Version 2.0 of Sonico Mobile’s popular app iTranslate Voice released early July, and it boasts a few swanky improvements to keep users satisfied.
There are a few small, although handy, updates: the interface is easier to navigate and additional languages (Thai, Catalan, Romanian, Hebrew, Croatian, Malay, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese) were added. For fun, you can also purchase a “Presidential Pack” that narrates in the voice of either President Bush, President Obama, or Mitt Romney.
The game changer is the addition of AirTranslate. This technology allows iPhone users of different languages to connect wirelessly and communicate through their devices. Before, the user was limited to one language at a time, and while acceptable for simple questions or statements, it did not allow for actual conversation. The new update also ensures that your device stays in your hand the entire time, stopping the stranger giving you directions from sprinting off with your phone.
The ad below shows it in action:
Theoretically, this is an amazing feature. For travelers or non-native speakers, it could ease the burden of miscommunication and create bonds between people who, until now, were unable to hold a conversation due to language barriers. Whether the app is able to perform to its potential is another question.
Be aware, though, that the app cannot deliver consistently accurate translations, a fact Sonico Mobile acknowledges. In spite of that, our expectations of quality were mostly satisfied. Unfortunately, the voice-recognition software has persistent recognition issues, displaying difficulty picking up words even in English. When testing the product, silent sounds, natural slurred annunciations, and difficult words all caused problems. If the software is unable to pick up a speaker’s native tongue, having an accurate conversation seems doubtful.
The plunging ratings are proof that many are suffering from the same issues. Users in need of Cantonese appear to be particularly upset due to an unfortunate faux pas: the narrator actually speaks Mandarin. For an app that specializes in translation, that’s not a great sign.
Still, the app does have potential. Machine translation will improve in time, and the voice-recognition software will undoubtedly improve in the next generation iPhone. For an affordable $1.99, this app is a handy addition to any traveler’s bag.