The Pixel 4’s best feature is coming to lots of Android phones with this app

The Google Recorder app. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Google has revealed an upgrade to its Translate app that allows it to transcribe speech (via The Verge and CNET) at an event at its San Francisco offices held to show off its latest work on artificial intelligence. This only currently works with audio you’re recording live, which will work great with common situations like lectures, interviews or voice notes. If you have already recorded audio files, then you can always play them aloud and let the app transcribe them that way.

Of course with it being Google Translate, you can use the app to swap between languages too, including French, German and Spanish among others. The app will continuously reevaluate sentences as it hears them, changing punctuation and words depending on the context and the speaker’s accent.

We’ve seen this technology before on Google’s Recorder app, which debuted at the same time as the Pixel 4. Its on-device automatic transcription and ability to search via audio made the app one of the best parts of the phone, and made one of our iPhone-devoted writers seriously jealous.

You could get the Recorder app on non-Pixel Android phones with a sneaky download, but how well this workaround worked depended heavily on the brand of phone, since not every device could use every feature.

Unlike Recorder though, The Verge reports that you will probably need to maintain an internet connection while Translate’s transcribing, meaning that Recorder would still have an advantage due to its offline processing. 

There’s no sign when Google will push this update through to normal users, other than “in the coming months” as CNET quotes. But assuming it works as intended, this is going to be an eagerly awaited change to an already effective app.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.