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Chicago-area teens try to be nation's fastest texter

(MerlinOne )
August 02, 2012|Amanda Boleman | For RedEye

May the fastest thumbs win.

Chicagoland natives Alyssa Podwell of Homer Glen and Rachel Armstrong of Park Ridge will compete Wednesday in LG’s 6th annual U.S. National Texting Championship in New York against nine other contenders for a chance at winning $50,000 and the title of America’s Fastest Texter of 2012.

Since March, the girls, along with thousands of people across the nation, have been competing in weekly texting challenges designed to test speed, accuracy and dexterity. For example, the winner of the third annual competition squashed her opponent by accurately texting,
“Zippity Dooo Dahh Zippity Ayy…My oh MY, what a wonderful day! Plenty of sunshine Comin’ my way…ZippittyDooDahZippityAay! WondeRful feeling. Wonderful Day!” in the quickest amount of time.  

At 18, both girls are iPhone users and avid texters, averaging 1,000 texts per day and carrying out full-length conversations via text message.

"I know my dad looked at my phone bill and it said I send about 30,000 a month," Podwell laughed about her intense text usage.

Armstrong agreed.

"I probably send about 1,000 texts per day," she said. "I'm on my phone all day, every day. I have full-length conversations and everything."

As a veteran competitor, participating in the competition since the first or second year, Armstrong believes the key to fast texting is familiarity with your phone.

"I used to have a BlackBerry, then a Sidekick and now I have an iPhone. I don't think the type of phone matters, but more how familiar you are with the keyboard," she said. "I just know where everything is--I don't even really have to look when I text."

However, Podwell attributes some of her skill to her iPhone’s auto-correct, providing an argument that the type of phone may play a role in texting speed and accuracy.

“Autocorrect makes it a lot faster to text. Usually if I’m spelling a word wrong, it gives options for how to spell it right and gives a nice shortcut,” she said.

With $50,000 up for grabs, the girls already have given some thought to what they might spend their prize money on if they win.

“My brother is in college right now and I will be going soon, but I got a full-ride on a volleyball scholarship, so I’m planning to help him pay for school and going on a family vacation with whatever we have left,” Podwell said.

“I’m going to school for fashion design, and I’m hoping to open a fashion boutique after college so either that or maybe a yoga studio because I’m currently training to be a yoga instructor,” Armstrong said.

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