Mobile app localization: Everything developers need to know

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It is estimated that there will be more than 18.2 billion active mobile devices in the world by 2025. As mobile technology becomes more advanced, this number will only continue to grow.

With such a large and growing market, the mobile app industry is also booming. In 2022, it was estimated that there were more than 230 billion active mobile app users. This number is expected to grow in the coming years. However, as the mobile app market becomes more saturated, it is increasingly difficult for developers to stand out from the crowd. One way to do this is through localization.

Localization can be a powerful tool. One researcher found that the localization of keywords in the iPhone boosted downloads of mobile applications by up to 767%. Keyword localization is a powerful way to boost mobile application downloads.

What is mobile app localization?

Localization is the process of adapting a product or service to a particular market or locale. This process typically involves translating the product or service into the local language, as well as other aspects such as localizing the user interface, changing characters, adapting the product or service to local cultural norms, and complying with local regulations.

Localizing an app can be a complex process, as many elements contribute to making the app accessible and appealing to speakers of various languages.

Technical considerations arise as well, such as whether users can download the app from the Google Play store or use it in multiple countries.

Why is app localization necessary?

The world is already hyperconnected and this connectivity is increasing all the time.. With the help of localization, you can make your app available to more potential customers and improve your chances of success.

Here are some of the reasons to localize your app:

1. Reaching a wider audience

If you want to target a larger user base, localization is an effective method. It allows you to target multiple regions and countries. This will improve your app’s visibility and reach far beyond the jurisdiction within which you are based.

2. Improving user experience

Localization can also improve user experience. If your app is available in the local language, they will be able to properly understand it. This will make it easier for them to use your app, and they will be more likely to recommend it to others.

3. Increasing app store ranking

Localization can also boost your app store ranking. Users are more likely to find and engage with your listing if it's in their preferred language.

4. Staying ahead of the competition

If you want to lead the pack, localization is a must. With optimal localization, you will already set yourself apart from much of the competition that has a substandard or even non-existent localization strategy in place. As a result, you are better positioned to attract and retain customers in overseas markets.

5. Making your app more profitable

Localization is an excellent way to increase your revenue. It can position your app to get more traction, leading to more downloads. This in turn leads to greater in-app opportunities to generate income .

How do you translate an app into different languages?

Proper localization requires more than simply translating the text — it also requires understanding the cultural context of the target audience and making sure all elements of the app are consistent with that context.

For instance, the words "complete" and "finish" have the same literal meaning in the English language. But they can have different contextual meanings, and one may be more appropriate for a given situation than the other.

Inconsistent translations can lead to confusion among users, while inaccurate interpretation can damage a brand's reputation. An example is the word "delete" in English. This word is typically translated to "supprimer" in French. However, in some French mobile apps, the word "delete" is instead translated to "effacer." This can be confusing for users, as they may not know whether they're deleting something permanently or simply erasing it from their screen.

To translate an app into different languages, there are several common approaches:

  • Using an AI or machine learning translation service. This is usually the least expensive option.

  • Hiring a human translator. This option is more accurate but can be expensive and time-consuming.

  • Combining AI or machine translation with human post-editing. This can strike a balance of accuracy and affordability.

  • Creating a new app specifically for each language. This can be costly, but it allows for greater flexibility and accuracy.

What's the process for localizing a mobile application?

When localization is needed for a mobile application, here's how to proceed.

1. Conduct research and gather data

The first step is to gather the necessary information about the app and its target market. This includes the language and dialects spoken in the target region as well as early market research on competitor apps.

2. Create a localization strategy

Next, use the data to help you develop an Android or iOS app localization strategy - or both. This will outline what needs to be done to localize the app for the target region.

3. Create a localization specification

After a strategy has been created, the next step is a localization specification that outlines how each element of the app will be localized, including but not limited to text, iconography, user interface elements, and soundtrack localization.

4. Translate your app

Once you collect and document all of this information, it's time to start translating the app into the target language. This usually involves two phases: translation creation and validation.

During translation creation, new translations will be created based on the translated specifications, while during validation, existing translations are checked against what was specified.

Although localization can seem daunting, there is often already a version of an app available in the target language(s). With enough research and planning, localization for mobile applications can be straightforward and efficient.

What's the average cost of localizing a mobile app?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to budgeting for mobile app localization. The price tag will vary depending on several factors, including the length and complexity of the app, the number of languages it needs to be translated into, and the specific requirements. However, there are some general tips that companies can use to make their localization budgets go further. One is to work with translators directly via a marketplace. This can help reduce the cost of localization by eliminating a third-party intermediary.

Another tip is to use AI machine translation and post-editing to save on translation costs. This can be a great way to quickly and cheaply translate large amounts of text, with a human editor then ensuring its accuracy.

Finally, it's important to remember that localization is an investment, not an expense. By investing in localization, you can open your mobile app to a global audience, which can help to increase your user base and ultimately your bottom line.

What is the best way to translate an Android app?

For translating your Android app into another language, there are a few different approaches you can take.

1. Creating separate versions of your app UI

When you localize your app, you create separate versions of your app UI and content for each language you want to support. Android Studio makes it easy to manage localized versions of your app by automatically generating the necessary file formats and directories.

2. Testing your app

You can use the Android Emulator and select a different locale from the settings menu to test your localized app. This will simulate how your app will look and behave for users in different countries.

3. Releasing your localized app

Finally, when you're ready to release your localized app, be sure to format your strings correctly and use the appropriate pluralization rules for each language. This ensures that your app is user-friendly for all of your international users.

How long does it take for iOS and Android app localization?

Assuming you have all of your app's content ready to go, the app localization process itself shouldn't take more than a few weeks. The timeframe will depend largely on the size and complexity of your app, as well as on the number of languages you're localizing for.

By working with pre-vetted translators on a centralized platform, you can streamline the process and get your app localized more quickly. Such a platform offers project management automation workflows that include quality assurance (QA) checks, post-editing, and proofreading.

The result should be an accurate, high-quality translation. In addition, the platform should offer language quality assessment, helping you identify any areas where the translation is not up to par.

By working with a platform that offers these features, you can be confident that your app localization will be handled efficiently and effectively.

How do developers localize apps on Apple platforms?

Apple provides several tools to help developers localize their apps. The most important is the Apple Glossary Compiler, which is a command-line tool that helps you manage your translated app development content.

The Apple Glossary Compiler takes as input a file containing all of the strings in your app. It then outputs a file for each language you’re localizing to. These files contain the translated strings, which you can then use in your app.

In addition to the Apple Glossary Compiler, Apple provides a tool called the IB String Extractor. This tool is designed to help you extract localized strings from your app’s storyboards and XIBS.

Here's an overview of an iOS app localization example:

  1. First, the app's string files are translated into the target language.

  2. Once the strings are translated, the app's interface elements need to be adapted to the target language. This includes things like changing the text on buttons and menus and making sure that text is properly aligned in right-to-left languages.

  3. The app's assets also need to be localized by using app localization software. This includes elements like images, videos, and sound files.

  4. Finally, the app's metadata needs to be updated. This includes things like the app's name, description, and keywords.

When localizing an app, developers need to consider the language of the app itself as well as any language-specific content that may be included.

Any text or images within the app that are in a specific language will need to be translated for the app to be truly localized.

In addition, an app that is designed for a specific region or country may need to be localized for different languages within that region or country.

What is the best way to localize a mobile game?

To localize a mobile game, you have a few aspects to consider.

The most important factor is what market the game is being localized for. Different markets have different preferences for game content and design.

One approach is to simply translate the game into the target market language. This can be effective for games that have very little text. However, it can also be a time-consuming and expensive process.

Another approach is to create a new version of the game specifically for the target market. This can be a good option for games that are very popular in one market but not so much in others.

An important consideration for mobile games is clear graphics. This is especially important for games that are heavily reliant on visual cues. If the graphics are too complex, they will be difficult to translate and may not make sense in other cultures.

When localizing a mobile game, it's important to avoid culturally specific references. This includes things like jokes, references to pop culture, and anything else that might not make sense in another culture. Not only can these references be lost in translation, but they have the potential to offend players in other cultures.

Process of mobile game localization

To reach the widest audience possible, you'll need to support multiple languages. The most popular languages for mobile games are English, Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish. However, many other languages are spoken around the world. You'll need to decide which languages you want to support based on your target audience.

Once you've decided which languages you want to support, you can start the localization process. The following are some game app localization best practices:

Translating the content

The first step is to translate all of the text in your game. This includes any in-game dialogue, menus, and UI elements. You'll also need to translate any text that appears on marketing materials, such as screenshots and trailers.

Localizing the app

The next step is to adapt your game to the target cultures. This includes ensuring that your game is appropriate for different age groups and adjusting the available difficulty levels to account for different gaming skills. You'll also need to consider how your game's content may be received in different countries.

Testing the final product

Finally, you'll need to test your game in each language to make sure it is playable, comprehensible, and fun. This includes playtesting by native speakers. Only after your game has been thoroughly tested should you release it to the public.

The benefits of localizing a mobile game

By localizing your game, you can make it available to players in different regions and countries. This can help you reach new markets and grow your player base. Making your game available in their language allows them to have a more personal and immersive experience than they might otherwise.

Localization can also make your game more accessible to players with different levels of language proficiency.

Flo app case study: Streamlined processes help a small team make a difference

For healthcare apps, accurately translated medical terms is crucial to ensure that users feel at ease when using the service. Flo Health Inc. has evolved into an AI-powered women’s health product and is a leading one-stop health product for women during their entire reproductive cycle. In 2019, Flo was the most downloaded app in the App Store’s Health & Fitness category and has more than 100 million users globally. They wanted continuously update their Flo app, therefore Flo Health Inc. came to Smartcat to improve their mobile app localization process.

The challenge

Flo Health Inc. had issues with speed and productivity, with the localization of their app often taking up to 50 steps. They would also receive complaints about the use of non-gender-neutral language (i.e. using he/she/him/her instead of they/them) and they were poorly represented on their app due to poor language consistency. Finally, they had a hard time finding translators who specialized in the related medical field.

The result

Flo app developers improved their localization process, reducing it from 38 steps to only six. They do so by:

  • simplifying their new freelancer onboarding process

  • using a Marketplace with many features

  • making use of an AI that allows for continuous and seamless mobile app localization.

The outcome

  • Improved localization process – less end-to-end steps in the translation lifecycle

  • 500% growth – They could translate around 300 new articles per month, versus the 50 they could handle before working in a centralized translation workspace where all contributors, including translators, could collaborate

  • Better consistency and impressions from users – Less complaints regarding non-gender-neutral language and an improvement in overall consistency

Which is the best translation utility to localize my mobile app?

If you're looking for a translation solution that is both accurate and fast, Smartcat is the app localization option for you.

With Smartcat's high translation accuracy, you can be confident that your content will be translated correctly. And with the ability to translate into 250 languages, you'll be able to reach a global market — while saving time and money by using Smartcat's technology.

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