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Apple Translate needs to progress quickly to compete with Google

Apple unveiled the latest features for iOS 14, including a brand new translation app. As a latecomer to the scene, Apple Translate has plenty of catching up to do to compete with Google Translate.

Related: What was announced at WWDC 2020

Apple Translate is a built-in translator for the iPhone. When it launches, the app will translate text and voice searches across 11 different languages including English: Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Portuguese and Russian. It’ll auto-detect the language, so if you’re unsure what’s written on a webpage, you won’t have to figure it out on your own.

The app also features a conversation mode, so each party can easily follow what’s being said in their own language. And there’s an on-device mode to process translations locally with Apple’s Neural Engine, which allows the user to take translations offline in areas with poor connectivity and, as is Apple’s focus recently, helps protect a user’s privacy.

Despite the work already done, Apple has a plenty of work to do to rival Google’s translation tool. Here are some Google Translate features I’d love to see Apple take inspiration from.

More Languages

Google Translate can translate over 100 languages. Apple Translate has 11 lined up for launch. Obviously Apple needs to roll out more languages fast to match the sheer number of Google. And it has to do that without sacrificing accuracy…

Translate from handwriting

Google allows its users to handwrite translations using their finger and the touch screen. This feature is really handy for when you need to translate a handwritten or printed word, and do not have the keyboard or knowledge of the language to do so.

Apple announced an update to iPad OS called Scribble that can detect English, Traditional and Simplified Chinese, and automatically convert written letters and characters to typed text. It wouldn’t be a huge leap for Apple to expand this to its translation app.

Translate with your camera

The fastest way to translate real world objects in Google Translate is with a camera. Snap a photo in the Translate app (or upload an image), select the entire text or go in and highlight the section you want with your finger. This feature is especially handy for quickly translating signs and menus.

Google also has an augmented reality feature that allows you to aim your camera at a piece of text and translate it in real-time. Both these features would make excellent additions to Apple Translate.

Real-time transcription

While Apple is in the process of expanding Siri’s translation capability, it has far to go when it comes to translating longform text.

Earlier this year, Google rolled out an update that allows users to follow stories and lectures in unfamiliar languages. Users with Google Translate on Android can select ‘Transcribe’, tap on the mic icon and see large chunks of text translated into one of eight languages so they can read along in real-time. This, literally, would be a handy feature to have in your pocket.

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