Bing Translator for Windows Phone 8 review: Big features, small language support

4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Bing Translator for Windows Phone 8 comes with a nifty augmented-reality feature and offline support.

The Bad It supports only 36 languages, and doesn't automatically detect the input language.

The Bottom Line Bing Translator may have a slicker design and more jaw-dropping features, including offline support and augmented reality, but we can't ignore the fact that Google's product supports over 20 more languages.

Free

8.5 Overall
  • Installation and Setup 10.0
  • Features and Support 8.0
  • Interface 9.0
  • Performance 8.0

With its dead-simple interface, augmented-reality feature, and nifty offline option, Bing Translator for Windows Phone is an unquestionably useful app. That said, it still needs a few big improvements before it should be considered your go-to translation tool.

Like Google Translate, Bing Translator offers three different methods of inputting your query: keyboard, camera, or voice.

Keyboard

At the bottom of the screen is a convenient button with which you can swap the input and output languages in a single tap.

Camera
The camera input feature is one of Bing Translator's neatest. To use it, simply set your languages and point your mobile device's camera at any text written in the specified input language. You can use it on street signs, books, outdoor ads, or pretty much anything else with legible text on it. After a second or two, Bing will overlay its translations on the screen, similar to the way augmented-reality apps work. This is a lot faster and more convenient than Google's camera input feature, which forces you to take pictures of your queries and upload them to Google servers for translation one by one. With Bing, you can continuously translate while on the go. Unfortunately, as neat as it it, the augmented-reality feature isn't always accurate. I saw it routinely miss what should have been simple translations, and I noticed that even the slightest movements while using it dramatically altered its results. So, while this feature is no doubt innovative, it still needs some work.

Voice
Based on our tests, Bing Translator's voice input option performs impressively. It is good at both comprehending spoken words and outputting accurate translations. And you can always tap the speaker button to hear the app read its translation aloud. This way, you can get the phonetics down, which, in real-life situations, can be more important than the spelling. One thing I don't like about the tool, though, is that you have to tap the Stop button when you're finished speaking. By comparison, Google Translate simply "knows" when you're done speaking, and automatically processes your input for translation as soon as you stop.

Offline support
Perhaps Bing's most impressive feature is its offline support. As of now, the app offers five downloadable dictionaries (Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Chinese), which give you basic translations even when you don't have an active data connection. This is something that Google Translate's users have been wanting for a long time. The dictionaries are rather large at 30MB to 40MB each, but they are absolutely worth the space, especially if you plan on traveling internationally without a data connection. Hopefully the app's developers will add a lot more downloadable languages in the near future.

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