At times, the dictation key on the keypad is greyed out. At other times, you tap on it, dictate something, the pink dots show up and that’s it. Nothing happens after that.

If this is a scenario you’ve faced, don’t worry. You’re not alone. This thing keeps happening a lot many times for a lot many people.

The Problem
If the dictation key is grayed out, it’s mostly because there is not enough memory in your iPhone to run that service. Dictation – simple though it seems -is actually a Siri-like service which accesses the Apple servers to transcode what you speak. Since Apple is intent on making it a very smart and accurate system, there’s a lot of resources used up when you use Dictation.

How to Fix Dictation Problem on iPhone

The Solution
So, when you run a lot of apps in the background, there isn’t enough memory for dictation to work. In most cases, dictation is active again after a few seconds but then, you can try this to get rid of the grayed out dictation key:

  • Double-tap the home button to open multitask switcher.
  • Close all the apps (if you’re running a jailbroken device, use some tweak like KillBackground)
  • If possible, respring the device or do a hard reset (press the power and home button till the screen goes black. Then press the power button again to boot the iPhone)

In almost all the cases, this fixes the issue. While clearing the apps frees up the memory by a large extent, the respring/hard reset clears the RAM enough to free up the space for dictation to fire up again normally.

Alternatively, Resetting Stuff
In the rare case that this doesn’t work  or when dictation isn’t grayed-out but it just won’t work, you need to try a soft reset while also making sure to restart the dictation service.

First, try to reboot dictation:

  • Go to Settings → General → Keyboard
  • Where it says Dictation swipe to turn off the service.
  • After a few seconds, swipe it to turn ON again.

Check if dictation works.

If it doesn’t, let’s try turning off the network and restarting it:

  • You can either just turn ON the Airplane Mode (from Settings) and then turn it OFF again.
  • Or you can turn off Wifi/Cellular and then turn it on again after a few moments.

Check dictation again.

You can also reset through Settings → General → Reset → Reset All Settings.

This won’t erase anything so don’t worry: this just resets the cache and network stuff so you’re going to make things clearer for the iPhone. Dictation should work perfectly after this.

  • Leah

    Thanks for article Jignesh. I’m freaking out because since I did the update to my iPhone 4S, dictation circle just spins & spins! I went to where you said settings>keyboard>dictation, and dictation’s NOT even listed anymore! What should I do? Plz help. I start summer semester soon & need dictation!! Don’t want to upgrade to iPhone 5 (if that’s the issue). I have been using dictation on this phone for almost 2 yrs without a hitch. Btw, Siri opens normal but again circle spins although earlier today it replied something like sorry can’t help you right now or something like that. These problems have been going on for ~a week.
    Please help Someone! Thanks, leah

    • iGeeksBlog

      Did you try the other steps like reset all settings and the airplane
      mode fix? If nothing works, the last resort is to restore your iPhone
      (you can use the backup after you restore) and try to use dictation

      • Leah

        Hi. Ever since updating to iOS 7.1.1 on my iPhone 4S neither Siri nor dictation work. Little circle just turns and turns! Siri says “I’m really sorry about this but I can’t take any requests right now. Please try again in a little while.” This has been happening for about 2 weeks. I was using Siri & dictation for the past year without any problems.I tried everything short of hard reset, but I’ve read other people online saying that didn’t work for them anyway. I have always only used my phone with wifi (without problems). I read online that maybe I have to have stronger wifi for the new OS? I don’t think this should be the case b/c I had no probs w/ iOS 6. My Reuter’s pretty old. Could it maybe that I should get a new one even though my internet’s working fine? My son’s Siri and dictation are not working either.I’ve wasted days on this : (. Weird thing is voice memos app works perfectly fine, so I know it’s not a hardware issue.

        • iGeeksBlog

          Appreciate that you have made sure it’s not your microphone/hardware
          that could be the issue. I’d suggest you run a memory check: does your
          iPhone have enough free-space? Check if the “Other” data is using up too
          many gigs of space. And a hard reset doesn’t harm so try that too. As a
          last resort, I suggest you restore and setup your iPhone as new and use
          Siri. If it works fine, then restore from backup.

          • Leah

            I do not currently use cellular service, only wifi. I read an article that says the new iOS 7 needs a stronger wifi signal than the iOS 6 needed to be able to operate Siri & dictation. The Mbps that I am getting from my ISP is not enough. Normal people get approx 6 Mbps But I have been told that b/c of where I live (outside of town so not urban) the max my line can receive is 1.7, so nothing is wrong w/ my iphone or my router, so I guess I have no dictation to use for summer semester now : ( until I hopefully move out if this house someday soon. Darn I had to type this paragraph. I wish I could go back to iOS 6!! And I think apple should be responding to people’s queries on their own forum, but they don’t. Very disappointed. Any suggestions are appreciated. Btw, I went to a fast food restaurant and my Siri & dictation worked perfectly on both mine and my son’s phones. Kindly

          • iGeeksBlog

            Thanks for the input, Leah. The Apple forums is actually a community of
            Apple users only. Apple doesn’t officially respond there at all. Apple
            just wanted to setup a system where users can discuss amongst
            themselves. As regards the dictation issue, would it be possible for you
            to try a SIM card with 3g/lte data and then use dictation from there
            on? Thanks.

          • Leah

            Ok, thanks for that. Yes, I might have to set up a pay as you go plan or something and then I guess I’d have to pay every time I want to dictate? Thanks for the suggestion, I might end up doing it : ). Cheers. Thanks again.

  • rhetorich

    It’s all true. Kill the all the running apps, shut down & cold restart the iPad. Voila :)

  • rhetorich

    It’s all true. Kill the all the running apps, shut down & cold restart the iPad. Voila :)

  • Bethany Gray

    Thank you! Problem solved.

  • John

    THANK YOU!!!

  • Maureen Barney

    Thx. Problem solved with the closing of apps and hard reset.

  • sue

    Airplane mode fixed it immediately, thanks!

  • davidgilmore

    I don’t understand this problem. I followed your instrux and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It goes weeks without working and then works for weeks. My Internet is extremely reliable so I can’t blame that. I have a gig of memory left so I don’t think it’s that. I turn off dictation and turn it on – it works for a few minutes and then stops.

  • PittsburghSports

    RESET ALL SETTINGS!!!??? OH no this won’t erase anything? Are you kidding me? It erased all my settings. Passcode… notifications… everything. I HATE YOU!

  • PittsburghSports

    Whatever you do, do NOT reset all settings, unless you want to go through everything from screen saver, passcode, notifications… and redo EVERYTHING. Do not listen to him. It erases all that stuff.

  • steve

    None of these “solutions” worked including reset all settings which has to be the worst solution i ever heard of. I just spent forever re-inputting all my passwords and fingerprints and now i have to hunt down my favorite photos for my backgrounds and find exaclty the right settings for my fonts.

  • SP

    Listen people: App restart does wipe all of your settings-so yes, you could get mad about that if you feel the need. But what’s the point of being mad? It fixed my problem instantly. Dictation/Siri works perfectly now and I haven’t had a problem since. Thanks to Jignesh for the help. Appreciate it!