30 Days with iPhone – Day 23 - Predictive Text

The 23rd installment in my 30-day diary of using the original iPhone

iPhone predictive text
image credit: BraunSMore/E+/Getty Images

The iPhone’s onscreen keyboard has been considered, as I’ve noted before, one of the device’s make or break features. Overall, I think it’s fairly good. It takes some getting used to, of course, and isn’t really designed for thumb typing—it delivers greater accuracy with the somewhat-slower finger typing—but it’s solid and usable.

Problems with the iPhone's Predictive Text

The other thing that was supposed to make the iPhone keyboard usable was the phone’s predictive text feature.

This feature looks at the letters you’re typing and guesses what you may be intended to write. If it guesses right, the word can be auto-completed with a keystroke.

This is a great idea, except that the predictive text feature doesn’t work very well. Here are a few examples:

  • When typing the word “typing,” I have entered “typ” and the iPhone guesses “type.” Pretty good. But when I get to “typi” it guesses “Tupi.” Not so good. How many words in English can you form with “typi” as a base? And is “Tupi” even a word?
  • When typing the word “continuing,” I have “cont” entered and it guesses “don’t.” It’s in the neighborhood, at least. But then it goes off the rails. “Conti” is guessed as “Congo.” “Continui” becomes “continuo.” Only when I get to one letter away from finishing the word—“continuing”—does it guess correctly. The feature doesn’t save me very much typing if I have to type all but one letter.
  • Lastly, when writing “investigate,” it suggests “investor” when I type “invest.” Not bad. But I have to get all the way to “investigat” for it to suggest “investigate.” Again, not very helpful.

Autocorrect Needs Improvement

I’m n to sure whether the predictive text feature learns from the words that it suggests and you accept or if it has a pre-defined, unchanging dictionary.

I hope it learns. I also hope that in the future Apple refines the tool to be a little more logical and to remove words that are clearly not part of the language the phone is being used in.

But for now, the predictive text feature is not very useful.