It's Never Too Late to Start Texting – Here's How
As any parent or grandparent knows, text messaging, or "texting," is the preferred method of communication amongst American teens, many of whom send out an average of 10 messages per hour when not asleep or in school.
The text, or "SMS," messages are cheap (about a penny each), fast and convenient. The pressure is now on for older adults to start texting in order to stay in contact with younger generations.
Today, the fastest growing age group for texting is between 45 and 64. If you've been hesitant to give texting a try, it's time to learn the basics. You may be surprised to learn the newest form of texting will not require typing.
Any mobile phone can be used to send a text message, but you will need a texting plan along with your minutes. Check your phone's user manual for how to send a text. For instance, BlackBerry users select a number from the phone's address book, press the appropriate key to reveal the dropdown menu, select "SMS contact name" and begin typing on the screen.
Cell phones offer several ways to type, depending on what type of keyboard they have. Touchscreen phones will often have a virtual keyboard on the screen and may also offer a physical keyboard.
Other phones have 12-keys arranged in the familiar pattern of an "old-fashioned" telephone, a 20-key pad referred to as a half-QWERTY, or a full QWERTY keyboard, named for the order of the first six keys on the top row. Originally created for typewriters, QWERTY is currently the layout found on most English-language computer keyboards and many smartphones.
You'll notice that your phone may be offering suggestions for words as you type. This is called predictive typing. The software in the phone makes a best guess to complete the word as you type. While it is usually correct, the software may not know whether you intended to type the word "hit" or "guy," for example. It's best to do a quick scan of your message before pressing send.
If your phone has letters and a number assigned to each key, you may choose the double tap method where one tap displays the first letter on the key and two taps results in the second one. Predictive typing is the default for most phones, but you may change the settings. Regardless of the type of keyboard and number of keys, all have been designed for fast thumb typing.
Touchscreen typing can pose a challenge without the physical separation of keys. ThickButtons has released an app for Android-based phones like the Motorola Droid that is based on the predictive typing, but instead of inserting logical letters, the app automatically enlarges the keys you're most likely to need next, while shrinking others as you type. Early reports say this is more accurate than predictive typing.
Alternately, some touchscreen smartphones like the new Samsung Galaxy S , Motorola i1, HTC mytouch, and others, come equipped with Swype for texting. Instead of tapping, "Swypers" trace the letters of the word across the screen without lifting a finger. The phone senses the letter as you pause on each one, resulting in faster and usually more accurate texting.
Ditech Networks has taken the typing out of texting altogether with a voice-to-text technology called Phone Tag. It's new and will be designed into forthcoming applications, allowing users to simply talk into their phone instead of typing. The recipient receives the message as a text. It's a win-win situation if you prefer talking, but your friends prefer texting.
Because texting is a quick form of communication and often limited to 160 characters or less, it has spawned a language all its own. Even if you don't use the abbreviations yourself, you might want to learn some of the most common ones such as ttyl (talk to you later), jk (just kidding) and idk (I don't know), so that you understand the messages sent by the kids in your family. For an exhaustive listing, try online reference guides such as this one.
Texting can be added to any wireless plan for a relatively small fee. Once included, it can significantly reduce the number of talk minutes used each month. Parents may want to take advantage of their children's enthusiasm for texting to reduce the cost of their family plan.
One last note for parents: Distracted driving caused by texting while driving has made headlines, and is a concern for parents who understand the irresistible urge to respond to a message.
TextArrest offers a free downloadable program that automatically disables texting when movement is detected on the phone. The $5-a-month family plan includes service for five family members and includes a family log of when TextArrest was engaged. The location where the incident occurred is also revealed on an integrated Google map.
- Distracted Driving: The Dangers of Mobile Texting and Phone Calls
- 11 iPhone Tips That Also Work on the iPad
- New LG Cellphone to Offer Better Browsing