I use the Accessibility Shortcut on my iPhone practically every day, whether it’s to dim the screen below the standard threshold, keep my child confined to a specific app, or open up the simulated magnifying glass. But with iOS 15, there are at least three more things I can use it for, and one of them is really good.
First, in case you didn’t know already, the Accessibility Shortcut lets you triple-click your Side or Home button on your iPhone to toggle selected accessibility options on and off. It beats having to dive deep into the Settings app each time you want to access a particular feature, and you can set it up via Settings –> Accessibility –> Accessibility Shortcut.
Returning accessibility options that you can choose for the Accessibility Shortcut include all of the following:
But there are three new ones to iOS 15, as well as iPadOS 15 for iPad, that you need to know. My favorite is definitely the first one below.
Backgrounds Sounds is a new feature that can play a variety of background sounds to mask unwanted environmental noise, such as construction work, a loud neighbor, or a noisy animal. It can even help distract you from your snoring partner in bed, acting as your own personal sound machine.
The tool can help you focus, stay calm, and rest, minimizing distractions and external noise with a variety of audio to choose from, including balanced noise, bright noise, dark noise, ocean, rain, and stream. And it won’t mask any other sounds your iPhone or iPad is making because “the sounds mix into or duck under other audio and system sounds as you use your device.”
Instead of going into Settings –> Accessibility –> Audio/Visual –> Background Sounds each time you want to turn it on, the Accessibility Shortcut gives you easy access to it from anywhere on your device.
You can also toggle Background Sounds from your Control Center with the Hearing control, but sometimes it’s quicker to use the Accessibility Shortcut. If you need to adjust the volume or sound, that’s when the Hearing control comes in handy.
This new shortcut switches to your custom balance preference for audio. In Settings –> Accessibility –> Audio/Visual –> Balance, your default configuration is wherever you set the slider. Turn on the Left/Right Balance shortcut, and you can drag the slider to the left or right channel, and it will remember it.
Disable the Left/Right Balance shortcut, and it will return to the default balance. Re-enable it, and it will re-balance the audio to your custom setting. This is most useful when you’re going back and forth frequently between two different audio sources (like music, a phone call, or a TV show).
The balance setting helps people with hearing loss in one ear, so they don’t hurt their good ear when they turn the volume up. It’s also good for everybody when dealing with unbalanced audio; give it a shot the next time you watch a Christopher Nolan film where the dialogue is unclear over the heavy sound effects. You can also use the balance tool to isolate the left or right channel when needed.
The Reduce Motion setting has been available in iOS since 2013, and flipping it on disables the parallax effect (definition below) and other on-screen motion effects. Some of those include weather animations in the Weather app, zoom and slide effects for screen transitions, bubble and full-screen effects in Messages, and most in-app animations.
The parallax effect moves your home screen wallpaper (if you set it with Perspective Zoom enabled) and interface elements based on movement data provided by the accelerometer and/or gyroscope. The background moves much faster than the top layer of home screen icons, widgets, alerts, notifications, page dots, and the dock, creating a 3D illusion of depth and space.
When you turn it on, Reduce Motion used to affect everything on your iPhone, but in iOS 15, you can customize your Reduce Motion settings per app. That way, if you turn on Reduce Motion system-wide but don’t want it to work in certain apps, you can set it up that way.
Because of the new per-app accessibility settings, Apple added Reduce Motion as an option for the Accessibility Shortcut so that it’s easier to toggle instead of going to Settings –> Accessibility –> Motion –> Reduce Motion.
The new Reduce Motion shortcut also has a hidden benefit: toggling it on or off will keep your preference for “Prefer Cross-Fade Transitions.” If you go to Settings –> Accessibility –> Motion –> Reduce Motion, turn it on, then turn on “Prefer Cross-Fade Transitions,” whenever you turn Reduce Motion off the same way, it won’t remember that you like cross-fades when you turn it back on directly. If you prefer cross-fades, turn it on in Settings, then only toggle Reduce Motion with the shortcut.
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