Google Translate Where I Need It: On My iPhone

By  |  Friday, August 8, 2008 at 10:44 am

Here’s a small bit of good news: If you’ve got an iPhone and use Google’s Google Translate service, you now get a version with an extremely iPhone-friendly user interface.

It’s a Web app rather than an iPhone app, which makes sense, since it supports 24 languages and presumably relies on dictionaries and translation techniques that would be tough to squeeze onto the iPhone. But Google has done a nice job of tailoring everything to the iPhone’s screen size and touch interface–I can’t imagine that a pure iPhone version would be any easier to use. And it stores your past translations locally, so you can go back to ’em at any time. (Hey, if I knew it was possible to do that with the iPhone’s Safari, I’d forgotten.)

Here’s a peek at how it all looks:

I’m a good example of a person who really needs this service, and is utterly unqualified to review it: I’m lousy with languages, and therefore can’t really judge the quality of Google’s translations. I’m going to Berlin later this month, though, and am looking forward to giving Google Translate for the iPhone a try then–and hoping that the data charges for international roaming aren’t too onerous.

Google, by the way, is quietly doing some really excellent work with phone-specific versions of its services. Google Maps is terrific on multiple mobile platforms, including BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Palm. And the version of Gmail you get when you visit the service in the iPhone’s Safari is so good that I’ve been using it, rather than the iPhone’s Mail application, to manage my e-mail. When the day comes that most of our computing is done on handheld devices rather than PCs, I think there’s a good chance that Google, in all its forms, will be just as indispensable as it is today.

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