a pouch. My brother's phone is an SE and he will be carrying it in his pocket. We live 500 miles apart. I noticed on mine that while I was holding it in my hand waiting for the text to arrive, it played the tune for the text alert and then began reading the text. I don't think it asked me if I wanted to reply, however, I pressed the home key to call up Siri and told Siri to reply. The reply message was incorrect so when Siri asked if I wanted to send it, I said no. Then I activated Siri again and asked that it reply to the message and then I heard questions, one of which was, "Do you want to change it?" I said yes, dictated the correct message, it read back the correct message, and I sent it.

Jeff, how do I (or my brother) access the Control Center? When I swipe to the left, I see the Notification Center. I've tried swiping up from the home page, but nothing happens. I like the option of the Do Not Disturb for my brother, as it's difficult for him to switch the button on the side that mutes the phone.

accessing the Control Center

To access the control center tap on the status bar. To do this tap in the top mittle of the screen below the ear piece. Once on the status bar swipe up with 3 fingers for the control center or down with 3 fingers for the notification center. You also have to wait for Voiceover to say control center as if you swipe before then it won't go there for some reason. It might also be helpful to lock the orientation so that the phone stays in 1 layout. This option is in the control center.

Replying to texts and Do Not Disturb

Curious1, as mentioned previously, when dictating a text, you speak punctuation to have it inserted into your message. You can also spell words. Then, when Ciri repeats your message and asks if the message is correct, you can say "edit" and Ciri will let you start over with your message. Or you can say "add" to add more to the end of the message.

To open the Control Center, tap on the top of the screen to focus on the status bar. Then, swipe from the bottom of the screen towards the top with 3 fingers. This will open the Control Center. Also, if you're focused on the status bar and you swipe down from the top of the screen with 3 fingers it will open the Notification Center. From the Notification Center, you can access your notifications including text messages.

I find Do Not Disturb to be very useful. One nice thing that you might find useful, Pete, is that you can "favorite" certain contacts in your contact list and they will be passed through. So, while you're exercising, most notifications and phone calls will be silenced, but you can allow important contacts to interrupt your workout.

Replying to Texts and Do Not Disturb

Thanks, Jeff, for your follow up post. The "edit" and "add" commands -- very helpful. Also, since Airplane Mode is the first selection in the Control Panel, wouldn't that also work to mute the phone? For instance, when he's in church. I have already set up his phone with the Do Not Disturb feature for the hours between 10 pm and 6 am, and added favorites to ring through, like his four children.

Airplane mode

Curious1, I suppose turning on Airplane mode would effectively mute the phone from receiving outside notifications, but that's not its purpose. Airplane mode turns off wifi and cellular service, so nothing would come in from the outside, including text messages, but Do Not Disturb is just a few flicks to the right and it's a much more appropriate option for the function you're desiring.

Airplane Mode

Okay, thanks. You're right, I would still want him to receive the text messages silently.

Glad to help

Glad to help! You could also just hit the mute switch when ever your in church or somewhere you can't be disturbed. That's another option as well.

Edit reply


You can always ask Siri to check text messages. If you have a new message, she will read it aloud and ask if you want to reply. Prior to sending out the message, she will read the reply aloud and ask if you want to send it. If you find any mistake, say edit instead of send and Siri will allow you to redo the reply.

You can also make it a bit easier by enabling hey Siri. This way, you can leave your iphone in your pocket and simply say hey Siri if you want to interact with Siri.

HTH and good luck.

Edit reply

Thanks, David. I just tried that on my iPhone 6 Plus, but Siri didn't activate. In Settings it reads that Hey Siri will only work when connected to power. My brother has an SE. I just spent last weekend with him buying the phone and setting it up for him, including downloading the latest update. I think I remember that his phone did activate Siri by saying "Hey, Siri" when he picked it up and before "opening" it. By the way, when it turned on as soon as he picked it up, it confused him (he's 82), so I disabled that feature. Also, the only thing he will be using it for is phone calls and texts. No emails, no pictures, so we didn't place a password on it. He has macular degeneration to the point that he is legally blind. However, he can see some things. Also, he needs to wear hearing aids, so I think he will be more comfortable removing the phone from his pocket. His brain is still very sharp. Once or twice he even suggested an action that helped. I really like learning about saying "edit" or "add" before sending the text message. That will help both my brother and me. :-)

Telemarketer phone calls

I have suggested to my brother that to avoid telemarketer calls, not to answer any calls that he doesn't recognize. I've placed the AT&T call protect app on his phone to block known spam calls. I told him that if it's someone who needs a reply from him, they'll leave a voice mail. However, his contact list is minimal. Should he receive a call from someone he would like to place in his contacts, is there a simple way to do this using Siri?

Announcing Messages

I don't think there's a way to have the system announce messages using the speech engine by itself. You have to use VoiceOver or Siri. Having said that, I imagine this would be really easy for Apple to implement especially since they now have automatic phone call announcements. Send your suggestion to and it might be included in iOS 11.

Mute Switch or Do Not Disturb

In my experience, the mute switch isn't always full proof to protect Voiceover from speaking when in church. The safest method for avoiding anything being verbalized, while in church or other important meetings is to use the Do Not Disturb. This ensure that no tones, Voiceover, or vibrations will occur when it is on. You don't have to go into Settings to turn it on or off, either. Simply activate SIRI and say, "Turn on Do Not Disturb", and SIRI replies that it has turned it on. Simply reverse the command when you want Do Not Disturb to be turned back off. I used to utilize the mute switch but was rudely interrupted anyway. Do Not Disturb is very secure.


Mute Switch or Do Not Disturb

Thank you, Roxann. My brother was successful yesterday in touching the time on the status bar then swiping up with 3 fingers to activate the Control Center, but asking SIRI to turn on Do Not Disturb is much easier. I think he would avoid the mute switch as it is difficult for him to use with his large fingers.

Mute Switch

The mute switch always works for me. I haven't had Voiceover talk when its on. Both work great though.

Clock Constantly Announces the Time

Is this the correct spot to discuss this? Or should I be in another?

My brother said he has had to turn VO off because the clock on his phone constantly announces the time from minute to minute. What did he unintentionally activate?

Also, he thinks the switch on the right hand side of the SE puts the phone in sleep mode, yet the white apple appears. I think he unintentionally turned the phone off? I tried to call him two days in a row and it went straight to voicemail without ringing.

Focus point


The reason the time is announced every minute is the focus point is on the time. Have him swipe left or right to move the focus away from the time.

As far as the calls going to VM, it could be his phone is dead and needs to be charged or is off. Have him connect the phone to the ac adapter and wait a few seconds and try the switch on the side again. Wait a couple of minutes and press the home button and listen for the Siri tone. If nothing happens, the phone might be completely drained and he should try again in about 15 minutes.

BTW, you mentioned he uses hearing aids. If he plans to replace them, he should check out the made for iPhone hearing aids. These are great as they stream all sounds from the phone to the Has. Text messages, phone calls, music, etc.

HTH and good luck.

Focus Point

Thanks, David. When we set up his phone, he wanted the auto lock time to be set at 5 minutes. I think I just talked him into setting it at 3 minutes. I told him about the clock being selected and to just swipe right or left. Also, he said he thought the switch on the top would put the phone in sleep mode. I think he held it down too long and it turned off the phone. I told him that after the set amount of time -- 3 minutes or 5 minutes -- the phone will go to sleep automatically.

We checked out the Bluetooth hearing aids by Apple. He said he needs to check to see if they will interefere with his pacemaker.

Just 1 press

You only have to hit the lock button once to lock it. Don't hold it.