IT’S GEEK TO ME: Missing features on old tech: Attempt to restore or move on?

Question: On my old iPhone 6S which still works great I no longer have the text fill feature. I have gone through all my settings and talked to many people about restoring this feature. People usually say get a new phone. How can I restore the text fill feature and keep my old but great 6S working? Thank you.

– Charlie R.

Panama City Beach, Florida

Answer: I’m afraid I am also one of those whose first recommendation would be a new phone, Charlie. After all, the technology in your “still great” device is nearly 10 years old as of this writing, and while that may not sound like much in raw years, the way the age of technology is reckoned, it may as well be right out of the stone age. It is not uncommon here in the column for me to point out that one can make a whole lot of problems go away simply by no longer clinging to one’s old hardware, no matter how well it has served you in the past. After all, despite your description of the phone as “great” you are having a problem with it that is serious enough to consult your local tech columnist about it.

With that said, I wouldn’t be doing my (freelance, unpaid) job if I didn’t at least try to help you fix your issue, would I? Okay then, let’s at least try.

The first step in seeing whether I can help you is to make sure I fully understand the issue. Unfortunately, we have a bit of a terminology conundrum, as there is not any feature on the iPhone platform that has the exact name “text fill.” The closest I’m aware of is AutoFill. But the term “text fill” could also be a vague description of the Text Replacement feature, Predictive Text, or others. Since I don’t know exactly which one you are calling “text fill” I will try and give you procedures to check all of the possibilities.

Let’s start with AutoFill. This is a feature of most browsers that stores data you’ve typed into web forms over time, and can then fill-in fields automatically when the form is accessed again. This functionality includes most username and password fields that are required to sign-in to secure websites, so aside from its use on phones, it can be a pretty useful feature for PCs in a non-public environment. It can also be a security nightmare for publicly accessible PCs, such as those in libraries, schools, the business center of hotels, and so on. You should never let those machines store your username or password, or you run the risk of subsequent users logging in to whatever service you were using with your credentials.

If AutoFill is not working on your iPhone, you should go to Settings-> Safari -> AutoFill. Make sure the switches there are set to allow your contact info, and if you so choose, your credit card info to be stored and automatically filled-in. Also click on the “My Info” setting to make sure the information you think is there is actually there. There are ways to clear out this info, and when that happens it might appear that AutoFill is broken, but in reality, there is just no data available for it to use. If that’s the case, just fill in the form manually. You’ll begin to rebuild the data, and it will start to work again.

If the “text fill” you’re talking about is almost any other feature, it’s probably in the Keyboard settings. Go to Settings-> General-> Keyboard and review all the settings there. It is easy to overlook the very first one that says “Keyboards.” Click that, and make sure you don’t have some unintended 3rd-party keyboard installed that’s not giving you the functionality you want. Beyond that, make sure all the features you want are turned on so they get activated as you use the phone.

One final thought: Apple has in the past been known to surreptitiously slow older devices, or even turn features off. I’m not saying that’s happening in your case, but unless you fully trust Apple to have your needs in mind, as opposed to, oh I don’t know, maybe selling you some new hardware, this is certainly something worth looking into!

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