[MWC 2019] Pocketalk is a cool voice translator for travelers

The idea of a dedicated voice translator, in an age where services like Google Translate have become ubiquitous, may seem pretty pointless, but some companies do believe there's a market for it. One of those companies is Sourcenext, creator of the Pocketalk. It's a small device with a very simple interface that does exactly what it aims to do.

It looks almost like a pebble, or what you might imagine a small smartphone to look like. On the front is a touch screen so you can do things like changing the translation languages, connecting to networks, and seeing past translations. Below that is a pair of buttons that are basically a push-to-talk system.

After setting up the languages, you press and hold the right button to speak in the language on the right, which will then be translated to the language on the left, and vice versa. The interface is extremely simple and easy to understand. My only real complaint is that it takes a couple of seconds between pressing the button and being able to talk, but you get visual and audio cues to know when the device is listening, so you won't have your speech cut off because you didn't know it wasn't ready.

With all of that said, why should you buy this instead of just using your phone? Well, Google currently lists 32 supported languages for bilingual conversation. Pocketalk claims to support 74, but that count is based on the number of languages that support voice input. This means that for some languages, using your voice is possible, and the device can indeed translate it, but the translation will only be rendered in text. Other languages may support audio readouts, but with a different regional variant of the language. It also means that some languages can be translated into, but don't support voice input, and so they aren't listed as supported.

I'll admit that what really got me interested in this device is the fact that it distinguishes between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese. Translation services like Google and Bing typically offer one language option and, more often than not, it'll be the Brazilian variant. In this case, it's actually kind of the opposite - you can translate either variant, but audio readouts and rendered translations will be in European Portuguese. That's good for me, but likely disappointing to those in Brazil.

Another selling point for the Pocketalk is the simplicity. You don't need to find the right app to open, or really do anything special; you just press the button and talk. Depending on what model you choose, there's even another advantage over using your phone: the version with built-in mobile data includes an all-you-can-use plan for two years (through an eSIM), and it works around the world in 126 countries, so you don't have to worry about having Wi-Fi or paying for data roaming.

You can buy the Pocketalk through the company's website, but it only ships to the United States at the moment. The version with built-in data costs $299, but you can also get one without it for $249 and use your own SIM card and data plan with it. If you live outside the U.S., you can also find the more expensive model on Amazon, and it's eligible for shipping to a lot more places.

Neowin is at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona taking place between Feb 25-28 to bring you coverage direct from the show floor, click here for our other articles at the event.

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