About ducking time: Apple fixes up autocorrect in iOS 17

WWDC It's taken a ducking long time, but Apple has tweaked iOS's ducked-up autocorrect to get rid of its tendency to replace swearing with waterfowl references.

Apple SVP of software engineering Craig Federighi shared news of the change at WWDC this week by cheekily commenting that, "in those moments where you just want to type a ducking word, well, the keyboard will learn it, too." By which he means, if you actually want to swear on your own ducking phone, iOS's autocorrect will now respect that and no longer irritatingly censor you. Thank duck for that.

Yes, we understand that this announcement may pale in comparison to Cupertino's $3,500 AR ski mask or the end of Intel Macs, but for those of us tired of a lack of learning on the part of our iPhones, this ducking fix will be a welcome one.

Federighi claimed Apple has stuffed a transformer learning model into iOS 17, giving autocorrect the ability to better learn and follow what its ducking users really want to type in, and also mentioned a few other assistive features tied to that.

Autocorrect now better understands what the user means by studying sentences as a whole, we're told, and said autocorrected words will be underlined with the ability to revert them back, Federighi said. Predictive text is getting updated to show suggestions inline, too, and the machine-learning model underlying the keyboard will learn and adapt to make predictive text read more like what the phone's user would say.

Dictation is also being improved, with a transformer model being added to boost speech recognition. Autocorrection, prediction, and speech recognition are all done on-device, Apple said, so hooray for privacy.

And hooray for usability, finally

The iPhone in many ways defined the modern smartphone, but in the years since it was given that nice set of laurels to rest on, Apple's smartphone innovation has slipped since.

Siri, once a leading piece of smartphone tech, is laughably bad at things the Google Assistant can do with ease; autocorrect and speech recognition on the iPhone now feel like a decade behind, and a common source of mockery. Not quite Newton Eat Up Martha levels of bad but close enough.

With the new features set to come out in iOS 17 with its release later this year, Apple might finally be paying attention to one of the most often-used smartphone features, but one that it's been ducking neglecting for years.

Now Apple just has to figure out how to get Siri from behind the pack and back up in the AI race with Microsoft and Google.

Want an unducked preview?

Those who don't want to wait to try out iOS 17 can snag a developer-grade beta copy now for free. Normally you need to be a paid-up developer to get access to this kind of thing; Apple has removed that requirement.

Interested users - who we warn are at their own risk for installing a pre-release OS, especially on a primary device - can check their iPhone for the iOS 17 beta availability by opening Settings and navigating to General > Software Update > Beta Updates, and looking for iOS 17 Developer Beta. If you don't have access, head over to Apple's developer website to register your AppleID.

The non-developer public beta for iOS 17 is scheduled to begin next month, and it's generally advised to wait until then so that the worst of the bugs are ironed out.

Similarly, iPadOS 17, watchOS 10, and macOS Sonoma developer-grade betas are also available to all now with an Apple ID to try out, if they're brave enough. First-release Apple code is not usually terribly stable. ®

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