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What our next app does

November 4th, 2011 Josh Olson Josh Olson

We’ve announced that our next product will be called Languages, created in partnership with Sonico Mobile. I’m sure you’d like to know what this app does. But first, a story.

Once upon a time

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Build a universal app.

The idea occurred to Sonico after their success with iTranslate. Drawing from Google’s translation engine and featuring a crisp UI, iTranslate garnered millions of downloads, rocketing into the stratosphere of the most-downloaded apps. Clearly they had done something seriously right. Part of this something was universality: apparently apps that serve translation needs have massive universal appeal. And, if well-executed, universal apps, such as Angry Birds and iTranslate, can get an insane number of downloads.

Sonico’s CEO, Alex Marktl, told us that, as the months passed and Sonico studied their analytics, they discovered something interesting. A high percentage of iTranslate users were primarily translating one word. Furthermore, these users had to (1) type in the entire word before getting a translation and (2) had to wait for iTranslate to pull the translation down from the internet. So, although Sonico will continue to improve and push iTranslate as the premier translation app, Alex felt that there must be an app that can better serve the one-word use-case.

Words, Words, Words

Well, there are tools for finding the meaning of words. They’re called dictionaries. And the App Store does have a bunch of these. But they had several problems. First, they were generally either online and cheap or offline and costly. One of the best translation dictionary apps, Larousse, costs $5.99. Others range as high as $19.


Most of the translation dictionaries on the App Store are too expensive

Another problem was that all of these dictionaries had only one language-pair. So you break open the piggy bank to afford a down-payment on a dictionary that only helps you with Espanol, or whatever. None were like iTranslate, which features myriad language pairs.

And the final problem was that none of these apps were as well-designed as they could have been. Some, like Larousse, were functional. But none had the wow factor. None went that extra mile or had that extra dash of pizzaz. None of them used a real-world metaphor.

And so…

The idea was conceived: an offline translation dictionary with around twelve language pairs and a killer UI—all for a killer price of $1. Our responsibility is the design. And we are extremely excited about that because we want to innovate this space into the future. We want to create an app that will set the standard and define the genre. Basically, we want to create the translation dictionary app.

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