Price and availability
Handheld translators are booming, with devices like Travis Touch Plus, Microsoft’s CM Translator, and this, Pocketalk Translator all competing for a place in your hand luggage next time you travel overseas. Once you’ve tried one, it’s easy to see why. They’re palm-sized, so you can easily slip them into a pocket, and eliminate the need to bring out your expensive smartphone in a public place, where it could be easily stolen or dropped.
That’s not to say that pocket translators are cheap – losing one will still sting – but you won’t be left without the device that probably holds your travel itinerary and boarding passes, not to mention all your other valuable data.
Pocketalk Translator is at the pricier end of the market, retailing at $299 (about £240/AU$430). It’s worth noting, however, that this includes a global SIM, which will provide you with enough data for hours of translations with no extra monthly cost.
There’s also a version of the device available for the slightly lower price of $249 (about £190, AU$360) if you’d rather add your own micro-SIM.
If you buy through the Pocketalk web store, you’ll occasionally find perks like free shipping, which is available at the time of writing (though only if you live in the US).
Pocketalk Translator is a compact, oval-shaped device that fits neatly in the palm of either hand, and all controls are within easy reach of your thumb. It runs a custom OS based on Android (as you’ll see when it boots up), and features dual microphones with noise-cancellation for two-way conversations.
It features a touchscreen, which is pleasingly sensitive and works well for general use, but is rather too small for entering Wi-Fi passwords via a fiddly on-screen keyboard. Thankfully, that’s unlikely to be too much of a problem thanks to that global SIM.
Pocketalk Translator is charged via a USB cable, which is included in the box along with a quick-start guide and more comprehensive manual. Straps and carry-cases are available separately, and are well worth considering to avoid accidental drops.
Pocketalk Translator is simple to use: just hold the power button to activate it and choose a language for each side of the conversation. When it’s set up, press and hold the button for your own language until the device emits a cheery beep, speak to it from a distance of 10cm or so (though in our tests it worked perfectly well at considerably greater distances) then release. Your speech will be translated into your chosen language, and your conversation partner can then use the second button to reply.
In our tests, the translation worked well, and on the few occasions when the speech playback was a little iffy (the pronunciation is generally good, but it sometimes pauses in places where a person wouldn't), the on-screen text readily compensates.
Unlike some pocket translators, such as Travis Touch Plus, Pocketalk is supplied with a global SIM card fitted, which means it’s ready to use all over the world, even if there’s no Wi-Fi available. Travis Touch does accept a SIM, and they’re reasonably priced, but they have to be bought separately.
Pocketalk supports 74 languages – considerably fewer than Travis Touch Plus, which offers over 100 – and as with other pocket translators, not all provide both text and speech output. It’s best to check that the languages you’re likely to need are covered before buying.