Google Translate for Android Gets a Makeover

Google is testing Conversation Mode in Translate for Android. The tool will let users use their Android 2.1-plus smartphones translate speech on the fly to enable conversations between English and Spanish speakers.

Google Jan. 12 revised its Google Translate for Android application to make it more accessible for users looking to translate content on the fly using Google's cloud-computing system.

Google launched Translate for Android last year, and the service helps Android phone owners translate content into 53 different languages via text and 15 languages for spoken translation on Android handsets. The service is used daily in more than 150 countries outside the United States.

Translate for Android now employs Conversation Mode, a new interface within Google Translate that allows users to communicate "fluidly with a nearby person in another language."

Conversation Mode lets users press the microphone icon and start speaking. Google Translate will provide a translation of their speech and read it out loud.

The person with whom the user is conversing can then respond in their language, which will be spoken back to the conversation-starter in their language.

Right now, Conversation Mode will only let users translate content between English and Spanish.

But even when it expands to include support for additional languages, it will face a stiff challenge in cutting through the clutter of regional accents, background noise and rapid speech to provide clear speech translation. Noting this difficulty, ReadWriteWeb described the service as a gimmick.

Indeed, providing universal translation to mobile devices on the fly is no mean feat. Google executives, including CEO Eric Schmidt and vice president of engineering Vic Gundotra, often cite Google Translate as a shining example of Google's cloud-computing infrastructure in action.

Google Translate for Android, available for handsets running Android 2.1 and later from the Android Market, also boasts better dropdown boxes to help users pick languages to translate from and into, an improved input box, and cleaner icons and layout.