While perhaps not quite as HOLY CRAP futuristic as Word Lens, Google Translate is a tool that can actually help you when you're travelling abroad. The new iPhone app lets you translate phrases both talked and typed in dozens of languages.
What is it?
Google Translate, free, iPhone Though a web app's been around for a few years, the newly minted Google Translate iPhone app has been polished up and enhanced with a few new features that make it an essential download. It accepts voice input for 15 languages and translates phrases into over fifty. You can then listen to those translated phrases spoken out loud in 23 languages using the same speech synthesiser as the desktop app. Magnifique!
You can star your favourite phrases for later reference, look up specific words in a dictionary, or - and this is smart - tap a full screen icon to make the translated phrase take up your whole display. You know, like when you're waving it in some poor taxi driver's face? The app works as well as you'd hope - occasionally it mangles phrases when you're not enunciating them per.fect.ly - but in general it's a great resource.
Who's it good for?
Pretty much anyone who travels. Or really just pretty much anyone.
Why's it better than alternatives?
It's free and it's versatile enough to work in several translation-requiring situations. It's one of those few apps that elevates your smartphone from more than just a device of distraction to a high-tech swiss army knife.
How could it be even better?
Expand the languages that you can hear results in - it's much easier than trying to stumble through a phonetic pronunciation yourself.
Google Translate, iPhone [iTunes]
For more apps, check out our weekly app roundups for iPhone, iPad and Android.