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  • Evan Ryan

The sly tool you never saw coming

Nobody uses predictive text anyway


“Google and Apple collect all words typed into your phone keyboard. Data used for ad targeting.”

Not a headline you want to read, so they made it a feature.


Go open a text conversation and start typing a message. You’ll see three words above your keyboard based off what your phone thinks you’ll type next.


Most of the time, those words are more annoying and slow than they are accurate. Every once in a while they’re right, which is exciting until you type the word out anyway, and every so often you decide you’re going to select one of those words.


How does it work? Why does it matter?


You type a word. Let’s say you type “The” to start a sentence.  


The words change.  For me, my options are “one,” “first,” and “last.”


Apparently, I most often say any of those three words after “The”.


So let’s say I select “first.”


The first


Now my selections are “time,” “day,” and “one.”


Apple is trying, again, to guess what I will say next.  If it guesses correctly, the user experience is better.  I, for one, would love if I could just think and my phone sent the text message to the right person with the right copy.

So I select “time.”


The first time 


“I,” “In,” “we”


Let’s say I do this for 14 words in a row.


“The first time I went to the first time I went to the store.”


Total nonsense.


So why would Apple and Google invest in this feature?


Training.


The goal is that the keyboard learns who you are, how you think, and what you want. If they keyboard knows it, the AI knows it. If the AI knows it, Apple and Google can build better products and make more money.


If you’re a business owner and you want more information about your customers, the easiest way to get it is to have them tell you without you doing any work. That’s what predictive type does. It scans what you type, it makes a guess on what it thinks you’ll say, and if it’s right, you’ll touch the button. If it’s wrong, it’ll guess differently next time.  The business case, however, is that all that data is being collected for future products.


In front of your very eyes.


It would be upsetting if a press report came out saying “Google collects all words typed into keyboard. Used for ad targeting.” Especially if you didn’t know they were collecting that deeply personal data.


Instead, they made that data collection a feature. Instead of hiding the collection, they do it in front of you. They put it above your keyboard!


Does it matter?


Probably not.


All of these companies have more than enough data on everyone using their products.  This data is best used to make your experience with the phone better.


Maybe, the keyboard will start to be right.

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