You can dictate text to your iPhone instead of typing for a terribly for a long time, and over the years it has occasionally gotten better. But with iOS 16, the dictation features take a huge step forward in usability — so much so that you actually end up using it all the time. As long as you have an iPhone with an A12 Bionic chip or better (that’s an iPhone XS), you can talk and type or edit seamlessly, which makes the whole dictation workflow a lot smoother. Automatic punctuation can add commas, periods, and question marks. And you can also add emoji by voice.
Here’s how to make the most of these great new dictation features to speed up your typing.
Just tap the microphone
You’re going to use dictation the same way you did in previous versions of iOS: just tap the microphone icon in the lower-right corner of your keyboard. You’ll see that in Messages, the microphone icon is directly in the text entry field, replacing the old voice memo button.
Then just start talking. In almost every text entry area, except the search fields, words will appear as you speak, but the keyboard will remain on the screen, with the microphone button highlighted.
While you’re talking, you can switch to typing at any time and then just resume speaking to continue entering text that way. Alternate between typing and speaking freely – once you get the hang of it, it goes pretty fast. You can double-tap words to select them, hold down the spacebar to move over the cursor like a trackpad; all the usual text input controls are always there, you can now just speak in addition to tap and swipe.
You will see a small “stop dictating” microphone icon right next to the text cursor. Tap that, or the microphone icon at the bottom of the keyboard, to stop dictating. Dictation also stops automatically if there is a long silence.
Tips to talk
Dictation works best if you announce clearly and speak at a regular pace. It’s a little different from speaking casually, but it’s worth it for the improved speed.
There are many commands you can give to format text or type special characters. While the new automatic punctuation feature (see below) will attempt to correctly insert commas, periods, and question marks, other punctuation marks can be added just by speaking. Here’s a list of some of the most useful formatting commands. Just say them as you speak, like “In iOS 16, comma dictation is an incredibly useful exclamation point.”
You’ve been able to add a number of different emojis to Dictation for years, mostly just smiles and frowns, but iOS 16 expands the number tremendously. You’ll have to experiment a bit to find out which descriptions match the correct emoji, but the key is to say “emoji” after it. To type the word “shrug,” say “shrug.” But if you want to type 🤷♂️, just say “emoji shrug”.
There are two important settings you need to know for dictation. Open Settings > General > Keyboard and then scroll down to the dictation section to find them. The first disables the dictation function completely. This is generally not necessary – Apple sometimes sends speech samples back to its servers to improve dictation quality, but the sentences are short and anonymized, it’s not like there’s an open microphone recording your every word. Just not going into dictation mode is enough to keep it idle.
The other switch turns the automatic punctuation feature on or off. This is a new feature for iOS 16 and it intelligently tries to insert commas, periods and question marks by paying attention to your phrasing and tone. It’s a bit hit and miss in the iOS 16 beta, so if you find the time this saves is outweighed by all the fixes you make, just turn it off.