Google Translate is a simple mobile translation tool that supports more than 60 languages, offers an SMS translator, and even speaks some of your translations aloud. With its dead-simple interface and variety of input options, it's perfect for pumping out translations in a pinch.
To use Google Translate, select your input and output languages, then choose a method for entering your text. You can type text using your mobile device's keyboard or say the words aloud. If you're an Android user, you can also choose to handwrite on your touch screen or snap a photo and translate text using optical character recognition (OCR). The app is incredibly versatile when it comes to inputs, which is why it's such a useful tool.
To translate text from a photograph, hit the camera button within the app to take a photo. Next, use your finger to highlight the specific part of the photo that you want to translate, and watch as Google Goggles' OCR technology "reads" the text and translates it almost immediately. Unfortunately, you can't translate text from an existing shot from your library, as there is only an option to use a new photo. Also, be aware that this photo-translate feature only supports a handful of languages at the moment, though Google is promising to add more soon. Still, the OCR works surprisingly well, even with photos containing text of varying size and font style.
As for the handwriting option for Android, it's difficult to neatly write anything on a touch screen, so as expected the app had a hard time understanding my text. I actually got much better results writing on a piece of paper, then using the OCR technology to translate it.
While Google Translate certainly performs a solid job translating, what really makes it shine are the extra conveniences it offers. You can set Google Translate to automatically detect your input language (though not with the OCR feature) for quicker translations. There's a handy button to interchange your input and output languages. The app automatically keeps a history of your translations, and lets you star any of them for easy access later (even when offline). Text-to-speech output is available for select languages, and can be a huge help when you're dealing with unfamiliar phonetics. And finally, the SMS translation feature can pull in any of your text conversations for quick processing. Overall, there are a lot of extras, all of which come in handy.
With the latest update to Google Translate for Android, users finally got offline support. To use it, all you have to do is download the language packs for the languages you wish to translate between. As you can imagine, these language packs are pretty hefty (from 150MB to 300MB, based on what I've seen), but the functionality they afford is worth it. One thing to note is that these language packs are not as comprehensive as the online databases are when you're fully connected to the Internet. However, they still appear to be good enough for basic translations that travelers might need. Offline translations are now available for 50 different languages.
Overall, Google Translate is easy to use, can translate more than 60 languages, and offers a variety of input options, making it one of the best translation tools out there. And now, with its newly added offline support, this app is even tougher to beat.