July 6, 2012 | by Andrew Kameka
Evaluated version: 1.2.1
Pros: Lightening-quick translation that doesn't require Internet connection
Cons: Expensive to use and only supports English, Spanish, French, and Italian
Word Lens blew my mind last year when I saw the app provide live translation of written text. When an iPhone camera hovered over some words written in Spanish, Word Lens instantly translated the text to English. Sure, Google Goggles has something similar, but that requires taking a picture and then accessing the net to translate. Word Lens was special because it was immediate and didn’t require a web connection.
Android users can now see that feature up close because Word Lens for Android is available in Google Play. Compatible with Android 2.3.3 or higher, Word Lens makes it possible to see street signs, menus, and other items in one language, then have it appear in a more familiar tongue. As long as the text is printed – it can’t handle handwriting, cursive, or stylized fonts – translation should be possible.
Translating is very easy. Word Lens launches the device’s camera and shows a live view of the text converted into your preferred language. The user can tap to focus on a specific area, trigger the flash to increase light, and then tap the pause button to freeze the image and read the text. Users can then tap a button to revert back to the original language or press Play to translate something else. And in the event that you only need to look up one word specific word, there’s a fast dictionary included.
Word Lens is not a magical translation app, but it is impressive. It works best for words and short phrases because large blocks of text can have poor grammar. Word Lens occasionally used incorrect syntax when converting some phrases I tested, but the gist of the message is clear. Another downside is that Word Lens can be pricey and limited. The app costs $4.99 and comes with one language pack included, but getting additional languages requires an in-app purchase. The only available options are currently translating to or from English to Spanish, French, or Italian. English must be one of the included language (there are no Spanish to Italian or Italian to French options), and adding more language pairs will cost an additional $4.99 each.
Word Lens is a great app because it doesn’t require a network connection to function, which may be important when traveling, and works incredibly fast. If you can get over the expensive costs, it might be beneficisioso (beneficial) to own.
NOTE: A free demo version of Word Lens is available but it is absolute crap. It’s a terrible implementation that doesn’t show how translation works and is a complete waste of time. If you decide to purchase Word Lens, test it out immediately and make sure it’s worth keeping before the 15-minute refund window expires.