When you purchased your mobile phone, you were undoubtedly drawn to its features. Even if you didn’t choose the hottest new offering from Apple or the latest Blackberry, you weighed your wants and needs against the device’s functions. You settled on one that would make your life easier. Mobiles have made communication, information and entertainment incredibly easy to access.
With a reliable provider and the right applications, you can take care of almost anything with a smartphone, no matter where you are. Ease is the name of the game, so both mobile providers and software developers are scrambling to provide users with features they didn’t even know they needed. From fitness applications to recipe databases to bar code scanners and GPS pinpoints of the nearest big-box retailer, your mobile has you covered. Sometimes, however, the best intentions of technology can make life more difficult for its users.
Text Input Predictions
Consider predictive text. This seemingly genius option for messaging guesses at the word that you are in the midst of typing and automatically fills in the rest for you. How simple is that! Simple, yes, but also incredibly flawed. Predictive text was born in the days well before smartphones and full QWERTY keyboards, when mobiles came with only a number pad. On touch-tone telephones, the numbers two through nine have always been assigned three to four letters each. This made it easy for companies to create hotline telephone numbers with their name or tag line incorporated: Customers were much more likely to remember 1-800-FLOWERS than its numerical equivalent.
Mobile phones kept the touch-tone pattern, and text messaging was born. To text via early feature phones, users would need to press the number pad to create letters. Letters in the middle or at the end of the number’s assignment required that you press the button multiple times. If you needed the letter “B,” for instance, you would need to press ’2′ twice. Predictive text allowed you to simply press the number button for each letter once. An algorithm would note the letters assigned to each number and predict which combination of letters you had intended to form with the numbers: It was like a sophisticated anagram solver. It was highly successful, easing the pain of button-pushing on many thumbs around the world.
Pains of Learning Curves
Today’s algorithms aren’t based on numerical codes, and they make many mistakes. There are several websites dedicated to the hilarious and often downright embarrassing messages sent to mobile phones equipped with an auto-fill feature. They have left many people scrambling into social and even business damage control mode. From adult-themed auto-fills to truly bizarre substitutions, such as “paleface” instead of “already,” the intended message is frequently lost in predictive translation.
Interestingly, Android users seem to experience far fewer text gaffes than those with an iOS phone from Apple. Android phones “learn” new words more quickly than Apple’s do.
Avoid the Gaffes
The best way to ensure that you are sending precise, clear messages from your smartphone is to turn predictive text off. Use your touchpad or QWERTY keyboard to be sure your phone is working for you and not against you.
Jaye Ryan is a freelance writer who loves to write about mobile technology and mobile phones. for MobilePhones.org.uk