Lost in translation? Check out these mobile apps

Available on both Android and Apple iOS, the new TextGrabber + Translator supports 40 world languages. But it's not the only game in town.


If your year-end business travel plans include some stops outside your native country, but you're not fluent in anything but your native tongue, document capture technology developer ABBYY has released a mobile translation app that could make it simpler for you to get around without a printed dictionary.

The application for either Android or Apple iOS, called TextGrabber + Translator, works by capturing printed text (from a sign, menu, train schedule, or piece of tourist collateral) and digitizing it. 

Once it's in that form, you can ask for a translation into any one of 40 world languages (via integration with the Google Translate engine and ABBYY Lingvo Dictionaries). If you're using the software on an iOS device, you can choose to have the translation read out loud, using text-to-speech capabilities.

It doesn't work if you write something down to translate; I tested that feature, so if you need to convert something you have scribble, you are out of luck and need to try one of the other options I've listed below. But you can create a history of notes for research purposes.

The TextGrabber + Translator is priced at $5.99 on both mobile platforms. It's not the only translation application available, of course. Here are four other well-established ones you might consider that work on both Apple iOS and Android devices:

  1. iHandy Translator Pro ($1.99) - Translates sentences or phrases into any one of 52 destination languages.
  2. Google Translate (Free) - Converts text (including handwritten notes, which seems to be unique to this technology) between about 70 supported languages.
  3. iTranslate (Free, in-app purchases for premium services) - Translates both spoken words and written text in more than 70 languages.
  4. World Lens ($4.99 for specific language-to-language pair support) - Works with clear images taken of signs, and other printed material. Supports English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German and French.