How to Fix Can’t Select Text to Copy and Paste on iPhone

Having trouble with copy-pasting texts on your iPhone?

If you’re a long-time Apple user, you might be familiar with the abhorrent copy-paste system that Apple uses. However, if this is your first time having these problems, then welcome to the culture.

iOS software has always been incredibly infuriating for copy-pasting text. As some of us like to say, there are two kinds of Apple users: 1) Those that have gone through the depths of hell to copy and paste a set of words, and 2) those that copy-paste sentences in seconds.

Copy-pasting usually malfunctions when using certain apps or accessing particular websites. In this article, we’ll be listing down common instances that can cause copy-pasting issues. Additionally, we’ll also include a list of techniques you can use to help you copy and paste.

Let’s get started!


1. Apple Has Bad Selection Algorithms.

First off, this isn’t your fault. Apple has notoriously bad selection algorithms.

Although no official documentation has been released, this is an opinion that resonates with a lot of Apple users. So much so that copy-pasting is often the first problem that some Android users run into when purchasing an iPhone.

fix cant select text to copy and paste on iphone

We don’t know when it started, some remember the golden age of iOS 4, but Apple changed their copy-pasting algorithm at some point. Now, this isn’t to belittle the programmers at Apple, but for us, we think this was a design choice gone wrong.

Selecting texts on an iPhone or iPad is such a hassle. Oftentimes this results in highlighting an entire paragraph. Although it might seem annoying, we think this is a deliberate feature.


2. General Troubleshoot.

Let’s start by troubleshooting your problem. If you’re having the copy-paste problem on isolated apps or websites, we might be able to explain why this happens. Furthermore, here’s a list of methods sourced from multiple users.

For them, this was how they fixed their problem. Perhaps it’ll work for you too. Before we proceed, let’s go over a programming fundamental in web development.


CSS Text and Box Models.

The CSS Text and Box Model is an axiom in programming and building websites. To simplify this, take a second to lean back and observe the Saint website. This is easier to visualize on the homepage or by viewing the profile of one of our talented writers. If you noticed, the website is arranged into boxes.

fix cant select text to copy and paste on iphone

Although some of these boxes are invisible, they are used to constrain and arrange the website. This is important because while you’re trying to select a sentence, you may accidentally select on the whole box. This can automatically select the entire paragraph or article, depending on the box’s size. You can read more here.

Reinstall The Application.

If you’re having an isolated problem on a certain app, try reinstalling it.

This can happen when your application has cache problems or has just simply malfunctioned. Go ahead and refer to this website to guide you through uninstalling your application. To reinstall, just search the app on the App Store and install it from there.

fix cant select text to copy and paste on iphone

At the same time, try to search if that app supports copy-pasting in the first place. A lot of apps disable this feature to preserve and safeguard their content. The app in question might apply the same tactic.

Update Your Browser.

iOS 14 allowed its users to set new default browsers and mail apps. Yes, you read that correctly. Being able to change your default browser is a longtime feature that a lot of Apple users have been waiting for.

fix cant select text to copy and paste on iphone

However, if you’ve already done this and are using a different application, try to update your browser. iOS 14 is still a new operating system, and each new update from Apple or from your browser will only improve your experience.

Here’s how you can update your browser:

  1. Quickly open up the App Store and search for your browser app (Google Chrome, Firefox, Edge, etc.) using the search bar.
  2. If an update is available, tap on the Update button.

Zoom in And Copy.

This technique is very simple, but it’s quite effective.

If you’re having a problem with selecting a certain line of text, zoom in and try again. Zooming in will create a larger surface area for you to drag and highlight texts precisely.

If you read the method about CSS Box Models above, this is why zooming in works. The box models are enlarged, which lessens the room for error.


3. Restart Your iPhone.

Like most software problems, giving your iPhone a restart should fix your issue. Whenever an app encounters a bug, terminating and relaunching the app can sometimes fix the problem. This works the same way for your iPhone.

Restarting your device will terminate all your apps as well as your operating system. Since your iOS is responsible for the copy-paste feature, this will restart that as well. When you reboot your device, your operating system will shut down along with any possible bugs.

Here’s how you can restart your device:

  1. First, on the right side of your iPhone, press and hold the power button.
  2. After a couple of seconds a red slider that says ‘Slide to power off’ should appear. Drag the slider to the right.

fix cant select text to copy and paste on iphone

  1. Finally, your device should turn off. Wait for several seconds before pressing on the power button again to turn it back on.

Other articles might tell you to force restart your device, but not us. This is because force restarting your device is completely unnecessary. At the same time, it’s also potentially hazardous to your iPhone. Read more about it here.


4. Transfer Your Highlighted Text to Your Notes.

The reason you have a problem with copying texts might be due to the website you’re on. This can be troublesome as there’s no other way of reconfiguring that site’s settings. However, you can try to bypass this by sending the highlighted text to your Notes app instead.

Once it’s there, you can copy and paste the text to your desired location with ease. Although it might be a hassle to do, this can be a lifesaver if you’re desperate for something that works.

Here’s how you can transfer highlighted texts to your Notes app:

  1. First, press and hold on a word to start highlighting. Once the selection feature starts, highlight the text you want to copy.
  2. Now, look for and tap on Share. This should be on the little bar of copy-paste options above the highlighted field.
  3. Once you’ve done that, select Notes to send it to your Notes app.
  4. Finally, open up your Notes app and look for the text that just got sent. Copy the sentence from there and paste it into your desired location.

fix cant select text to copy and paste on iphone


5. Highlight The Last Word.

If you’re having a problem with selecting words in general, you should try this out!

Highlighting the first word of a sentence can often confuse your iPhone. This is usually indicated when your iPhone highlights the CSS Box Model instead. To counter this, you can try highlighting the last word of the sentence you’re copying. This should completely ignore the box model since the selection starts inside it, not near the border.

Now you can highlight your desired text by moving to the first word in the sentence. Voila! A technique to highlight a bunch of words without your whole screen turning blue.


6. Set Your Website to Reader Mode.

Reading through an article with a ton of moving pictures and gimmicks can be annoying. Some of us just prefer to read without all that fancy jazz. This is when Reader mode comes into play.

Reader mode is a setting that changes a website’s layout to only display texts.  This removes a lot of annoying pictures and visual distractions. Luckily, you can use this mode to highlight and select texts easily too! Going into Reader mode is different for every browser. For this method, we’ll provide the steps for Chrome and Safari.

However, if you’re using any other browser, you’ll have to search the instructions yourself. Once the website is transformed into Reader mode, you’ll be able to easily highlight and select texts for copying.


7. Clear Safari’s Cache Files.

In some cases, you might have a copy-paste problem only when using Safari.

This might be because of the cache and history files that Safari stores on your iPhone. Don’t get us wrong, as these cache files are good for your experience. They work by saving your data so that when you reopen a website again, the data is loaded and some of your settings are restored from the previous visit.

However, these cache files can create problems, like copy and pasting, on your device. In this method, we’ll be clearing Safari’s cache files from your iPhone. Don’t worry! This doesn’t delete any personal data.

At the same time, Safari will automatically store cache files again when you start opening websites. However, you will erase all your browser history and be logged out from all the websites you’re logged into in Safari.

Here’s how you can clear Safari’s cache files:

  1. Start by opening up your Settings and navigating to Safari.
  2. Next, scroll down and tap on Clear History and Website Data. You might be asked for your PIN, fill this in and follow the prompts until you’re done.

clear cache safari

Now that Safari’s cache files are completely erased, try to highlight and copy the text you had a problem with. Hopefully, the problem is alleviated.


8. Use A Third-Party Clipboard. 

Copy and pasting is a core component of any mobile experience. If you’re still having problems with this feature not working, you might be interested in looking for a third-party app.

Third-party apps are great at filling in the shoes of dysfunctional and disappointing Apple features. If your copy-pasting experience has really gone to the dumps, using a third-party app is worth a try. These apps will copy and paste your selection into their own Clipboard, outside of Apple’s faulty copy-pasting system.

third-party clipboard application

You can try using CopyClip as a start. Other than that, there are a lot of alternatives you can choose from on the App Store.


9. Update Your iOS.

The new iOS 14 is riddled with bugs and glitches. Instead of playing with new features, which are indeed awesome, we’re bombarded by bugs that should have been fixed in the beta versions.

Unfortunately, this is the reality of the situation. Apple is currently developing the next patch which should be full of bug fixes, so hooray! As of October 5, 2020, the latest iOS version is iOS 14.0.1. If you haven’t updated your iOS already, doing so might fix your problem.

Here’s how you can check for an iOS update:

  1. Start by opening up the Settings app on your iPhone and going to General.
  2. Once you’re there, tap on Software Update.

update ios software

  1. There should be a clear indication on your screen if an update is available. Simply tap Install Now to start the process.

Updating your iOS is one of the best ways to combat software bugs on your iPhone. Hopefully, these new upcoming patches will bring even more fixes to ease our experience.


10. Factory Reset Your iPhone.

Thinking about factory resetting your iPhone? We don’t blame you. A factory reset is a great way to deal with software problems that just won’t go away.

Factory resetting your device will nuke your entire operating system as well as your personal files. Don’t worry! We’ll make backups for your personal data so you can restore them later on.

factory reset your iphone

If you’re interested in reinstalling your operating system, here’s how you can perform a factory reset.

This sums up the entire article. Hopefully, we’ve helped you fix your ‘can’t select text to copy and paste on iPhone’ issue. Furthermore, we also hope to have given you worthwhile copy-pasting alternatives and techniques. If you have any questions regarding the article, feel free to leave a comment down below or discuss your thoughts with our other readers.

If this guide helped you, please share it. 🙂


  • Mako Young

    Mako is a staff writer at Saint. He's been writing about tech for more than a decade. When he isn't reading about the latest news on Apple, he's busy studying cybersecurity, cryptocurrency, cloud computing, and other IT-related sectors. His exceptional work graces technology and Apple-related blogs like How-To Geek,, Macgasm, onMac, PhotoWorkout, GameRant, and many more. He also has a Bachelors in Computer Science and has been writing since 2018, with over 400 posts published. LinkedIn X (Twitter)

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1 comment
  1. Legend! Thanks. Problem solved. My problem was with Google Docs app. I could select but not copy. I restarted the phone but prob still there. But I hadn’t considered reinstalling the app itself. I did this and Voila! It worked a treat!
    Your essay was excellent. Validating – explaining the backstory. And your solution saved me. I needed to cut and paste something important in another app.

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