Last month, Google launched an Android app for Google Translate, which allows users to write or speak a phrase in one language and then read or hear a translation in another. Today, Google also launched a native iPhone version of this tool, which works surprisingly well – though only while you have an Internet connection. The app accepts voice input in 15 languages (including German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Chinese and Japanese), as well as text inputs in over 50 languages. Spoken translations are available for 23 languages.
Update: Since Google launched this version of the app, it has now also launched another version of Google Translate with handwriting recognition.
The app has a number of nifty little features, including a full-screen view to make it easier to the translation to whoever you are trying to communicate with, dictionary results for single works and the ability to star translations for phrases you expect to use more than once.
A tool like this isn't very useful, though, if the translations aren't very good. Thankfully, though, Google generally does an excellent job here. No machine translation is ever perfect, but for the most part, the translations – while sometimes comical – are close enough and the voice recognition and synthesis work very well.
No Offline Mode
The problem with the app, though, is that it only works while you have a working network connection as all the translations happen on Google's servers. So unless you are willing to pay high roaming costs or have access to a WiFi network, chances are the app won't be of much use when you are trying to figure out how to buy a metro ticket in Paris or order dinner in Beijing. In these situations, an app like WordLens or an offline dictionary app is far more useful.