Google Translate switches to Google Lens for translating text in an image

Google Lens Search with your camera function
(Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google Translate has swapped out its native camera tool for Google Lens.
  • The new change means original text in an image will be overlaid with the translated version.
  • The new integration is now available on the Translate app for both Android and iOS.

Google Translate has replaced its previous built-in camera tool with Google Lens as its native camera tool in an effort to improve user experience when translating foreign languages on the fly.

The most recent update provides Google Translate with more natural text translations by superimposing the translation over the original text in an image (via 9to5Google (opens in new tab)). Google previewed this capability when it announced Lens' multi-search functionality in September. The new feature should be available on both the Android and iOS versions of Translate now. 

Translate's new integration with Lens makes it easier to comprehend translations by preserving context. That's because Lens replaces the original text without removing parts of the image. The previous camera tool was updated three years ago when it gained auto-detection capability and support for additional languages. However, it did not retain context when translating texts in an image.

It is worth noting that the primary functionality of Translate's camera mode stays the same, allowing you to use Lens to convert text in an image to your preferred language. The only thing that's new here is Lens' ability to overlay translations on top of the original text. This is useful when you need to see the translated version of a product description in a foreign language, for example, without blocking out parts of the image where it is written.

However, there are a few tradeoffs. For example, you can no longer use the scan and import functions that were available in Translate's previous camera mode. The scan tool allowed users to highlight areas of an image that they wanted to translate, and the import tool was used to convert the language of an existing file into the language of your choice.

This change started to roll out in January (opens in new tab), and Google confirmed that there was no way to revert to the previous version. Many users appeared to be disappointed by the redesign, as they found it more convenient to use the scan tool for text translation.

Jay Bonggolto
News Writer & Reviewer

Jay Bonggolto always keeps a nose for news. He has been writing about consumer tech and apps for as long as he can remember, and he has used a variety of Android phones since falling in love with Jelly Bean. Send him a direct message via Twitter or LinkedIn.