"Put an interpreter in your pocket." That's the motto of small-but-powerful iOS app SayHi Translate, an automated universal voice translator. Optimized for both iPhones and iPads, SayHi works in 32 languages and dialects, and uses the software from the well-known speech recognition company Nuance for 23 of them, including Spanish and Russian.
The spare and straightforward interface makes this app appealing. Along the top edge sits an icon-based toolbar for starring a favorite language, providing quick help, selecting a phrase from the conversation or adjusting the volume and settings. Toward the bottom, two big buttons are plainly labeled with the two languages intended for translating phrases back and forth.
To test SayHi Translate, we tapped on English to bring up an overlay that instructed us to speak. Then we tapped on the big red Done button; the app audibly translated everything we said into Spanish, the secondary language we'd set. Translations were usually correct, though spoken in a rather robotic tone.
A Spanish-speaking friend then tapped on the button marked with his language and uttered, "¿Dónde está la biblioteca?" SayHi processed his speech and dictated it back in English out loud: "Where is the library?" The entire exchange was fast, accurate and didn't require us to hunch over our smartphones, tapping out messages character by character. Sadly, the app only works over a Wi-Fi or 3G connection.
Priced at only $0.99, SayHi Translate's strongest selling point is its spare, but aesthetically pleasing interface, which really encourages interaction between two people while staying out of your way. Fire it up, tap and speak to translate, and the app talks back in the language your friend or business partner understands. It doesn't get any simpler than that.