Q: Do you have any recommendations for how I can type more quickly and accurately on my iPhone? I used to have a Droid with a pull-out keyboard, and I miss it compared to touching the tiny keyboard icons on the iPhone display.
A: My first recommendation would be a stylus — if you want to continue to hunt and peck. Otherwise, I recommend trying voice-to-text.
I’m surprised by how many people don’t know what the little microphone next to the space bar on phones and tablets is for. If you touch the microphone button, it will beep, and as you speak, it will type using a voice-to-text translation program. You can even add punctuation marks by saying them in the sentence. For example, saying, “Hi Mark comma how are you question mark” will type on your screen, “Hi Mark, how are you?”
This may not be a practical solution in public places, but if you can find some space to yourself, you will probably find this to be the quickest and easiest way to create text with a tablet or phone. You do need a good data connection for it to work, however. If you don’t have that, the microphone will be grayed out.
One caveat — and it is a big one: You must get in the habit of always checking the words before you hit send. Although the system is surprisingly accurate, it is still far from perfect. I’ve had a couple of recent reminders of this. In one case, I was responding to an e-mail from a reader, thanking me for a turntable recommendation that worked out well for him. I touched reply, tapped the microphone and said, “Glad to help,” which the phone interpreted as, “Go to hell.” In the other situation, I was using my iPad to write an e-mail to support a female friend who was dealing with some unexpected heartbreak. I praised her for being “positive,” which the tablet changed to “prostitute.”
Fortunately for my self-esteem (and my friendships), I caught both mistakes and can laugh about them now. Usually when the program types the wrong word, it simply doesn’t make sense, but in these cases it would have been highly embarrassing. There are many stories on the internet about voice-to-text and autocorrect errors, and some of the examples are even worse than mine.
By the way, I wrote this entire column by talking to my iPad. Sure, I had to go back and make corrections and edits, but I was able to create it much faster than I could have by typing. I’ve come to look at it like paving a road: Talking to the iPad lays down all the asphalt quickly, then you go over it a few times to smooth it out.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.