Friday, December 22, 2023

iOS 17 Autocorrect

Juli Clover:

The machine learning technology that Apple is using for autocorrect has been improved in iOS 17. Apple says it has adopted a “transformer language model,” that will better personalize autocorrect to each user. It is able to learn your personal preferences and word choices to be more useful to you.

After using iOS 17 for a few weeks, most users will notice that the autocorrect suggestions are much better at predicting what you want to say and presenting words for you to tap to autofill. When you use acronyms, shortened words, slang words, and colloquialisms, autocorrect is not as aggressive with the automatic correcting, but it is still able to correct accidental typos.

Federico Viticci:

Imagine my relief, then, when I realized that iOS 17’s brand new autocorrect feature based on a transformer model was not just marketing speak but actually works and makes typing on the iPhone’s (and iPad’s) software keyboard a…pleasant experience. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I love Apple’s new autocorrect system in a way I never even remotely appreciated typing on a software keyboard.

The new autocorrect is so good, it allowed me to write a good chunk of this review without using the Magic Keyboard for iPad at all.


All of these traits are complemented by the refreshed user experience Apple designed for the system keyboard in iOS 17. For starters, when a word is automatically corrected, it gets underlined; tap the underlined word, and a new popup appears, allowing you to revert to what you wanted to type in the first place or choose between different suggestions.

After using it for a while now, I think autocorrect is definitely improved in iOS 17, but I’m not seeing as dramatic an improvement as others are reporting. I’m not sure that it’s better than the old iOS 10 system that didn’t use machine learning.

The main issues are that it still changes correct entries to be incorrect and still suggests garbage words. At the same time, it is sometimes surprisingly unhelpful at what would seem to be the easy cases. For example, I was recently trying to type the word “didn’t” and had entered “didn”. iOS’s suggested completions were “don’t” and “doesn’t”. Other times, this same example has worked, though. I cannot predict what the predictive text model is going to do, which makes it require more attention, and it sometimes seems dumber than a simple prefix-based approach.

I do really like the new user interface, as it makes it much easier to deal with the system’s foibles.

Damien Petrilli:

The keyboard on iOS 17 is a nightmare. It was already going down since few releases but now it’s unbearable.

  • can’t keep up if you type too fast
  • key precision is worst than ever by triggering the wrong letter.
  • sometimes the system takes your typing as touches instead and you are sent back on the springboard with tap triggered everywhere like it was catching up
  • keyboard freezes more and more

I have not been seeing these problems, thankfully.


Update (2024-02-05): Mario Guzmán:

I am having to fucking go back and edit my text messages more than ever before due to how fucking aggressive and awful auto-correct on iOS is these days. I’ve tried resetting my dictionary but even that doesn’t help.

Update (2024-03-08): Pierre Igot:

In my experience, lots of Mac users, even if they are regular iPhone users, DO NOT LIKE autocomplete in macOS, for fairly obvious reasons. Yet, unless they happen to know what the official name for the feature is (“inline predictive text”), how are they supposed to find how to turn it off in the jungle of System Settings? The most commonly known term, “autocomplete”, yields NO RESULTS. For some reason, “autoc” and “autoco” work, but NOT “autocom” or anything longer.

Update (2024-03-11): Todd Thomas:

So what really happened to autocorrect between the iOS 17 betas where it looked amazing and the current state of things right now?

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One thing I've wondered is whether people who are reporting poor results might benefit from resetting the keyboard settings. I've had a few times where iOS seemed to be presenting typos which were its own stale suggestions and there used to be an old bug where it'd get confused about the cursor position while editing text and suggest replacements from the last n characters of the current word rather than whole thing, and if saved that'd definitely taint your suggestions.

@Chris Are you referring to Reset Keyboard Dictionary? I wish there were a way to go in there and delete any potential bad entries without losing a decade plus of useful words it has learned.

I’ve periodically run into the slow keyboard problem Damien is describing, and it’s definitely aggravating. Though I wonder if it’s on an app by app basis and is a case of the keyboard ML butting heads with, say, the Microsoft Outlook app’s obnoxious own predictive text model.

I cannot predict what the predictive text model is going to do, which makes it require more attention

This has been my issue with all heuristic features. They're just smart enough to second-guess me, which requires me to constantly third-guess them.

I definitely recognize the “can’t keep up if you type too fast” and “key precision is worst than ever by triggering the wrong letter.” points.

The older dictionary was never much of a problem for me, so I am not seeing a dramatic improvement there.

I miss being able to purposefully type "welll" and have it autocorrect to "we'll" which was a lot faster and less error prone than typing "we'll" directly. Same for illl autocorrecting to I'll.

> suggests garbage words

I don't know if this is related, but ever since iOS 17, using swipe for keyboard entry has gotten exponentially worse. It used to get words right most of the time. Now I write sentences that are half gibberish, presumably because it picks the most obscure garbage that fits the swipe ever so slightly better than the common word I was attempting to enter. Words that I've never used in my life.

I'd have given up on it altogether by now, except that the aforementioned key precision issue makes the regular keyboard a pain as well...

Same for me, Worf. I grew to really like swipe in iOS 16, but had to give it up completely in 17 because it continually gets it wrong.

I personally still prefer Predictive than autocorrect. Recent update seems to be a bit too aggressive in fixing words, and if I use multiple languages in my sentences, it will totally make mistakes. Noticeably on Notes app in macOS.

After several years of using Google's GBoard swipe typing, I really hoped I can switch to iOS's native keyboard which didn't support my language previously. But it is absolutely infuriating, especially when it replaces two letter words with just the last letter, or in some cases even with a random one!

I gave it a few months, but I'm back to GBoard now.

Ben G: for reliable shortcuts like this, I recommend setting up Text Replacements in keyboard settings. I have some similar to yours.


One thing that caught my attention: the iOS 17 Spanish keyboard knows an awful lot about Duolingo's Spanish course for English speakers, autocompleting some otherwise extremely unlikely sentences. I truly wonder how that could happen. Did someone at Apple intentionally use the app while recording training data? It somewhat ruins the course.

I have been using iOS 17 for nearly 6 months and it's definitely been noticeably better. Not sure if it's still then that iOS 10 and before one, but it's good enough.

It still does the maddening thing where if I type a word, it autocorrects, I delete and retype, and it autocorrects, and it keeps doing this instead of just learning to leave it.

Also, despite using iOS 17 for 6 months:

> For starters, when a word is automatically corrected, it gets underlined; tap the underlined word, and a new popup appears, allowing you to revert to what you wanted to type in the first place or choose between different suggestions.

I never knew that it did this! I just tried and now I see the underline. And tapping it does show the original one! WOW that's great.

Of course I wish I knew this 6 months ago. Another feature badly designed and not communicated. I thought the underline word was a spelling mistake and it disappears so fast it's hard to tell that I thought it just fixed it. The underlining is too subtle.

Anyway thanks for the tip.

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