Gadgets & Apps

Text-Talented Or R U All Thumbs?

A screengrab of the beginning of the story.
Tanya Ballard Brown for NPR
A screengrab of the second part of my text writing attempt.
Tanya Ballard Brown for NPR

Back in front of my computer where thankfully I can use more than my thumbs to type, I see that Austin Wierschke of Rhinelander, Wis., grabbed the title again at the competition in New York City this afternoon. He's the first texting competitor to win back-to-back titles.

Last year, finalist Rachel Taylor Blakely said she practiced by texting her friends AND texting the words from her schoolbooks. A savvy multitasking move and strategy in case her texting competition career is unexpectedly cut short.

And, to even the playing field, contestants aren't able to use a phone of their choice in the competition. This could help or hurt a text-er if they spent their training time mastering one type of phone — such as a touch-screen device or a phone with a QWERTY keyboard — and that style ends up not being used in the competition.

Brianna Hendrickson, the 2010 champion, told laptopmag.com she prefers QWERTY phones.

"With touchscreen phones I just don't know where anything is and ... I make a whole bunch of mistakes and I have to keep backspacing and it's so annoying," she explained.

This year's phone was a Straight Talk LG Optimus Zip — touch screen AND QWERTY keyboard. All thumb pads covered, as it were.

But don't be fooled, text competitions are about more than just limber thumbs and smartphones. Here's some of what Wierschke and other contestants had to tackle on Wednesday: texting a challenge phrase while blindfolded, translating "text speak" into "regular speak," "text sdrawkcab!" (which is texting backwards) and a text-off with the audience.

Still, at the end of the day 17-year-old Wierschke typed his way into another $50,000. Me and my two left thumbs?

A screengrab of several thumbs down and a weeping smiley face.
Tanya Ballard Brown for NPR

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