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The awkward truth behind automated messaging on iOS and Apple Watch

The awkward truth behind automated messaging on iOS and Apple Watch

Digital Communicator
May 1, 2015

Think about texting your best friend: depending on how things are, you can probably imagine that there will be the odd exclamation point or emoji thrown around. We need a way to show emotion, right?

Of course this depends on who you’re talking too, but in most cases, it’s all too easy to tell when someone you’re messaging is not in the greatest mood. What makes things worse is, with our innate desire to know what others are thinking and how they feel, it’s easy to conclude that someone is upset over text message without much evidence.

We all know how it feels to get a “K.” or “Sorry I can’t talk right now.” from someone who you wouldn’t expect that writing style from. What did you do wrong? Furthermore, how many people do you know that respond with “OK”? Are they yelling at you?

The problem


It began with the feature added to iOS in version 6 that allows you to quickly decline a phone call and respond with a text. Now it’s something that comes into play when you’re using your Apple Watch or the QuickType keyboard in iOS 8.

Respond with message

With technology doing as much as it can to shave fractions of a second off of how long it takes to complete a task, we’re having to rely less on typing out messages. As things stand right now, our personal computers think they’re being smart and helpful by providing automated suggestions for what they think we would want to say. But the truth is that they don’t always speak our language.

What it’s like

Your friend sends you a link to a hilarious YouTube video and you’re both exchanging various forms of “LOL” and “ROFL.” A few moments later, they call but you cannot answer. You quickly decline the call and automatically send them a “Can’t talk right now …”

As you walk from the office to your car, you feel a tap on your wrist bringing a message from your significant other. They remind you of how much they love you, with a heart emoji to boot. They don’t have an Apple Watch meaning that you can’t send them your heartbeat, so you settle with the preset option of “Hold on a sec …”

See what I’m getting at? These automated responses are usually very robotic and may cause someone to wonder whether something they did may have set you off. Nothing like ending every other message with a period, the new universal sign of passive-aggressiveness. Put three of them side-by-side and you’ve got an ellipsis that’s equivalent to a death stare.

You can fix it … sort of

Thankfully, there are a few things you can do right now to make these suggestions a bit more personal. For starters, you can change some of the preset responses that show up via the iPhone’s Apple Watch and Settings apps. And more conveniently, the Messages app on the phone and the watch will try to learn the different conversational styles you have with different contacts in order to make better suggestions.

In the end, all I’m wondering is why Apple’s own preset responses don’t sound more like “Okay!” or “I can’t talk right now but will call you later [insert smiling emoji]” or “Sounds awesome, see you then [insert winking emoji].” Maybe we don’t text like that all the time, but this would definitely be more reflective of the normal messaging dialect spoken by smart device users.

Plus, it wouldn’t hurt to smile more here and there. Either that, or our culture eventually gets used to this dry messaging. Regardless, it’s been an awkward journey so far, and we’re just getting started.

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