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BEACON Senior News

Frustrated with texting?

May 19, 2023 01:34PM ● By Adam Cochran

While smartphones are one of the most ubiquitous forms of technology ever invented, they are one of the least intuitive to use.

Smartphones come in two main varieties: iPhone, which runs on Apple’s iOS software platform, and all other smartphones, which are made by numerous manufacturers and run on Google’s Android software platform.

Both varieties essentially work the same way. Each runs apps that are downloaded from the platform’s app store, which gives the phone more functionality than Captain Kirk’s tricorder.

The most advanced smartphones allow you to take three- dimensional photos, film cinema-quality video and record an entire rock band studio session with dozens of tracks. In addition to the abilities of the phone itself, users can use the phone to control smart devices and accessories, such as room lights, home surveillance devices, major appliances and medical equipment. There are even smart collars available that allow pet owners to track their four-legged family members.

Every year Apple and every major Android manufacturer release at least one new phone model. Each upgrade features more memory, a better camera, and more bells and whistles than the previous model.

Unfortunately, the worst feature of all smartphones has gone almost untouched since the first iPhone was introduced in 2007: the keyboard.

I have fingers that resemble Vienna sausages. Typing on a smartphone keyboard is a maddening experience that’s made worse by the fact that I am a verbose and fastidious writer. I refuse to abbreviate, truncate or omit punctuation. 

When I’m appropriately caffeinated, I can type nearly 100 words per minute on a computer keyboard for multiple paragraphs without making a mistake. Using my smartphone, I make a mistake every two or three words. There is no tactile reference and my thumbs are frequently off by a fraction of an inch causing me to type words using the letters to the right or left of the intended key.

My frustration with the smartphone keyboard has led me to use my voice for nearly all of my texts, social media posts and composing notes.

This month I’m going to share a few pointers for using your voice to enter text and even control your smartphone. If you enable the voice features on your Mac or PC, many of these tips will apply to your laptop or desktop computer as well.

How to use talk-to-text

You don’t need to say “Hey Siri” or “OK Google.” All smartphones have a home button or space on the screen that you can hold to open the voice-control features on your phone. Once that feature is enabled, you can simply ask your phone the question or give it a command. 

When you place the cursor in any text field, you will notice a microphone icon on the on-screen keyboard. Tap the microphone and begin speaking to see the text magically appear.

The voice-to-text feature on smartphones is nothing short of miraculous. Although the accuracy leaves a lot to be desired if you speak with a slight Okie-Colorado accent. The accuracy will improve over time.

For best results, speak normally. If you speak too slowly, it will split compound words or even split regular words. 

For example, when I say “hormones” into my phone too slowly, it writes “whore moans.” That may be a little risqué for some readers of this 50+ publication (if that’s you, I apologize). It’s worse when you make a silly text to a person at church about how teenage hormones prevented some of the boys in Sunday school from paying attention in class.

Punctuation tips and tricks

There’s more to voice-to-text than simply saying the words you want to type. Try these commands for including punctuation and correcting without using your keyboard.

“Quote” and “end quote”: begin and end a quote

“New paragraph”: start a new paragraph

“New line”: begin a new line

“Cap”: capitalize the next word

“Caps on” and “caps off”: capitalize the first character of each word

“Open paren” and “close paren”: Open and close parentheses

Most punctuation marks and emojis can be typed by saying their name. While I believe that the smartphone keyboard is one of the worst features of modern technology, I believe that voice-to-text is probably the most underused. 

It only feels silly the first few times you use it. Within a few weeks, you will find that you only use your keyboard for making occasional corrections or choosing a specific emoji.