How to: Defeat the iPhone’s auto-complete - Macenstein

How to: Defeat the iPhone’s auto-complete

[UPDATE: This tip has been reported as “lame” by some readers, and I think I may have to agree.
-The Doc]

I’ve found the iPhone’s autocomplete function to be pretty accurate, and very useful in general. The one situation where I consistently have problems with it, however, is YouTube. Maybe it’s just that I look up weird crap, but the iPhone often tries to make my bizarre queries into words it knows, and (despite my mom telling me I have the beautifully slender fingers on an artist) I have a hell of a time hitting that little light gray “x” that cancels its suggestions. Somehow it always thinks I have accepted its term, and I have to start over.

Luckily I found a simple work around to my problem, and hopefully this will be of use to some of you as well (and as always, if you have a better idea, please let me know). Here’s an example situation:

My kids are obsessed with the Muppet video for the song Manha Manha. The problem is, if you type in “Manha”, the iPhone thinks you want to spell “Manga” (at least the iPhone is hip enough to know about Manga!). If you hit the space bar, the iPhone accepts it. If you try to hit that microscopic “x” symbol, I’ve experienced about a 30% chance of success.

My solution to this problem is quite simple:

First, type in your wacky word. Odds are the iPhone will try to make sense of it. The key is to just type an extra letter or 2, until the iPhone stops suggesting anything. In my case, I added a “b” to it, making the word too weird for it to even guess at.

Next, just hit the delete key, and delete any stray letters you added. You’ll notice that the iPhone does not try to suggest words when you delete letters, only when you add them.

Now you’re left with your nonsensical search term, the way you intended.

Success! You can now enjoy the most annoying video ever made, played over and over 4000 times a day!

Above: For the record, the accepted spelling of this song is actually “Mahna Mahna”, but the iPhone didn’t do the weird autocomplete for that, so for the purposes of this article, I chose the lesser known “Manha” spelling. (Oh, the things you learn when you have kids).

10 Responses to “How to: Defeat the iPhone’s auto-complete”
  1. D3LM3L says:

    You don’t have to press the actual X; you can press anywhere on that white pop-up.

    Nevertheless, thanks for the tip! This is probably quicker than using a finger to press the white box every time.

  2. Thanks D3LM3L,

    I don’t know why it never occurred to me to hit the box itself. For some reason I thought you were supposed to aim for the “x” to dismiss their suggestion , and that hitting their “guess” word would accept it. Thanks for the tip!


    -The Doc

  3. Thanks for the tip but, yah you only have to click the guessed word itself, not the little “x”… clicking anywhere on the screen except the “x” automatically accepts the word.

  4. Bill Fences says:

    dumb, time-wasting “tip”

  5. Yeah Bill, I think I may have to agree with you. Where’s that “delete post” button again…

    -The Doc

  6. Dave-O says:

    I’ve never had a problem rejecting a search term, but isn’t it easier to just delete the ‘a’ and reenter it? The iPhone is remarkably good at backing off like that. This has the added bonus of keeping your fingers on the keyboard (my chief complaint about the auto-corrections).

  7. cs says:

    One should also note, by adding characters then backspacing you are defeating the purpose of dismissing the suggested word and thus *teaching* the dictionary algorithm. One needs to know that if the word you type is what you want and not what is suggested, clicking X will do one of two things. 1) If the word you typed IS in the dictionary, you will need to only click once and what that does it tell the algorithm to add more weight to the word you typed, thus giving it a higher ranking (may take a few times) as a word you want more often. 2). If the word you typed is NOT in the dictionary, it will make you click twice. This may be why you think you are missing the X. Once you do that, it will *add* it do the dictionary and depending on other suggestions around it could be weighted higher or lower than them and thus option 1 may have to be repeated later to move it up. This is how once teaches it your friends names, txt speak, etc.

    • jhilty says:

      cs is dead-right! I have been having the same problem with mail auto-correct too – most notably when I try to type my email address in the body of an email. Auto-correct changes it into jumble of letters that bears no resemblance to my email address and if I fail to catch it, I look like a moron.

      Following cs’s instructions, I “taught” the auto-correct a few times how to do it correct and it finally stopped suggesting its scrambled mess of letters it had been using. Now when I start to type my email address, it leaves me alone. It would be nice if it auto-completed it, but I’ll take progress in small steps over the way it worked before.

  8. guy says:

    FYI, the function you guys are talking about is “auto-correct,” not auto-complete…auto-complete only uses (up until recently with yahoo for example) words you have previously typed in, and usually in a web app. notice how the iphone auto-correct only makes a suggestions of words that are either the same # of characters that you have already typed, or 1 more or 1 less….

    they NEED a real auto-complete function on the iphone

  9. Alan Vallis says:

    Lame it’s not.
    Thanks Doc. And Jesse too.

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