How can I use an iPhone magnifier as a magnifying glass?

iPhone magnifier

iphone magnifier with reverse contrast color displayiPhones and iPads running iOS 10 or higher can access a new feature called Magnifier. It is a separate app to the Camera app, with special features for visually impaired users. It is built into the iOS software and doesn’t need to be downloaded separately. Just turn on in the settings as described below.

Older versions of iPhones or iPads don’t have the Magnifier. For those devices you can use the Camera app in a basic way to magnify print for reading, or you can download a magnifier app from the app store.


Who would benefit from the iPhone/iPad Magnifier?

The iPhone Magnifier is great if:

  • you already carry your iPhone around with you everywhere, as it may save you having to carry an extra piece of equipment.
  • you only need occasional use of magnification.
  • you want to use it as a portable digital magnifier to use when away from a larger digital magnifier at your home or office.


The iPhone Magnifier WON’T be suitable if:

  • you want to do large amounts of reading, for enjoyment or work.
    • The small screen is inefficient for large amounts of reading. It is tiring to hold at the right height and while having to constantly move it. Look for a desktop or portable digital magnifier.
  • you don’t want the complexity of operating a smart phone.
    • If you only need a small amount of magnification use a magnifying glass with light.
    • If you need a greater amount of magnification, digital magnifiers are designed to be simple, tactile and able to be used by the elderly and people who aren’t familiar with technology.

How to use the iPhone or iPad Magnifier in iOS 10

Turning on the Magnifier

  1. Turn on Magnifier in Settings. This only needs to be done once to set up.
    1. Go to Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Magnifier and turn it ON.
    2. I’d recommend you also turn on Auto-brightness, so that the magnifier automatically adjusts contrast and brightness based on the light in your environment at the time.
  2. From now on, at any time you want to use the Magnifier, triple click the Home button. Your iPhone/iPad must be unlocked first.


What do the buttons do in the iPhone Magnifier?

iPhone magnifier with magnification slider at the bottomThe Magnifier uses the camera at the back of the iPhone/iPad. Point your camera at the object or writing you want to magnify.
The slider at the bottom of the screen allows you to adjust the level of magnification you want.
  • Left to decrease, right to increase.
  • You can also increase the magnification by dragging one finger up the screen, and decrease it by dragging one finger down.
The lightening bolt icon in the bottom left toggles on/off the camera’s light.
  • You can use this to assist for reading in low-light environments.


The padlock icon (second from the left at the bottom) locks the focus of the camera.
  • It is locked at the distance the camera is focused on at the moment you press the lock and will stay locked at that distance until you press the padlock icon again to turn it off.
  • You can use the focus lock to stop the camera from continually auto-focusing which will happen as you move your device as you read and can be annoying and slow you down.

The big white circle icon freezes the screen.

  • It doesn’t actually take a photo and that image isn’t being saved anywhere. It’s just a temporary capture of a picture.
  • When you’ve frozen the image, the menu disappears off the bottom of the screen so you can see more of the image. To bring the menu back up, tap with one finger anywhere on the screen.

Reverse pinch to increase magnification on Apple magnifier

Pinch to reduce zoom on iOS magnifier

  • You can make that image larger by zooming in with a ‘reverse pinching action’ (put two fingers on the screen and move them away from each other), and zoom out again by pinching two fingers together.
  • When you have the image at high magnification, you can use one finger to drag around the screen to see different parts of the image.
iPhone magnifier demonstrating white on black modeThe filters icon has three overlapping circles (in the bottom right of screen). Select this for more options to control brightness and colors. Press the filters icon again when you want to go back to the main menu.
  • The top slider adjusts the brightness
  • The lower slider adjusts the contrast
  • The Invert Colors icon in lower left with two squares and two arrows inverts the colors. This is a good feature for people who have difficulty with glare because white writing on black is not as bright.
  • You can select different color options by swiping with one finger sideways.
  • The color options are:
    • white/blue
    • yellow/blue
    • greyscale
    • yellow/black
    • red/black
    • Any of the above can be reversed by selecting the invert colors icon.

How to use a stand with your iPhone or iPad Magnifier

You need to hold an iPhone or iPad over the item you want to look at in order for the Magnifier app to work correctly. This maybe ok for small amounts of reading, but will be very tiring for large amounts, particularly if using an iPad.

One solution for this is to get a stand for your device. The stand needs to hold the device 10-30cm above the item you want to view. Ideally, it should be able to rotate, so that you can have the iPad facing horizontal to the table when lining up the picture, and then tilt it up for a more comfortable angle for reading.

Here are some available at Amazon that might be suitable for your needs.


What is the best iPhone cover for using the Magnifier?

The iPhone Magnifier uses the camera at the back of the phone. Some cases can get in the way when trying to use the Magnifier – particularly those with a flap that covers the screen and opens up when you’re using the phone. The flap of the cover can also make it awkward to hold in the right angle.
Look for a case that doesn’t have a flap such as these ones from Amazon.

What is the best iPad cover for using the Magnifier?

Look for an iPad cover that won’t block the camera when using the magnifier, such as these ones from Amazon.