Google Translate Updates Include Tap to Translate, iOS Expansion

Chinese is the latest language included in Word Lens, making instant translation possible on all-new levels.

Whether you’re touching down in a foreign country or simply saying hello to your grandparents, the ability to communicate across cultures has become a prime target for tech companies. Today Google announced updates to its Google Translate app, in response to feedback from some of its 500+ million users. Some have argued that the industry leader, which celebrated the 10th anniversary of its original browser-based translation software last month, has fallen behind more specialized software from other developers. The update focused on three major improvements to the software that, according to the company, came as a result of user-generated feedback from across the world. The announcement comes just days before Google is expected to unveil several new functions at its San Francisco I/O developers conference.

Among the improvements was an update to Google Translate’s Word Lens feature, which now translates the words of 29 languages (now including Chinese) in real-time via the device’s camera. In addition, the app’s Offline Mode now works for iOS users, a much-needed improvement for those “off the grid.” Offline Mode now uses 90 percent less memory, and includes the translation of text from Filipino, bringing the function’s language total to 52.

The most exciting news for long-time users of the Google Translate app was definitely the addition of Tap to Translate, an all-new functionality that bridges across all apps for the sake of ease. While it wasn’t necessarily the company’s greatest downfall, one of the more difficult aspects of Google Translate was the fact that users had to copy and paste text from one app and into Translate.

The real-time capabilities for apps like Google Translate are likely among the greatest consumer demands today; travelers will appreciate the surprisingly intrusive addition of Tap to Translate. The function works seamlessly on Android, surprisingly not intrusive in its pop-up format. While one might not encourage the use of the app for full conversations just yet, Tap to Translate seems like a great way to keep up with family from out of the country without having to hop back and forth between Facebook and Google Translate.