So I have this new phone. It’s my first smartphone, and one of the great things about being a late adopter is that for effectively no money (the thing came on the same contract as my previous Nokia Brick) you get to experience with a sense of childish wonder and glee developments which other people are now totally jaded by. “Look”, I keep saying to my friends, “the screen knows when I’m tilting it around”. And my friends roll their eyes in their tolerant way, and return their attentions to the grilled cheeses that their iPhone 7s are busily cooking for them.
Actually, I soon disabled the clever rotator screen on the basis that it made reading in bed impossible without constantly moving my neck in a slow, painful parabola. And I turned off the battery-conserving feature which deactivated the backlight when I wasn’t looking at it, too, on the perfectly sound basis that it freaked me out to have a device which knew when I was looking at it. But one technological ultra-feature which I’ve been trying to embrace is the digital technology keyboard, because I found typing on the one which came with the phone a little bit cumbersome after a decade on the olde buttone presse.
SwiftKey is a downloadable “app” (remember when they were called “programs”?) that learns your typing habits and adjusts itself accordingly. Because it’s not enough simply to have a keyboard these days, it needs to know you personally! Unfortunately, what mine seems to have learnt about me is that I do typos all the time, and it seamlessly replicates these, stomping through my carefully expressed prose to decapitalise proper nouns and remove apostrophes in ways noticeable only just after I press ‘send’ on something. But it has another, even more annoying feature: it scans your gmail and facebook accounts, and then constructs an idea of the word you’re most likely to use next at any given moment. This means that every typo it makes on your behalf is an implicit reflection of your character rather than simply a mistake: the notion of the Freudian slip just gained a worrying new potential penis, I mean validity.
So I rebelled, and decided to JUST press the first word it recommended each time, thus finding out (a) how the mechanics of the program worked, and (b) what kind of guy it really thought I was. I didn’t give it any starting letters, just pressed the top recommendation each time. Let fly:
I am a beautiful person to person who is the best bit of a crowd of the most important thing is that tied to the destiny machine plotline it makes me feel like a new bowel
Although this isn’t something I’d ever say, I do think it captures a certain me-ness. I like the way it moves from the sublime to the ridiculous, which is, I suspect, my style. And I imagine that “destiny machine plotline” is something I’ve probably said at least twice. But I’m troubled that it went to “bowel” so quickly – I feel like I’m better than that. And the arrogance of “best bit of a crowd” is quite unlike me.
Or is it, I hear my phone sneer at me from behind its polished sheen. Has it reached through my endless gmail to unravel the mysteries of my soul? Will I, personally, soon be an unnecessary adjunct of its predictive capability? And why does it get so many Game of Thrones proper nouns right whilst being unable to cope with adding possessive suffixes to dictionary words?
It bears mentioning that I actually like the SwiftKey software very much indeed, and despite the frustrations documented here it’s definitely better than the default keyboard on the Galaxy SIII. This is partly because of the far smoother interface, but it’s mostly because it keeps stats, and I love anything that adds stats to real life because I’m an enormous dickhead. I’ve dragged my finger over nearly a kilometre of touchscreen keyboard since downloading two weeks ago! How unbelievably depressing!
(Although the stats also claim to have ‘corrected’ 1,431 typos – a figure which presumably includes all the correct words it changes back into the names of unpopular British Trees as soon as I’m not looking. Don’t give yourself credit for that, SwiftKey!)