3 tips for entering text on a smartphone

A 2019 study showed that people who use the autocorrect type faster, but other methods may be more accurate.

Image: Andy Wolber / TechRepublic

People who turn on auto-correction and use both thumbs type faster on a smartphone. These key findings come from a report, How do people type on mobile devices? Observations from a survey of 37,000 volunteers, released in October 2019 by a team of researchers from Finland, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The researchers analyzed the results of a web-based type test in combination with information reported by the participant.

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The authors “have classified the participants’ typing into four different technique categories: auto-correction, word prediction, sign keyboard and just typing.” The fastest results – with just over 46 words per minute – were from participants who only used autocorrect. Any other technique – or combination of approaches – resulted in lower typing speeds.

SEE: 2020 Technical conferences and events to add to your calendar (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

1. How to enable auto-correction

To enable keyboard auto-correction on iOS and iPad OS 13, tap Settings> General> Keyboard and move the auto-correction slider to the right to enable it. Settings for Android devices vary, but on a Pixel 3a with Android 10, for example, tap Settings> System> Languages ​​and input> Virtual keyboard> Gboard> Text correction and move the slider for automatic correction to the right (Figure A).

Figure A

Enable Auto-correction on iOS (left) or Android (right) to fix common typos.

Auto-correction solves many obvious errors. For example, if you type “nwe hpoe” on both iOS and Android with a system that uses English, the system changes your words to “new hope.” The researchers noted that, although previous research indicated that “autocorrect can be detrimental to performance due to (the) high costs of incorrect corrections,” their analysis showed that “participants using autocorrect have the highest performance in our dataset.”

2. How to use Smart Compose or speech recognition

Google’s Smart Compose – first available in Gmail and later in Google Docs – offers word prediction instead of word prediction (Figure B). The researchers report that “a recent study showed reduced performance for heavy use of word prediction” and that the problem “would require more detailed analysis to better understand the usefulness of Intelligent Text Entry (ITE) in different contexts and for different users.”

Smart Compose is enabled by default for everyone who uses G Suite. When a sentence appears in Gmail on Android or iOS, swipe over a displayed sentence and the system types it. Word prediction offers another potential area for further research.

Figure B

Here is an example of how Google’s Smart Compose works.

Speech recognition can be up to 2.9 times faster than typing – at least for short messages – with input speeds of up to 150 words per minute. Those speeds were reported by a team of US-based researchers comparing voice and keyboard text input for short messages in two languages ​​on touchscreen phones, published in 2017.

SEE: How to use speech recognition to improve productivity on your smartphone (TechRepublic)

To try voice-activated typing on a smartphone, tap the microphone icon that appears on your iOS or Android onscreen keyboard (Figure C), give system access to the microphone (if requested) and then talk.

Figure C

Tap the microphone icon on Android (left) or iOS (right) and then talk to try speech recognition.

3. How to determine when autocorrect must be disabled

People who use technical words or terms may want to disable auto-correction or consider using an external keyboard (Figure D). The word “automatic correction” itself has a problem with the function. As quoted above, the researchers use the term “autocorrect”, but show the term “autocorrect” on the paper site. In Android 10, Google indicates the “Auto-correction” function, while Apple mentions it as “Auto-correction” in iOS 13. So what is it? One word, a hyphen or a hyphen with two capital letters?

SEE: How to choose the right mobile keyboard for faster typing on your iPhone or iPad (TechRepublic)

Company, brand, product names and technical words are all problems for auto-correction systems; few help you accurately enter names such as HP Chromebook 14b x360, Lenovo 300e Chromebook (2nd generation) and iPad Pro 12.9 ‘or terms such as CNAME. From the end of 2019, auto-correction and speech recognition systems have been struggling with such unpredictable patterns of numbers, punctuation, and capital letters.

Figure D

A Logitech Keys-to-Go wireless Bluetooth keyboard.

Image: Andy Wolber / TechRepublic

Your experience?

Both auto-correction and speech recognition work well for most standard language messages or texts, but can capture technical terms with less accuracy. To transfer technical details, you can type terms per letter – on the screen or with an external keyboard.

What is your experience with auto-correction, speech recognition or Smart Compose on mobile devices? Do you use these functions for certain types of communication? Which input method do you prefer if you need precision? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@awolber).

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