Hands on with the Timekettle Zero translator: 40 language translation tool in your pocket

Hands on with the Timekettle Zero translator 40 language translation tool in your pocket zdnet
  • Editors' rating
    8.3 Excellent


  • Compact size
  • Offline languages
  • Recording functionality


  • Face to face and video translation only
  • Less accurate in noisy environments

The Timekettle Zero translator is different to other translation devices I have tried so far. I reviewed the Timekettle WT2 translator a few months ago, and found it to be accurate, and fast.

However, in touch mode, touching the WT2 device every time I wanted to speak when was a pain. I suspect that people who are hard of hearing, or wore hearing aids would find wearing the WT2 an issue.

The Timekettle Zero does not need to be worn in the ear, nor it does not need you to click any buttons to talk. Just place it on the desk, set the destination language, and start talking.

The translator currently supports 40 languages, and 93 accents which Timekettle says will cover the languages of 90% of the world's population – not bad for such a tiny device.

The Zero unit slots into a credit card sized surround that will easily fit into your wallet. The translator in its holder is just 8mm thick.

To use the translator, scan the QR code, download the translator app, and plug the device into the phone port. The Zero translator comes in two connection options – a lightning port for IOS, or a USB type-C port for Android.

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Plug the Zero into the mobile phone and configure both languages for translation. You need to make sure you have plugged the Zero into the USB-C port the correct way up. The four slots on one side of the device are microphones which need to be uppermost.

This microphone array is only 15mm in diameter, yet it separates voice inputs from four different directions, and accurately records meetings.

in translator mode, start talking, and the device will translate into voice, and display the text onto the screen in both languages. The Zero recognises when you start and finish speaking and translates accordingly.

The translator requires an internet connection to work. Timektettle plans to launch offline packages in June 2020, but warns that but the performance will be best when the device is connected to the internet.

A mobile device has limited storage for data, so the translation may not be as accurate as online.

Offline translation packages will initially consist of several major languages such as English, Chinese, Spanish, French,  and Japanese.

The more people who use AI translation, the more accurate it will become. Timekettle says that offline translation is a work in progress, and it plans to add more languages in the future.

The Zero translator operates in three modes. Translation mode translates your sentences to other languages. Text appears on both sides of the screens in case there are any misunderstandings.

Meeting mode will record the voices of up to four speakers simultaneously. The log will show who is talking and display what they said. You can extract the log of the call and send it by email too.

You can also use this in interview mode. The Zero will record everything that has been said during the interview. The microphone is sensitive and picks up the softest sounds in a quiet room.

I found that the Zero works best when placed on a desk. The user guide says that the Zero translator will translate what it hears up to 1.5 metres away from the device.

I found that Zero was simple to use. When I was outside, holding the translator, I found it was less accurate – probably due to the surrounding noise.

One disappointment was that I could not use this translator when speaking on my mobile phone. I tried this when on a WhatsApp video call from my mobile device, and the other party could hear my spoken voice, but could not hear the translator at all.

Perhaps this is due to the app grabbing the microphone exclusively for the app, so that no other apps could use it. A small niggle – but it could be fabulous if there was a workaround for this.

This would be a cool feature for seamless phone calls. However, when on Skype/Zoom calls from my PC the other party could hear the translation perfectly.

All in all, this is a neat little gadget which will help you if you are struggling to speak another language. And at under $100 it is an ideal wallet sized personal translator that will help you out.

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