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Texting Is Stupid

By - September 20, 2008

Texting On M1082022(image)

After seeing the clearly obvious story about texting being a bad thing to do while driving (er, no sh*t), I just had to write that headline. Sorry. I text with the best of them. I love the concept and efficiency of short messaging.

But the interface is deeply stupid. I see these commercials from carriers extolling speed texting, and think to myself – “We’ve already invented an incredibly efficient way to get thoughts from our brains to others – it’s called speech.”

Why I can’t simply say to my phone: “Text Michelle” and the phone gets ready to send a note to Michelle. Then I say “Mich I’d rather hit Left Bank than Ambrosia for din love you bye” and the damn text goes to Michelle?

Say Michelle is driving. Her phone buzzes with a text. She’s driving, so she says to no one in particular “Listen text”. There’s my voice! Is this too complicated to make happen? Please. It’s not. The problem is there’s simply no culture of product development and entrepreneurial thinking in Carrier World. And Carrier World, alas, still rules here in the US.

Of course there are times when you want to use your thumbs, say, when you’re in a dull meeting and want to text on the sly. But the fact that you can’t text with your mouth is simply unacceptable. I think it’s going to change, and soon.

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20 thoughts on “Texting Is Stupid

  1. Shira says:

    Isn’t the entire point of a text message text? Wouldn’t having it play back your voice be called “voice mail” and hasn’t that existed since before cell phones? Voice recognition for text messages might not be a bad idea, but it’s still somewhat unreliable and most phone processors are too slow to handle it; even high-end smart phones can’t match economy laptops.

    I will agree on one point though: texting while driving is incredibly stupid.

  2. John Battelle says:

    @Shira – no the point is not text, the point is communication. And the compute cycles can be done in the cloud, the end device does not have to have a Intel quad core!

  3. Ajay says:

    there are such applications…correction..many such applications..
    Just not easy to find one for your handset but that will change.

  4. jhc says:

    on texting via voice: you can do this today with jott (a paid service). see http://jott.com/jott/hands-free-email-and-text-messaging.html

    conversely, several nokia phones will do text-to-speech, reading your sms messages aloud. see http://europe.nokia.com/A4286225

    i’m sure there are even more companies that have solutions to this problem. a quick search reveals yap http://yapme.com and microsoft/ford sync http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Sync

    there are thousands of applications available for phones, some of which (like jott or goog-411) are accessible via just a phone call…there’s so much innovation out there, even with carriers, but most mobile consumers won’t care about it until apple slaps their brand on it.

  5. Brent says:

    Sprint has Voice SMS. The only problem is if the other person doesn’t have Sprint, they must call a specified number to hear the message. For those people, they receive a text indicating they have a message, so you’re left with the original issue. I actually don’t use the Voice SMS that much, and I don’t think it’s widely advertised, but it is an option.

  6. dir says:

    they receive a text indicating they have a message, so you’re left with the original issue.

  7. Mike says:

    I agree with you 1000%. I’ve looked for voice recognition for cell phones for a while. Nothing really. I mean, even an email over a smart phone should at least be voice activated for when you’re in the car (or don’t want to ache those poor thumbs onto that little thing). Point well made.

  8. gede says:

    i think you are right for some contries (such as the US) but in my country (Indonesia) + perhaps most of south east asian coutries, people uses text messages more than voice calling.

    the reason is simple; it’s much cheaper than talking over the phone as a communication way.
    so, with this context, texting is not stupid ;) – at least in some countries.

    ps.
    1. texting while driving is always stupid
    2. with the recently hype on the blackberry in our local market, there is a shift to use chatting as alternative to text messaging; but it’s still prefered over the voice calling

  9. NEBBALS says:

    Yes I think jott has the applications too

  10. Are you kidding me? We already have this – it goes something like this:

    John: “Call Michelle.”
    *ring, ring*
    Michelle: “Hello?”
    John: “rather hit Left Bank than Ambrosia for din love you bye”
    Michelle: “Sounds good – love you too.”
    *click*

  11. sam says:

    Palringo allows you to send little voice snippets back and forth.

    The computing in the cloud idea is interesting, I wonder how feasible it is though. It would have to be pretty quick for people to use it.

    On my phone I can initiate texts with a voice command but I can’t actually write texts with a voice command. I hardly ever use it though because it’s just as easy and more reliable to hit the two buttons that it takes to start a new text.

  12. Check out http://www.Jott.com You can send messages via voice to text and read your e-mail via a free 800 number. check it out.

  13. JHC, appreciate the mention. This is precisely the use case we were founded to solve…we’ve launched our platform awhile back but are mired in operator trials.

    John, let me know if you want to play with an initial version anytime soon. We’d welcome any constructive criticism.

  14. coxy says:

    Texting is immensely popular here in the UK and many younger people have the preference of sending a text (SMS) as opposed to making a phonecall.

    There is also the ability to send / receive MMS messages (picture and video) and Voice Messages (basically an MMS but just with recorded audio) which is what you were on about.

    Nobody uses Voice Messages, because if they wanted to do that, they mayaswell have just dropped that person a phonecall and rang through to their voicemail. Plus – where the standard rate for a SMS is 10p (or you get allocated free SMS messages in your contract – mine’s unlimited :D) a MMS or Voice Message can cost twice, or three times that and is less likely to be incorporated in your package.

  15. Jeff B says:

    Being able to send by voice is cool. Receiving and listening by voice would be good if people would use there ear pieces. Could you imagine being in a crowd with my daughter who sends over 8,000 text a month. Would have to listen to all her one liners hell probably all her one word responses.

    I like your post and great blog.

  16. Perry says:

    The SMS patterns of really heavy using teenagers are about severe multi-tasking = having a live exchange with a bunch of people, and keeping it all in context (via the txt threads).

    Your voice scenario does not support the ADD world of teen SMS. It ain’t going anywhere until this (much more complex) problem is solved.

  17. I think a lot of people use text messages specifically because there is a certain element of anonymity.. or freedom to say things you otherwise wouldn’t.. This isn’t relevant for you and your wife, but texting “had a gr8 time w/u 2nt, talk 2u soon” is oh so much easier then saying it in a voice message:)

  18. NICCAI says:

    SMS should stay as it is, however phones and/or their software should support transcription/dictation of messages for accessibility – whether it be for the impaired or simply the busy (errr…driving).

  19. Paul says:

    I’m from Argentina. I’m a 33 years old average guy with a very basic Samsung C165 cell phone with no MP3 and a worthless camera, and I’m not going to buy anything else, unless it has the embedded utility for voice recongnition so I can send SMS by voice. I already know my family and friends thinks I’m half crazy (if not totally) but we’re at the XXI century! I see all the kids and adult people texting like cavemen and believe me, it’s so disturbing to see thousands of people using their thumbs like they were in the good old days of brand-new typing machines. The communication objects are smaller every day, we have stylus pens to work with palms, tactile screens, GBytes and Gbytes to hold thousands of files in the size of a nail, but even 40 years later the “Star Trek” show, we can’t say “Computer, search at Google”. :D
    Technology is not the problem. The real problem is the mentality of the human being and the hunger for cash. As always.
    But don’t cry for me, maybe in ten years I’ll change my cell phone.
    In the meantime, I keep playing with my leg bone as the monkey in 2001: A space odyssey, wishing it turns into a spaceship…