There’s a new app out from iTranslate that teases the idea of real-time, universal translation better than almost anything before it. It’s called iTranslate Converse, and it’s available on iOS today (and coming to Android this fall).
I’ve had a few days to try a test version of iTranslate Converse. It definitely suffers the same problems as most other translation apps or features do. It doesn’t always accurately recognize what you’re saying, and when it does, there’s a good chance that the translation won’t nail the right context or phrasing.
But what the folks at iTranslate have done is develop a fantastic and simple app framework that, as the translation algorithms improve over time, will feel as effortless as we always imagine the idea of a universal translator in books and films. Because even despite its shortcomings, it’s still fun to use.
The new app is basically a reimagining of the company’s existing, eponymous app, with all the spare taps and awkward pauses removed. Once you set the two languages of the conversation in Converse, it becomes an easy one-tap operation. Just tap and hold, and either person can speak in either language. Lift your finger off the screen and the app will quickly pick out which language was spoken, process the speech, and read out the translation. The app also forces users to flip the phone upside down in order to get the microphones closer to people’s mouths, setting it up for better accuracy than if it were facing the other way or sitting on a table.
Users will be able to make 300 translations per month for free. For anything more than that, they have to upgrade to the $5 per month (or $40 per year) pro version. The app also saves your translations, and it’s currently capable of translating 38 languages.
But the best part about Converse is that, even when it gets words and phrases wrong, it’s still speeding up the process. It makes that feeling of fumbling through a bilingual conversation feel just a little less fumbly. It’s not the magical translation app that makes it possible to speak or listen to anyone in any language, but it’s a step in the right direction, and it’s both faster and a bit simpler than using Siri, Google Assistant, or other translation apps. Here’s hoping that competition is listening.
Update August 3rd, 2:11PM ET: iTranslate Converse is coming to Android this fall.