Apple Patents Autocorrect Review System, Language Auto-Detect For Mobile Messaging

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Apple has patented a system that could greatly reduce the volume of material available for blogs like ‘Damn You Autocorrect,’ should it ever make its way to shipping software. AppleInsider spotted the filing with the USPTO today, which describes a way in which autocorrect changes are highlighted to a user once they press the send button, when they’re given a chance to review any changes made by autocorrect before actually moving the message along to its intended recipient.

The utility of this is probably instantly recognizable to anyone who’s had that stomach-dropping moment when they realized what they sent wasn’t what they intended to send, and there are no takebacks. The now-common use of an asterisk followed by the word you actually meant to send as an immediate (or somewhat delayed, if it takes you a while to realize) correction (*whatevs, not ‘wharves’) is a pretty good indicator we’ve got a serious and widespread problem.

The patent describes a system that would include a timer to countdown the time they have to make a correction before the message is sent anyway, and a menu bar that comes up with buttons to either “Fix Errors,” “Reject” the message entirely, or “Accept” it as-is and send it along. Other variants of the system include one where a user can type and queue up a variety of messages, and then review, approve and send them in sequence to save time.

It’s a hiccup in the normal process of sending a message via mobile device to be sure, adding a number of steps and time, but it’s also described as an option that can be enabled or disabled in Settings. And for people who really value clean copy and not looking like someone who ate too many paint chips when they were a kid, it could be a considerable selling point.

Another patent published today automatically changes language for input based on who a user is communicating with, or what specific piece of content they’re responding to. So if they receive a message in Spanish, the Spanish soft keyboard will automatically activate when they tap on the text field to reply. Also, when starting a new message with a contact in their address book, the system could use key identifiers to determine the recipient’s preferred language (including message history) and call up the relevant soft keyboard accordingly.

Apple looking at ways to innovate its mobile input methods is a good sign for users who complain that the company’s inflexibility around allowing third-party software keyboards to be used as the default option limits their ability to type and interact effectively. I’d be willing to bet that they’re still a long way away from sacrificing consistency of user experience in exchange for that degree of customizability, but if it’s endeavoring to improve its own software, that’s something at least, The most recent beta of iOS 7.1 includes ongoing modifications to how the shift key displays an active and inactive state, for instance, so it’s an area where Apple is indeed sweating the details.