Microsoft's Translator app plays catch-up with Google
On-the-go translation via mobile app has been catching on as a helpful service for travelers and others. Google has been the leader so far, through its website and mobile app. Microsoft needs to show it can do more than play second fiddle to Google if it wants its own app to grab more users.
The version of Microsoft Translator for Android devices also has a new feature. As of Wednesday, you can use it even when you're not connected to the Internet, thanks to downloadable language packs. That could be useful in a foreign location where Internet access is slow, spotty or nonexistent, either through Wi-Fi or cellular.
You simply go to the App menu and tap on the option for Offline Languages; then download the source and target languages. Support for offline languages is limited to English and the following: Chinese Simplified, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese.
Microsoft said in a blog post that the offline translations are nearly as good as those you'd get online.
The character-recognition feature for iPhones and other devices that run Apple's iOS operating system is not yet available for Android devices, and the offline feature for Android gadgets is not yet available for iOS devices. Microsoft said that would change soon so that all versions of the app (iOS, Android, Windows and Windows Phone) will have the same features.
Google's Translate app has long included optical character recognition to translate text on the fly via your mobile device's camera. The Android version of Google Translate offers the ability to download language packs for offline translation, but the iOS edition still lacks that feature.