Five iPhone tricks to beef up your texting skills

If you turn to your Messages app more often than the dialer, these tips will take you from texting addict to SMS expert.

Sharon Profis Vice President of Content, CNET Studios
As the Vice President of CNET Studios, Sharon leads the video, social, editorial design, and branded content teams. Before this role, Sharon led content development and launched new verticals for CNET, including Wellness, Money, and How To. A tech expert herself, she's reviewed and covered countless products, hosted hundreds of videos, and appeared on shows like Good Morning America, CBS Mornings, and the Today Show. An industry expert, Sharon is a recurring Best of Beauty Awards judge for Allure. Sharon is an avid chef and hosts the cooking segment 'Farm to Fork' on PBS nationwide. She's developed and published hundreds of recipes.
  • Webby Award ("How To, Explainer, and DIY Video"); Folio Changemaker Award, 2020
Sharon Profis
3 min read


Whether it's for quick notes or lengthier conversations, at least one-third of smartphone owners (and many more teens) turn to SMS for day-to-day communication.

Less personal than a phone call, but more intimate than a Facebook post, a text message allows us to skip past any pleasantries and get our points across quickly.

If you find yourself launching the Messages app more often than the dialer, grab these tricks to make your (texting) life a little easier.

1. Enable character count.
As Business Insider points out, every time you exceed 160 characters in a text message, your service provider charges you for another SMS message. If you're on a limited SMS plan, you can keep track of your character count as you compose your messages.

Head to Settings > Messages > Character Count ON. From now on, you'll see an active character count above the Send button.

2. Use AutoText shortcuts to quickly type phrases.
There are some phrases you might use over and over again, like "On my way," "How's it going?" or even things like your e-mail address or signature.

To type these words and phrases faster, customize your own shortcuts. For example, typing "eml" would prompt your full e-mail address. Access the feature by going to Settings > General > Keyboard > Shortcuts.

Check out Rick Broida's very useful post, Ten handy AutoText shortcuts you should create.

3. Get the hidden Emoji keyboard.
Once upon a time, you had to go through a set of complicated steps to get emoticons like smilies, hearts, and other clip art symbols on your iPhone. Now, the feature is built in to iOS 5 and can be enabled in a few steps. Check out the guide here.

However, know this: only fellow iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch users will be able to see the emoticons. Everyone else will see garbled symbols, so beware of using emoji in fields like Twitter or Facebook status updates.

4. Skip Siri, but use speech-to-text.
In my experience, it is not easy to go through the entire process of sending a text message via Siri. It's frustrating, time-consuming, and has a (non-scientific) 50 percent failure rate. (To be fair, you can make Siri more efficient with some configurations.)

A more useful feature is speech-to-text within the Messages app. So, you do the work of selecting the recipient, but instead of typing your message, you speak it.

Go to a message thread and tap the text field. Then tap the microphone icon by the space bar, wait a beat, and begin speaking your message.

5. Turn off preview and badge notifications.
There's little as heart-stopping as an awkward text message popping up onscreen for your nearby friend to see. The badge alert also happens to be annoying when you're in the middle of another task.

To fix this, you'll need to tweak two things: message preview settings and notification type. Head to Settings > Notifications > Messages. Turn Notification Center ON, Alert Style: Banners, and Show Preview OFF.

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