Gaurav Borole Gaurav Borole - 3 months ago 31x
iOS Question

Voice over doesn't read phone number properly

I have phone number in below format


Currently VO read it as "One (pause) One x x (pause) two x x (pause) minus nine thousand five hundred sixty five".

VO should read it as "One (pause) One x x (pause) two x x (pause) nine five six five".

What could be the problem? Is this wrong phone format?


Let's break down what is happening. VoiceOver doesn't know that the text you are presenting is a phone number and treats it like a sentence of text. In that text it tries to find distinct components and read them appropriately. For example, the text "buy 60 cantaloupes" has 3 components, "buy", "60", and "cantaloupes". The first is text and is read as text, the second is purely numerical and is best read out as "sixty", and the third is read as text.

Applying the same logic to your phone number.

(I'm not talking about actual implementation, just reasoning.)

If you read 1-1xx-2xx-9565 from the left to the right then the first distinct component is "1" which in it self is numerical and is read as "1". If the phone number would have started with "12-1xx" then the first component would have been read as "twelve" because its purely numerical.

The next component is "1xx" or "-1xx" depending on how you look at it. In either case it is a combination of numbers and letters, e.g. it is not purely numerical and is thus read out as text. If you include the "-" in that component is interpreted as a hyphen which isn't read out. That is why the the "-" is never read out for that component. The next component ("-2xx") is treated in the same way.

The final component is "-9565" which turns out to be a valid number. As seen in the cantaloupe sentence, VoiceOver reads this as a number in which case the "-" is no longer interpreted as a hyphen but as a "minus sign".

Getting VoiceOver to read your own text

On any label, view or other element in your application that is used with Voice Over, you can supply your own "accessibility label" when you know more about how you want the text to be read. This is done by simply assigning your own string to the accessibilityLabel property.

Now, you can create a suitable string in many different ways, a very simple one in your case would be to just add spaces everywhere so that each number is read individually. However, it seems a bit fragile to me, so I went ahead and used a number formatter to translate the individual numbers to their textual representations.

NSString *phoneNumber = @"1-1xx-2xx-9565";

// we want to know if a character is a number or not
NSCharacterSet *numberCharacters = [NSCharacterSet characterSetWithCharactersInString:@"0123456789"];

// we use this formatter to spell out individual numbers
NSNumberFormatter *spellOutSingleNumber = [NSNumberFormatter new];
spellOutSingleNumber.numberStyle = NSNumberFormatterSpellOutStyle;

NSMutableArray *spelledOutComonents = [NSMutableArray array];
// loop over the phone number add add the accessible variants to the array
[phoneNumber enumerateSubstringsInRange:NSMakeRange(0, phoneNumber.length)
                             usingBlock:^(NSString *substring, NSRange substringRange, NSRange enclosingRange, BOOL *stop) {
                                 // check if it's a number
                                 if ([substring rangeOfCharacterFromSet:numberCharacters].location != NSNotFound) {
                                     // is a number
                                     NSNumber *number = @([substring integerValue]);
                                     [spelledOutComonents addObject:[spellOutSingleNumber stringFromNumber:number]];
                                 } else {
                                     // is not a number
                                     [spelledOutComonents addObject:substring];
// finally separate the components with spaces (so that the string doesn't become "ninefivesixfive".
NSString *yourAccessiblePhoneNumber = [spelledOutComonents componentsJoinedByString:@" "];

The result when I ran this was

one - one x x - two x x - nine five six five

If you need to do other modifications to your phone numbers to get them to read appropriately then you can do that. I suspect that you will use this is more than one place in your app so creating a custom NSFormatter might be a good idea.


On iOS 7 you can also use the UIAccessibilitySpeechAttributePunctuation attribute on an attributes string to change how it is pronounced.

Speech Attributes for Attributed Strings

Attributes that you can apply to text in an attributed string to modify how that text is pronounced.


The value of this key is an NSNumber object that you should interpret as a Boolean value. When the value is YES, all punctuation in the text is spoken. You might use this for code or other text where the punctuation is relevant.

Available in iOS 7.0 and later.

Declared in UIAccessibilityConstants.h.