How iOS 7 makes auto-correct better

By , Jun 20, 2013

autocorrect feel-it-boner

I’d be lying if I said I’ve never been embarrassed by a text message I sent containing an accidentally auto-corrected word. I’m sure you’ve been there too. It can be embarrassing, or it can be hilarious, depending who’s receiving the message and what’s being said, but at the end of the day, it’s something that could have been prevented should your iPhone auto-correct be a little smarter.

And smarter it appears to be in iOS 7! Christian touched on this earlier today with a post on how the keyboard features in iOS 7 have gotten smarter, but I’d like to focus a little more on auto-correct with a few real life examples and comparison points with iOS 6…

What auto-correct can do on iOS 6

Up until now, iOS 6 has only been able to correct the last word you typed. In certain instances, it could fix the second to last word, but only when this word was in an iOS database of proper nouns. For example, iOS would fix “united states” to “United States.” But again, it’s only because United States is in a database of proper nouns stored in iOS.

In the same way, iOS can tap into your Contacts for correct spelling of names of people that are in your Contacts. It can also look at the Shortcuts you have added in the Keyboard settings, inside the Settings app, and maybe even better, it can learn from you as you “teach” iOS to spell words correctly, which you do every time you decline the same auto-correction several times.

Finally, iOS has always been able to fix words that have accidentally been tied together. For example, typing “thisis” would be auto-corrected to “this is.”

What iOS hasn’t been able to do until iOS 7 is to backtrack and fix a word that it had already auto-corrected. If you’re wondering what the he’ll I’m talking about, check out these few examples below.

Auto-correct: iOS 6 vs iOS 7

Below is a series of screenshots I took typing the same phrases in the Mail app on iOS 6 and iOS 7.

Autocorrect Hell

Your iPhone (or other iOS device) has always been smart enough to tell that when you type “hell”, you probably mean to type the more often used “he’ll,” so it would automatically auto-correct to the right words, which is a good thing in most cases. But what happens when you actually want to type hell? In iOS 6 and below, you had to manually tap the suggested auto-correct box to cancel it.

In iOS 7, auto-correct will default to “he’ll” too, but once you type in another word, the operating system is now capable of figuring out some of the context and decide whether you actually mean he’ll or hell.

Autocorrect ill

The same happens with something you and I probably type more often than not: I’ll, as in I will. When I type I’ll on my iPhone, I usually don’t bother typing the apostrophe because I know iOS will auto-correct it for me. But if you want to type the word “ill,” then you have to go out of your way to cancel the auto-correct by tapping on the suggested correction.

Once again, iOS 7 is smart enough to know when you mean I’ll or ill. In the example above, iOS 7 first auto-corrects ill to I’ll, but then, based on what’s following, it knows its suggestion was wrong and offers a new one that is actually correct.

Autocorrect-its-rev

We could probably go all day pointing out auto-correct mistakes, but there are a couple more that I think many people encounter, so I want to use them to illustrate this post.

In the example above, I typed the exact same thing. iOS 6 auto-corrected “its” to “it’s.” In this case, auto-correct was wrong. But on iOS 7, it auto-corrected to the proper its.

Autocorrect shell

Here is another one that I use a lot. I know iOS 6 will auto-correct “shell” to “she’ll”, so I never bother adding the apostrophe myself. I just let iOS do it for me with auto-correct. But sometimes (rarely), I want to actually use the word shell. While iOS 6 can’t see the difference between both, iOS 7 can, and although it first auto-correct to she’ll, it quickly backtracks when it figures out it’s grammatically incorrect. It then offers the right word, which in this case is shell.

Autocorrect well

One last example. Just like I never type the apostrophe in “she’ll,” I never type it in “we’ll” either because I know iOS will fix it for me. Once again though, if you actually mean “well,” as soon as you type another word, iOS 7 will look back and see that its auto-correction was wrong and will offer to fix it for you.

The Takeaway

Auto-correct is definitely a work in progress and it has plenty of room to grow. I’m glad to see Apple is working on improving auto-correct, a feature used by the millions of people who own an iOS device, most of them not even aware of the auto-correct capabilities. In most cases, auto-correct works just fine on iOS 6, but it obviously got even smarter on iOS 7.

What’s probably most interesting is that auto-correct is now capable of backtracking to fix the second to last word. Could this open the door to an even broader check of previously typed words? Surely, this could bring proper Pattern Matching to iOS, something smart enough to analyze a full sentence and be able to tell if there are grammatical errors. Of course, at this point, iOS probably lacks the computing power and most importantly the internal databases to check text against patterns, but something tells me it’s only a matter of time.

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  • Joseph Groocock

    One thing that always pisses me off is the constant “correction” of ‘well’ to ‘we’ll’ and the same with ‘he’ll’ :( It is /always/ wrong!

    • Ali

      I think once you cross out the auto-correct suggestion, it doesn’t do it again (at least not for me).

      • Joseph Groocock

        I’m using a tweak called “ManualCorrect Pro” which improves auto-correct, but these two it doesn’t fix :(

      • Gorgonphone

        use regular manual correct no the pro version and it lets you avoid that bs change

    • http://theeyesofmarch.wordpress.com/ Timothy

      Didn’t you even read the article? That’s exactly what it’s about, and what they’re fixing in iOS 7…

      • Joseph Groocock

        I know that.. Was only stating :)

    • Sarah Warren

      That’s the point, it’s not always wrong if people are used to autocorrect and write shell and well expecting them to be autocorrected to she’ll and we’ll. It may annoy you, but it’s not a mistake or “wrong”, it’s autocorrect behaving as it was designed to.

    • Ryann

      I just got the 5s and it ALWAYS autocorrects well to we’ll. it is super annoying.

    • Yoshi-kun

      I mean, what the he’ll? It never works out we’ll.

  • Ali

    Nice improvement!
    lol @ 3rd pic. “They” keyboard has it’s own mind pic.

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

      Oh damn it!

      • Joe Plal

        How about double spacing at the end of an interrogative sentence to produce a question mark instead of a period?

      • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

        Nope

      • Joe Plal

        Hopefully Apple adds that.

  • EpicFacepalm

    While it’s great (let’s be honest, not great, it’s just pure awesome!), I seriously doubt we will have this with foreign languages.

    • http://flavors.me/mile MILE

      Yeah, autocorrect in English has always been so much better than in German — and this only seems to widen the gap…

  • Gorgonphone

    manual correct from cydia makes IOS auto correct behave perfectly..

    • Damian W

      yeah but most people get lazy and don’t want to tap/choose the correct word. I used to have ManualCorrect and then I got more comfortable using apple autocorrect.

      • Gorgonphone

        i like having the choice cause auto correct gets it wrong too often

      • Damian W

        true..but your typing speed decreases for most of the time.

      • Gorgonphone

        yeah i prefer less speed than embarrassing changes slipping though

      • Vincent Tucker

        it’s about teaching your phone not killing yourself man. i mean, to each his own but seriously. slow down, proof read and your phone will eventually be brilliant.

        i have been using my iphone since it was a 3g (no S) meaning that my keyboard data is from like 2009. i hardely have to look at the keyboard my phone just knows what i’m trying to do.

  • HassanShah

    Much welcomed

  • JAE_Tech

    Love it.

  • http://flavors.me/mile MILE

    Nice to see that it works even better now in English, too bad for us over here that it still sucks in German though…

  • nedisonn

    it sucks even more in portuguese because of our marks like “é o” isn’t “e o” and it thinks it’s the same thing…

  • Ricky

    Shortcut not working for me like when i pressed emaill it should display my email addres

  • Sero Eskandaryan

    Wasn’t this the case in ios 6? My autocorrect always changed well to we’ll I know that because it pissed me off every time lol

    • http://theeyesofmarch.wordpress.com/ Timothy

      This article explains how they’ve fixed that in iOS 7—it parses your sentence to determine whether in fact it should correct it to “we’ll”.

      • Sero Eskandaryan

        I understand that. And I’m saying it did that already. Perfectly in fact. At least thats my experience

      • http://theeyesofmarch.wordpress.com/ Timothy

        If it did it perfectly, why did it “piss you off”?

      • Sero Eskandaryan

        That was before iOS 6.

  • LJRhodes

    But, will it stop autocorrecting correctly spelled words altogether? Can this at least be an option? The number of times it changed so to to, when I indeed meant so. It corrected tumor to rumor, when I meant tumor. It assumes I mean other words, when in fact I do not, and I’ve no way to stop it from doing this and limiting it only to correcting obviously misspelled/typed words. It’s an all-or-nothing thing currently, and it’s frustrating, even infuriating.

    • Vincent Tucker

      you can turn auto-correct off in setttings. “and I’ve no way to stop it” is one hundered percent a friggin’ lie. you haven’t looked hard enough.

      iOS 7: Settings->General-Keyboard-Autocorrection Toggle
      iOS 6: Settings->General-Keyboard-Autocorrection Toggle
      iOS 5: Settings->General-Keyboard-Autocorrection Toggle
      iOS 4: Settings->General-Keyboard-Autocorrection Toggle
      etc

      • Stan D Mute

        Are you illiterate? He clearly knows it can be turned off and is certainly smart enough to figure out how to do so. He wrote that “it’s all or nothing.” Anyone who can read will understand that to mean that it’s either on or off. All or nothing. On or off. And that’s too much for you to comprehend?

        Who let’s you have unsupervised access to a computer?

  • Guest

    Does auto correct detects language (Spanish/English)?? It is a pain to go to settings and change languages when writing emails.

  • Nick Sitterly

    I have IOS7 and none of these features seem to be happening. Settings issue?

  • Sarah Warren

    The new autocorrect is mostly working great for me, expect that it keeps weirdly “correcting” the odd , to ? for no reason I can fathom, and also putting ? in front of words occasionally, ?like this. It’s really strange. I just got Big Bang ?Theory, and I have no idea what that ? was in aid of.

  • Yoshi-kun

    I absolutely hate the new AutoCorrect! because it’ snot just good. It keeps correcting my commas to exclamation marks! and the apostrophe handling’ state worst I’ve seen. I can type my own commas, thank you. Also, I want an option to disable “hell” to “he’ll”, “well” to “we’ll” (I use that word a whole damn lot) “shell” to “she’ll”, and most importantly, “its” to “it’s.” I’m educated enough to tell I-T-S from I-T-apostrophe-S. However, I have no choice but to turn that on because I’m a sloppy typist (I just typed “I’n” and it never bothered correcting it) and I admit, it does save my ass a whole lot.

  • Glen Buhlmann

    Is there any option for an app to make autocomplete more useful? I constantly have reasons why I want to ditch my WP and move to iPhone but a useful autocomplete is the one thing that I cannot give up. iPhone waits until I type about 13 characters of a 15 character word before it gives a suggestion and then it gives just one suggestion (not even the noun and the plural noun). How is that helpful? On WP if you are typing a common phrase you generally have to type 2 or 3 characters of the first word and after that autocomplete suggests the right words without having to type any characters. So for a 5 word common phrase you type 2 or 3 characters for the first word and then one touch for each of the other 4 words. That means 3s vs 30s for iPhone.

    Is there ANY way to get useful autocomplete on iPhone? Please tell me there is because I really want to switch but given my large thumbs and fingers, I just can’t give us autocomplete.

  • Peyman

    The autocorrect on IOS7 has gone enormously wrong. I am very disappointed with Apple as it takes basic testing to pick this bug and it is impacting millions of people. They should deal with this as one of the most urgent BUG fixes!!!!