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iGBHow-toHow to use Switch Control on iPhone and iPad in iOS 17

How to use Switch Control on iPhone and iPad in iOS 17

Approximately one in seven persons cannot engage with their devices and the environment due to some form of disability. Because of this, Apple has gone to great lengths to ensure that all its users, regardless of their capabilities, can interact with their devices in ways that work for them. 

One of the lesser-known Accessibility features is “Switch Control.” It lets people of varied physical capacities interact with their iPhones—whether through a tongue click, a head movement, or a back tap. Read on to learn more about how you can set up switch control on iPhone and iPad for folks with limited mobility so that they can make full use of their Apple device.

What is Switch Control on iPhone and iPad?

Switch Control is part of the tech giant’s Accessibility suite that lets users operate their iPhones using switches. The iPhone sequentially highlights items on the screen, and you can set up switches to tap or select these items. You can even draw on your iPhone’s screen using a switch.

These switches can be external, like an external adaptive switch that you can connect or pair with the iPhone via Bluetooth.

You can also do full-on customization and finetune the switches so that each performs a specific action, making it easier for people with limited mobility to navigate through their iPhones with one or multiple switches.

How to setup Switch Control on iPhone and iPad

It’s much easier to set up Switch Control by adding a new switch and assigning some essential functions before turning on Switch Control.

Turning it on will immediately enable the scanning features, which you won’t be able to control without any switches set up. 

You have the option to use the following as a switch for your iPhone:

  • iPhone screen
  • Camera
  • Back tap
  • Sounds
  • External adaptive switch

If you’re planning to add an external adaptive switch, the first step is to connect it to your iPhone following the instructions that came with it. If the switch connects using Bluetooth, go to Settings → Bluetooth, then pair your switch.

Add a new switch

  1. To set up a new switch, go to Settings → Accessibility. 
  2. Then go to Switch Control → Switches.

    Add a new switch, go to Settings, tap on Accessibility, then go to Switch Control and Switches
  3. Tap Add New Switch, then select any of the following:
    • External: This lets you use a Made For iPhone (MFi) switch that plugs into the Lightning connector on your iPhone or an already paired Bluetooth switch.
    • Screen: This lets you tap anywhere on the iPhone screen. 
    • Camera: This uses your front camera to detect Left Head Movements and Right Head Movements, which you can assign as a switch.
    • Back Tap: You can do a Double Tap or Triple Tap to perform a switch action.
    • Sound: Choose from various voice and voiceless sounds such as “La,” “Sh,” or a tongue click to perform an action

      Tap Add New Switch, then select any of the following, External, Screen, Camera, Back Tap, Sound
  4. Select an action to assign to the switch. Two of the most basic functions you need to set a switch for are Select Item, which selects a highlighted item, and Move to Next Item, which moves the selection to the next group or item.

Aside from these two, below are other actions you can assign for the scanner:

  • Scanner Menu: This reveals the scanner menu.
  • Stop Scanning: This stops Auto Scanning, which will continue indefinitely.
  • Move To Previous Item: This moves the selection to the previously highlighted group or item.
  • Resume Auto Scanning: This enables the iPhone to resume Auto Scanning items on the screen.

You may also assign switches that immediately perform System actions aside from the basic Tap function. Doing so allows a person to perform actions that would typically require certain gestures to perform. Some of these include App SwitcherNotification Center, and Control Center.

Remove a switch

  1. To remove a switch from Switch Control, go to Switches.
  2. Choose the switch you want to delete, and swipe left.
  3. Tap Delete.

    Remove a switch, go to Switches, choose switch you want delete, swipe left and tap Delete

How to enable Switch Control on iPhone or iPad

  1. Go to Settings → Accessibility
  2. Tap Switch Control → toggle Switch Control on.

    Enable Switch Control, go to Settings, tap on Accessibility, and toggle on Switch Control

You may also triple-click the Home button or the Side button (depending on the model of the iPhone) at any time to disable Switch Control. You may also manually repeat the process to turn the feature off.

How to customize Switch Control on iPhone and iPad

Now that you’re done, you can now fully customize Switch Control. Here are the following aspects you can customize.

Scanning Style

  • Auto Scanning: This moves the focus automatically after a specified duration.
  • Manual Scanning: To use this, you must have a switch that you can engage to move the focus and a second switch to activate or select focused/highlighted items.
  • Single Switch Step Scanning: This also requires you to have a switch you should engage to move its focus. If you don’t do any action within a specified duration, the focused item will automatically be activated.

    Scanning Style Switch Control

Timing

This section lets you adjust the timing and timing-related scanning behaviors.

  • Auto Scanning Time: This lets you adjust the scanning speed.
  • Pause on First Item: Selecting the first item in the group can be challenging when the scanning speed is fast. This option makes scanning pause on the first item in the group.
  • Loops: Select how many times scanning will cycle through the items on the screen before hiding the cursor. You can choose from 1 to 10.
  • Move Repeat: Enable this to delay before moving to the previous or next item while a switch remains pressed.
  • Long Press: When enabled, you can enable Pause Scanning, which will pause Switch Control. Select from 1 to 8 seconds.
  • Tap Behavior: Define what happens when the Select action is activated. Choose Default to displace the Scanner Menu, Auto Tap to automatically tap the screen after a specified duration, or Always Tap to immediately tap the focused item instead of showing the Scanner Menu.
  • Focused Item After Tap: Choose whether Switch Control scans the First Item or resumes scanning the Current Item after you tap an item

    Adjust the timing and timing-related scanning behaviors, Tap Behavior, Focused Item After Tap-

Keyboard

This contains adjustments in the keyboard behavior and includes:

  • Scan Same Key After Tap
  • Always Tap Keyboard Keys
  • Extended Predictions

    Keyboard switch control, adjustment in keyboard includes, some scan after tap, alway tap keyboard keys, extended predictions

Switch Stabilization

Switch Stabilization helps ensure that switches don’t get triggered accidentally, taking into consideration errors in producing movement to activate the switch, which can occur in people with tremors or other movement disorders. You can set the duration from 1 to 10 seconds.

  • Hold Duration: Requires a person to hold the input device for a time before the device recognizes it.
  • Ignore Repeat: This treats multiple presses as a single input.

    Switch Stabilization, Hold Duration, Ignore Repeat

Point Scanning

This lets you choose from Gliding Cursor or Head Tracking as the scanning method you want. If you select Gliding Cursor, you can modify the selection mode:

Point Scanning this lets you choose from Gliding Cursor or Head Tracking

  • Single: Uses one vertical and one horizontal selection, which is helpful for larger targets.
  • Refined: This adds a second scan in the range of your initial selection.
  • Precise: This adds a final low-speed scan for more accurate targeting.

Toggle Head Tracking on if you want to use the iPhone’s camera to track the person’s head movement to control a pointer on the screen and specific facial movements like raising eyebrows or opening the mouth to perform additional actions.

Audio

Toggle Sound Effects to enable sound effects, such as when selecting an item.

Tap Speech → toggle on Speech to make the iPhone speak items or item attributes as they’re being scanned. You can also adjust the speaking rate and add pauses while speaking.

Audio, toggle on Sound Effect, tap Speech to make phone speak

Menu items

Modify the actions shown in the Scanner Menu and how you would like them arranged.

Switch control, tap Menu items to Modify the actions shown in the Scanner Menu

Group items

This is enabled by default, which groups items together for faster navigation. Disabling this makes the scanner focus on one item at a time.

Group items

Visual

Visual modifications can help a user see the cursor items better. You can make the cursor larger or change its color to make it easier to spot.

Visual, you can make the cursor larger or change its color to make it easier to spot

Create new gestures

Tap Saved Gestures → Create New Gesture to record a gesture the user can activate from the menu by going to Actions → Gestures → Saved.

Create new gestures

Confirm with Switch Control

Toggle this switch if you want to confirm payments using Face ID (for iPhone models with Face ID) instead of using the side button to confirm.

Confirm with Switch Control

Create new recipes

Recipes are specialized actions you can use to perform frequently repeated or complex actions within apps. You can create recipes to assign special actions to switches temporarily. These may include game controls or turning the pages when reading an eBook.

How to use an iPhone to control another Apple device

You may also use your iPhone to remotely control another Apple device connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

This lets you navigate your Apple TV or Mac using the same switch setup that controls your iPhone.

To begin controlling another device:

  1. Make sure that both devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network and iCloud account.
  2. To control a Mac:
    • Go to the Apple menu → System Settings → Accessibility.
    • On the right side, select Switch Control.
    • Tick the box beside Allow platform switching to control your computer.
  3. Then turn on Switch Control on your iPhone or iPad.
    • Then go to Devices → Other Devices.
    • Select the device you want to control, then choose Connect

You should now be able to use the switch connected to your iPhone, or your iPhone itself, to control the other device.

How to stop iPhone from controlling another Apple device

Once you’re done controlling the other device, just press and hold your switch for 10 seconds. This will revert the switch’s control to your iPhone or iPad again. 

If you’re controlling a Mac, you can also navigate to the Switch Control menu → select Device → Stop Using Device

Wrapping up…

With Switch Control, you can make your iOS device easier to navigate and more accessible for yourself or a loved one with limited mobility or other disability.

While the customization process can be complicated and is more of a trial-and-error process based on what works best for your loved one, seeing them navigate their device with greater ease is worth the effort. So don’t be afraid to experiment and have patience on your journey towards making technology more accessible. Good luck!

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  • Rachel

    Rachel, an experienced Apple technology writer since 2021 and a long-time user since 2003, began her journey with a silver iPod Classic. Currently, she owns an array of modern Apple gadgets. At iGeeksBlog, her expertise shines through in the crafting of comprehensive how-to articles, informative guides, and well-curated roundups.

    View all posts

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