Siri Read to Me


Siri can do a lot of things but one thing (among many, unfortunately) that Siri can’t do is reading emails. I suppose it isn’t all bad since Siri’s commands are filtered through Apple servers and I’m not sure if I’d be comfortable with ‘storing’ my emails on Apple’s servers…but then again, I have Boxcar to push my emails, so I guess I don’t really have a say on the matter. If you ask Siri to read emails, you get this dreaded response:

Sorry Siri Cant Read

So can Siri read emails or not? Well Siri can’t but her twin, Voice Over can.Things actually bring up another feature that Siri can’t do – she can’t check for new emails. Supposedly new features are in the pipeline for Siri for iOS 5.1, which is in Beta 2, but it’s unclear what we’d be getting. Anyway, I hope one of the features is her ability to at least check for new emails.

So how does this work?

Let’s start off with Mail. If you have emails pushed to your account, you could bring the list up using Siri (“Check mail”). When you have the list of unread emails, select it and Mail app will pop up. This is when Voice Over comes in. You triple-click the home button to activate Voice Over, swipe two fingers down to activate automated reading and Voice Over recites the email for you. Pretty simple, right? What’s better is, now that you have triple-click-home function set for your Voice Over, you could have her read your Notes, and more.

Setting up Voice Over

Let’s set up Voice Over on your iPhone 4S.


Settings -> General -> Accessibility

Triple-Click Home

Scroll down and select Triple-click Home

Toggle Voice Over

Select Toggle VoiceOver


Test drive Voice Over

Now what? Well Voice Over gestures can get quite overwhelming. I was getting frustrated when I first started using Voice Over and actually gave up on her once. It was after doing a bit of ‘studying’ that I got the hang of using Voice Over to read emails to me.

Here are the gestures that I use most:

1 Finger Gestures

Touch Screen Speaks and selects item under your finger
Tap 2 times fast Activate the selected item. (open app, press button)
Swipe Left or Right Selects the previous or next item
Swipe up or down Preforms or move to the selected rotor option

2 Finger Gestures

Swipe down Read all from selected item

These gestures will get you through the basics. (Credit: Axslab)

Axslab has the comprehensive list of all the Voice Over Gestures that you could use.



Swiping 1 Finger Down for me in my current Language Rotor setting sets my VoiceOver language to Korean. Swiping 1 Finger Up sets my VoiceOver language back to English. Setting to the appropriate language allows VoiceOver to read Emails and other relevant text in the relevant language. If the language is set to English and I have VoiceOver read an Email composed in Korean, she won’t read anything, for example.

So what is a rotor? Here’s Apple’s description for the rotor:


Apple Rotor

VoiceOver features an innovative virtual control called a “rotor.” Turning the rotor — by rotating two fingers on the screen as if you were turning an actual dial — changes the way VoiceOver moves through a document based on a setting you choose. For example, a flick up or down might move through text word by word. But when you choose the “character” setting, each time you flick up or down VoiceOver will move through the text character by character — perfect when you’re proofreading or editing text.

You really have to play around with the rotor to get a real understanding of it. However one of the functions is Language and that’s what I keep my Rotor selected on, to switch between Korean and English VoiceOver.


Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> VoiceOver -> Rotor / Language Rotor

Finally done

The instructions here was longer than it should have been really, but I wanted to give you the full in-depth instruction about how to get Voice Over running on your iPhone. I had to jump through a number of forums and links to get to this point, and I didn’t want you to do that. It seems like a lot but it really isn’t. Now go, enjoy your Voice Over! :)