About 2 years ago, an app called Word Lens launched for the iPhone. It seemed like one of the more technically impressive apps out there and a great demo for what smartphones can do for us these days. Word Lens worked, in a way, similarly to Google Goggles, which you could use to take pictures of text in another language, and then Google’s servers would use OCR to see what’s in the image, and then use the Google Translate engine to translate, in your language of choice.

But there are also some major differences between Word Lens and Google Goggles. Word Lens had the huge advantage that it could translate text that was seen through your phone’s camera on the fly, in real time, almost immediately, instead of taking 20-30 seconds to be processed through Google’s servers. The second major advantage was that you didn’t need an Internet connection, like Google Goggles did, to translate the text.

Everything was being done offline. Since usually you need translation apps like these when you travel in another country, it’s much easier to have them work offline, instead of having to use data roaming, or having to buy a SIM card from that country with data option. That’s if you can even get data there.

This is why I was hoping Word Lens would arrive sooner rather than later on Android, and although it took 2 years for them to finally make it available for Android, it’s finally here. I should note that there are also some disadvantages compared to Google Goggles. It only supports supports 3 language pairs by default (English – French, English – Spanish, and now also English – Italian). If you want other language packs, you will have to buy them, but they are on sale for $4.99 until July 22nd.

Feel free to install Word Lens from the Play Store, but be warned that some users say it doesn’t install in their country for whatever reason (doesn’t recognize the phone), and also some say that it doesn’t work as well as advertised, so the Android version might still be a couple of revisions away from working perfectly.

  • SapperK9

    It don’t get a very good write up from the downloaders thus far?

  • EddieT

    4.99 each language pack is too costly. not many people will buy. if it was .99 each.. a lot more people will buy more than just one.. even people who are not traveling will buy.. think about students, teachers, enthusiasts, sociologists, people who work in certain industries that deal with other languages.. even general communication with others. i don’t travel and i would be interested in this if it provided value to my phone/tablet.

    • EddieT

      Update: Installed the Free Demo version and tip toed through it thoroughly to give it a fair trial. No matter how steady I kept it in place, the result was constant rapid flickering words (normal to rotated / normal to blank).. was too frustrating to use. Uninstalled within a minute after downloading. It may be a good app on iOS, but it needs a LOT of work on Android before I will consider giving it another test run, let alone buy the app and it’s language packs.

  • John Stock

    Useless demo that does not show translation at all, just OCR. Language packs are far too costly anyway.

  • tBs_Battousai

    I suspect that they are only so-so capable programmers…. or Apple are paying for the best version of the software….

  • apgrovas

    Hahaha ….the translations are HORRIBLE :-)

    “Por favor lávate las manos antes de tocar las mías”

    should translate to:

    “Please wash your hands before touching mine”


    “Please wash your hands before of touch the mías”

    WTF !!!

    Sigh !!!! The day when machines do natural language translation is still far in the futre, sadly :-)