Hey Dave, I saw your article from a few days about How to Turn on Closed Captioning in iTunes and am wondering if my iOS devices have a similar capability when I’m watching a movie or TV show on my iPhone or iPad?
It should be no surprise that yes, there is a way to enable closed captioning (more commonly known as “closed captions”) for any content you purchase or rent from the iTunes Store on your iOS device, whether it’s a fancy new iPhone 5 or an old first generation iPad.
What’s confusing about it is that like most settings on iOS apps (for convenience, I’ll just say “iPhone apps” from now on, okay?) is that they’re all located in a completely app area than the program itself.
I’ll show you what I mean by enabling closed captioning for a TV show on my iPhone, but before I do let’s see how hard it is to grab a free TV show directly from the iPhone itself!
To start out, tap on the “TV” button along the bottom of the screen in the “iTunes” app. It’s busy with stuff, but there’s a lot to see:
Notice on the lower left “NOVA” in white letters on orange, and, in very small type below it, “Free Episode”. That’s what we want, so tap on the TV show of the week to find its free episode to preview.
In this instance, NOVA comes up with series information:
From this point, it’s hard to figure out which of the episodes listed a bit lower on the page are free, but you can tap around to figure things out. My experience is that it’s generally the first – and oldest – of the listed episodes. In this case, it’s “Doomsday Volcano”:
Near the top notice the episode rating — TV-PG — and the Closed Captioning “CC” icon too. If the latter is not present, then there’s no captioning information included with the video and you won’t be able to get closed captions while you view it. Most stuff has CC, however.
Before you download it, notice that it says “Also Available in SD”. SD is “standard definition” while HD is “high definition”. If you’re going to watch it on an iPhone or iPad screen, SD is probably plenty good enough, and it’ll download significantly faster. I’ll switch to SD by tapping on that link, then tap on “FREE” by the episode information:
Now tap on “FREE EPISODE” and it’ll start downloading:
Notice that even in SD resolution, this single episode is 566MB in size. Download a dozen of these and you’ll be out of space on your device in no time!
While it’s downloading, let me now show you how to enable Closed Captioning!
Tap on the home button to get back to your home screen, then tap on “Settings”. Here’s what you’ll see, as you’ve seen a thousand times before:
Scroll down by swiping your finger from top to bottom of the screen until you see the following block of Apple apps. The specific app we want, of course, is “Video”. Tap on it:
Once you’re looking at the settings for the Video app, it’s impossible to miss how to proceed from this point:
Now, once you have the video downloaded — or view any other video content you have already on your iOS device — subtitles will show up, just like on a big TV:
For my eyes, subtitles on an iPhone screen are pretty darn small, but on an iPad Mini they look good and on a full-size iPad, well, they’re easily read and quickly forgotten if you’re already used to reading closed captions.