App Review: iTranslate

Category: Productivity
Price: FREE
TiP Rating: 3/5 stars
Release date: 12/19/2009
Version: 3.2.1
Languages: English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Polish, Russian, Spanish
Seller: Alexander Marktl at Sonico GmbH
Rated: 4+
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone and iPod touch, requires OS 3.0 or later.
Link to app (clicking launches iTunes)

App Store Description: A universal TRANSLATOR, for your iPhone.

Summary: The aptly dubbed iTranslate is an easy-to-use translation app that offers 50+ languages, as well as “text-to-speech” for a few chosen languages in a large selection of different voices/accents. Sounds great, but the app (which is powered by Google Translate) has issues with accuracy, which can hinder more than help when looking up phrases or sentences. It’s more useful for single words, but for that, stick to the free app, not the paid version.

Review: The aptly dubbed iTranslate is an app that translates between 52 different languages. Sixteen of those have a “text-to-speech” feature that offers 43 different voices, in case you fancy everything spoken to you in Queen’s English or an Australian accent. The set up is straightforward, and simple to use. After choosing the languages you want to translate to and from, you tap the top box, and type in the sentence you want to translate. Now, unless you already have a good grasp on the Catalan language, you probably need to know how to pronounce the sentence, and that’s where the “text-to-speech” comes in.

In Catalan you have the choice of either “Jordi,” the fictional male Catalan speaking computer, or “Montserrat.” Here’s the catch: if you want to download any of the “text-to-speech” voices, you have to pay $1.99 per voice. Now, just suppose you wanted one for every language that they’re available for – this would cost you a quite pricey $31.84.

One good thing about this app is the options available in it’s settings, none of which are complicated. To access the settings, you simply press the ‘i’ symbol at the bottom right of the window. From the menu, you can manage your languages, selecting or de-selecting as many of the 53 languages as you wish. You can change the Font size, (useful for those with weaker vision), and you can switch ‘Auto Correction’ and ‘Auto Capitalization’ on or off. There’s even the option to email feedback straight from the app menu.

While testing this app I couldn’t help but notice the ‘Powered by Google’ tag at the bottom of the window, so obviously I had to go to the Google Translate webpage to test the same sentences. I wasn’t that surprised to discover all the results were exactly the same. Bilingual users have likely, at some point, tested Google’s accuracy, and discovered it has varying degrees. I happen to be able to speak the little-known Welsh language, and unfortunately iTranslate’s results for my sentences were wrong or not accurate at least 50% of the time. It seems to me often that it makes the error of just checking each individual word in some online dictionary, and then just strings them together in a nonsensical sentence.

With its unreliability in some languages and sentences, iTranslate did have the tendency to hinder rather than help. But it does seem to best serve when the user only needs to check a single word. So while it’s useful overall, I do find it to be a very average app.

In addition to the free app, there’s also an ‘iTranslate Plus’ for $1.99. The paid version is ad-free, has the auto landscape view (when you turn your phone sideways), and gives you the option to add favorites. Personally I feel these don’t warrant paying for, but it is only two dollars, which is the line of thought that the developer is probably relying on to get users to buy it. (I would’ve preferred a single free version, with the auto landscape keyboard and favorites, even if it meant seeing the ads, so they could make a few more cents.)

But if you need a translation app, give the free one a go and see what you think. At least with that version, there’s nothing to lose.

UPDATE: Version 3.2.2 has been released, which offers speed control for “text-to-speech,” a plus button for quick access to Mail, SMS or Copy/Paste, and a new “Send SMS” function. These seem like worthwhile extras, but the update still doesn’t seem to address the accuracy issue, which is the main point of the app.

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  • Robert B

    I love this application. Googles own application does not allow copy paste. This one does.