There are some things that you can usually rely on in life. Buses never being around when you need one (and then always coming in groups of three), raining when you don’t have a coat or umbrella with you, and visiting the PlayStation Mobile side of the store each week and finding a new release there from developer Zhang Bo… Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little but he’s quickly become one of PSM’s most active developers alongside Thomas Hopper and Mike Oliphant developing a never-ending range of apps and this is no exception.
Sola Translate (or Translate Helper as it seems to calls itself in the PSN store) is a rather small app that promises to aid in translating text between a staggering 40 different languages. Whether you’re using the PS Vita at home or on the move, it means that it instantly becomes an ideal companion either as a homework helper or a travel companion for those of you taking the Vita (or your PlayStation Certified device) on holiday… well, that’s the theory behind the app anyway.
Now, when I first reviewed this at the end of March I was incredibly harsh giving it the lowest score possible on Vita Player – a zero – saying that it wasn’t worth downloading even if it were a free title. However it has since been updated to version 1.01 so have those fundamental flaws in the app been addressed to make it worth considering? Well I felt that it was time to take a fresh look and see for myself.
Straight away I noticed the immediate difference and unlike other apps of this nature from Zhang Bo that use online sources for converting data, this new update to Sola Translate reveals just how it translates its text as upon loading it presents you with a choice of what translation sites you wish to use – Google or Bing. Immediately knowing that Sola Translate is effectively a portal for two trustworthy translation resources puts you at ease knowing that the potential translations are in relatively safe hands.
Using the app is simplicity itself – select the translation site you want to use and underneath the screen is split into two main windows with the text you want to translate on the left and the translation on the right. Touching the text panel brings up the Vita’s familiar on-screen keyboard so you can quickly type whatever text you want translated and when you’re ready to go, just tap the translate button in the centre of the screen. Above each box is a pull-down menu allowing you to select the source and target languages including an automatic option for the app to identify the source language for you.
Once you click on the translate button, the app goes online and you just wait for the app to work it’s magic and then it presents the translation to you in a matter of seconds. The previous version failed dismally to translate anything I threw at it and I’ll be honest and say that I had little hope of this version faring any better. Having plenty of experience with Google Translate, I decided to opt for this first, tried a couple of phrases and as with the first version of the app, no matter what I entered into the source text window, no matter how simplistic the phrase, sentence, or even single word, and no matter what languages I selected, I was presented with the same “Translate Failure” message on screen.
I thought that all the author had done was offered users information on what sources were used and just a visual makeover to the app so I had little hope of it performing the function it was designed to do so I was hesitant to progress any further with it. Until I selected Bing… Immediately the app responded and provided a quick and relatively accurate translation of everything that I entered into it, no matter what the language (or at least as far as I could tell). Understandably, online translation software is only accurate to a limited degree so shouldn’t be relied on completely or for accurate translations of legal documentation but for day-to-day use it’s ideal and in this case the app works quickly and effectively.
Since being updated, the app now has a real practical use for myself especially as – along with my Vita – I have a PlayStation Certified Xperia phone. My family and I moved from England to South Wales back in September 2013 and since our daughter started at her new school it has become compulsory for her to learn Welsh. Living in Wales for us as a family while general is no different to living in England, place names are taking time to get used to and a lot of signage, information etc is bi-lingual and having something to hand that can translate Welsh would be a big help to us (not to mention helping our daughter with her Welsh homework)!
The only real issues I have right now is the problem with the connection to Google’s servers which either need to be rectified or removed completely and a problem which is no fault of the developers. With the advent of the 2000 series of the Vita (not to mention many people only having the wi-fi model), for many Vita owners this app is useless unless it’s either used at home or is used near a wi-fi hotspot. Any translation software either needs to have integrated dictionaries or needs instant access to them and this has neither for on the move usage.
Before I even downloaded the original version of it, this – and other apps developed by Zhang Bo gave me a feeling of dread. While he has come up with some great ideas to fill in the void left by Sony with missing apps that some feel should have been included with the Vita as standard, many of his titles have feel a little short of expectations. There’s no denying that he is doing his best at supporting PlayStation Mobile but I certainly think that he should spend more time focusing on quality and reliability of his apps rather than quantity. The original version was an app that simply should not have been released but this new version is one that’s a must for any traveller. Just make sure that you select the Bing option and you can’t go wrong.
At A Glance
- Title: Sola Translate
- Publisher: Zhang Bo
- System: PlayStation Mobile
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Online Multiplayer: No
- Local Multiplayer: No
- Memory Card Space Needed: 5Mb