Why the iPhone causes you to make spelling errors

Do you ever wonder why you are making all those spelling errors on your iPhone? Or rather – why the iPhone keeps inserting them for you?

This is because the auto correct function has a few obvious flaws in the way it works:

  1. It’s in the wrong place
  2. It has the wrong trigger
  3. It is not designed for a touch interface

How the auto correct function works

In case you don’t have an iPhone, here’s how the auto correct works: while you are typing, a suggestion pops up. If you want to accept it, press the space bar to have it inserted. If you don’t, click a little × next to discard it.

1. Wrong place

The suggestion is shown just underneath the word you’re typing. The problem is, that’s not where you’re looking. You are looking at the keyboard, trying hard not to hit the wrong key. And since the suggestion’s design is very discrete, you don’t even notice it popping up.

How it's now: The suggestion is shown where you're not looking

2. Wrong trigger

The second – and biggest – problem is the way a suggestion is accepted: by hitting the space bar. Now that’s a really strange choice. This way you may be accepting a suggestion when you just want to add a space.

3. Not designed for a touch interface

This design might make sense in a desktop environment. There you are usually looking at the word you’re typing, and there you want to have a way to confirm without taking your hands of the keyboard. (Although even then the space bar remains a strange trigger.)

But with a touch interface, there is no reason to bind the trigger to the keyboard.

The design mistakes reinforce each other

The funny thing is that the errors reinforce each other. If the placement had been the only mistake, it wouldn’t have been so bad: you just wouldn’t notice the suggestion. And had the suggestion been shown prominently, the space bar trigger would still be annoying, but at least you would be aware of the mistake.

Alternative: show the suggestion close to the keyboard and add an obvious trigger

A better solution?

In the screenshot above, I have come up with alternative solution. The suggestion is now placed where the user is looking: near the keyboard. This has the added advantage of not having to reach to far away from the keyboard to accept or discard the suggestion

To make the trigger more obvious, I have added a checkmark in front of the suggestion, and a small divider between the divider and the ×.

What do you think?

Do you think this would work better? Please let me know!

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3 comments on “Why the iPhone causes you to make spelling errors”

  1. Now I know why I choose WIndows Mobile 😉
    My HD2 has the suggestion almost exactly placed where you want it.

  2. I actually really like the auto correct function on my iPhone. But I learned how to effectively use it.

    I just type away, hitting the general location of the letters I want to type. The auto correct function takes pretty good care of guessing what I want to type. Sometimes it makes 2 mistakes, but usually only 1 or none.

    If I do make a mistake you can just select the word which makes a ‘replace’ option appear besides the ‘copy’ and ‘paste’ options. The ‘replace’ option gives you several replacement options. Just tap the one you need.

    After I’ve quickly typed a message I read it once (which is quick too, because I’m not writing books on my phone) and make adjustments if needed.

    If you embrace this method of typing the iPhone auto correct feature is far from unusable!

    zegt Paul S
  3. @Paul: Thanks for the advice! Now I’m always trying to hit just the right key. I’m definitely going to try typing less accurate, and see what my phone comes up with.

    zegt jaron