Google Translate comes to the iPhone

Service, which can translate text between 24 languages, came out of the company's policy to set aside a day of each employee's week to work on any idea desired.

David Meyer Special to CNET News.com
2 min read

Google has released a version of its translation service that is specifically tailored to Apple's iPhone.

The Google Translate mobile service, launched late Thursday, came about as the result of the company's "20 percent" time policy, which sets aside a day of each employee's week for work on any new project or idea they may wish to pursue. Google has not yet made any announcements about future versions of the service that could work on other handsets, but a company representative told ZDNet UK on Friday that such versions were intended.

Because the service works using the Apple handset's Safari browser, a data connection is needed most of the time--previously searched phrases and words are, however, stored on the phone itself for future access. The service can translate text between 24 languages, including Mandarin, French, and Japanese.

"Our basic mobile strategy is making sure all of our products work on mobile devices, so it's a step in that direction," said Google's representative. "(The service) builds on the Google Languages (application programming interface), which we made public around a year ago, so the only bit we built specially was the iPhone interface. It's a tool anyone could build, but we built it to integrate with the other Google products for the iPhone."

The service was developed by a software engineer from Google UK's advertising business, Allen Hutchison. According to the representative, Hutchison built it "in a matter of weeks." Other Google products that have come out of the "20 percent time" policy have included Gmail and Google News.

Asked whether the translation service's release was timed to coincide with the opening of the Beijing Olympics, the representative said the timing was "serendipitous," adding: "We launch things when they're ready."

Another mobile translation service, from the VoIP company Jajah, was unveiled this week specifically to coincide with the start of the Olympic Games, but the audio-based service suffered an outage soon after being launched.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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