Google Translate: One billion installs, one billion stories
When my wife and I were flying home from a trip to France a few years ago, our seatmate had just spent a few months exploring the French countryside and staying in small inns. When he learned that I worked on Google Translate, he got excited. He told me Translate’s conversation mode helped him chat with his hosts about family, politics, culture and more. Thanks to Translate, he said, he connected more deeply with people around him while in France.
The passenger I met isn’t alone. Google Translate on Android hit one billion installs from the Google Play Store this March, and each one represents a story of people being able to better connect with one another. By understanding 109 languages (and counting!), Translate enables conversation and communication between millions of people which otherwise would have been impossible. And Translate itself has gone through countless changes on the path to one billion installs. Here’s how it has evolved so far.
January 2010: App launches
We released our Android app in January 2010, just over a year after the first commercial Android device was launched. As people started using the new Translate app over the next few years, we added a number of features to improve their experience, including early versions of conversation mode, offline translation and translating handwritten or printed text.
January 2014: 100+ million
Our Android app crossed 100 million installs exactly four years after we first launched it. In 2014, Google acquired QuestVisual, the maker of WordLens. Together with the WordLens team, Translate’s goal was to introduce an advanced visual translation experience in our app. Within eight months, the team delivered the ability to instantly translate text using a phone camera, just as the app reached 200 million installs.
November 2015: 300+ million
As it approached 300 million installs, Translate improved in two major ways. First, revamping Translate’s conversation mode enabled two people to converse with each other despite speaking different languages, helping people in their everyday lives, as featured in the video From Syria to Canada.
Second, Google Translate’s rollout of Neural Machine Translation, well underway when the app reached 500 million installs, greatly improved the fluency of our translations across text, speech and visual translation. As the installs continued to grow, we compressed those advanced models down to a size that can run on a phone. Offline translations made these high-quality translations available to anyone even when there is no network or connectivity is poor.
June 2019: 750+ million
At 750 million installs, four years after Word Lens integrated into Translate, we launched a major revamp of the instant camera translation experience. This upgrade allowed us to visually translate 88 languages into more than 100 languages.
February 2020: 850+ million
Transcribe, our long-form speech translation feature, launched when we reached 850 million installs. We partnered with the Pixel Buds team to offer streaming speech translations on top of our Transcribe feature, for more natural conversations between people speaking different languages. During this time, we improved the accuracy and increased the number of supported languages for offline translation.
March 2021: 1 billion — and beyond
Aside from these features, our engineering team has spent countless hours on bringing our users a simple-to-use experience on a stable app, keeping up with platform needs and rigorously testing changes before they launch. As we celebrate this milestone and all our users whose experiences make the work meaningful, we also celebrate our engineers who build with care, our designers who fret over every pixel and our product team who bring focus.
Our mission is to enable everyone, everywhere to understand the world and express themselves across languages. Looking beyond one billion installs, we’re looking forward to continually improving translation quality and user experiences, supporting more languages and helping everyone communicate, every day.