- Microsoft updated the Microsoft Translator app for Android to include offline translating for several languages.
- While online translation will still be better, Microsoft claims offline translation is now on-par with online… and better than Google’s.
- Microsoft wants to sell offline translation to other app developers, which is its usual business strategy.
Translation apps are essential whenever you’re traveling in a country where the residents speak a foreign language. However, traveling in foreign countries is when you’re most likely to have spotty or zero coverage, so your translation apps become useless.
That’s because most translation apps (including Google Translate) connect you with cloud computers that do the heavy lifting when it comes to translations. These machine learning centers are capable of incredibly fast translations with better and better accuracy as time goes on.
But Microsoft, via TechCrunch, figured out a way to allow pretty much every smartphone — even those without AI-capable chipsets — to perform translations without a data connection. This new feature is available now in the Microsoft Translator app on the Google Play Store.
Of course, there are some caveats and limitations with offline translation in the Microsoft Translator app. For example, to get it to work without a data connection, you’ll need to download language packs ahead of time. As of today, those packs are limited to Arabic, Chinese-Simplified, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai. Microsoft promises more languages will come soon.
Another caveat is that the cloud-based translations you receive when you have a data connection and the offline translations won’t be on the same quality level. Microsoft assures us that the difference is barely noticeable in most cases, but the fact remains that you’re more vulnerable to spotty translations if you’re running offline.
Although offline translations won't be as good as online, it's still a useful took for travelers...and app developers.
While Google Translate has offered offline translations for some time now (in fact, it just provided offline translation for seven Indian languages), Microsoft boasts that its offline service is now better than Google’s. The company isn’t dishing out how it’s achieved a higher level of function compared to Google Translate, other than saying “a lot of careful engineering” went into the new software. OK.
But what Microsoft is really gunning for here is for other companies to use Microsoft Translator in their apps. Android app developers can now tie Microsoft’s offline translation into their apps for a fee, which will take one thing off developers’ plates when it comes to making an app globally available. As usual, Microsoft is working to sell its wares more to businesses than individual users.
However, the Microsoft Translator app could be useful to you; perhaps even better than Google Translate. You’ll have to test them both out to see which is more beneficial for your needs.