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Best smartphone(s) for translators - suggestions needed
Thread poster: Yvonne Gallagher

Yvonne Gallagher
Local time: 06:01
Member (2010)
French to English
+ ...
Mar 29, 2013

Hello all,

I want to buy a smartphone but am unsure of which one is best for people in our profession. I'm really not interested in having loads of games (never play them) and don't need trillions of apps either. Basically I want to be able to get and send e-mails and view and send attachments when away from my computer. And do some editing of Word docs. I usually bring a net book (mini laptop) with me everywhere but would like something a bit smaller.

A semi-decent camera would be good, 8mp at least.

I know that many people seem to be using Blackberry phones but when I went into Carphone Warehouse a Nokia Lumia 820 was suggested. Has anyone been using these phones? I am prepared to spend on a decent phone and will probably go billpay. Others have told me to get an iPhone or Galaxy Note while some people are sticking with blackberries so I'd really like some advice before splurging...

Battery life? I understand some phones last a bit longer than others before needing recharging.

I'll also be in Canada in August so do I just use roaming or buy a local sim card?

Thanks in advance


PS I know there are previous threads about smartphones but the Nokia Lumia is fairly new and there's an Xperia as well. Technology changes so fast I'd just like latest opinions...

[Edited at 2013-03-29 15:20 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-03-29 15:20 GMT]


Helena Chavarria  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:01
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I'm no expert Mar 29, 2013

I have an iPhone, which I love, and which does make my life a lot easier. However, I find writing a bit slow as you have to use your fingers and the keys are a bit small for them (I don't keep my nails particularly short, so I can't write with the tips of my fingers).

I have installed DropBox, so I can save all files I want and access them from any computer, smartphone, etc.

Whenever I'm translating without a computer (whilst having lunch when I'm pressed for time, or feel like having a coffee surounded by 'normal' people, etc.) I usually print off a page and scribble the translation, using the online dictionaries I have installed on my phone.

These are just a few of my comments. I'm sure other people will be able to provide you with better advice.


Emma Goldsmith  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:01
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
I'm no expert either ... Mar 29, 2013

... but I've recently changed from a Blackberry to an HTC 8S (Win8 OS). My main reason for changing was that I couldn't type fast enough with the real BB keys (too small to see), and I found it too slow to swap between English and Spanish.

The advantages of the HTC 8S are
- I can type faster with the virtual keyboard, using the suggestions that come up (one click to switch languages);
- it comes with Office installed (not a simple Doc to Go app or similar). However, I think that editing docs is quite hard unless you go for a massive screen size (mine is 4")
- I sync MS OneNote with my PC (through Skydrive)

The only thing I miss is being to customise the volume of email alerts separately from incoming calls. My Blackberry was really good at customising that sort of thing (with a great bedside mode too).

I wasn't interested in apps either, but must admit that I do enjoy the few that I've downloaded (BBC News, a Spanish news app, a torch, and Endomondo, a running tracker).



Châu Nguyễn  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:01
Member (2012)
English to Vietnamese
+ ...
A good phone is a smart phone :D Mar 29, 2013

Why? Smart phone can run apps and apps is what you need.
My suggestion: Buy any smart phone that suits your wallet, your style, with reasonable battery life, 3G network and installed these apps and you're ready to go.

- Gmail (free)
- Dropbox (free)
- Office suite (free: read-only, paid: editable)
- Skype (free)

Battery life is important. This feature is often exaggerated. On the brochure of my phone it says waiting time is around 300 hour, but in reality its 12 hours top (with 80% features and apps off). 3G, Wifi and the screen is the most battery draining.

For the Apps.
Gmail (or other mail client it's up to you) to send and receive mail.
Dropbox to sync files between your computer and your phone (it only syncs the list of files first, the actual file will be downloaded to your phone when you choose to, help save bandwidth).
Office suite will help you read your attachment (word, excel, powerpoint, pdf....) the free version only allow you to read the file, paid version allow you to edit them
Skype, for clients who need skypes.

For me, I chose a Sony Ericsson Live With Walkman WT19i (I bought it partly because of its funny nameicon_biggrin.gif). I love listening to music and this one is built for music. It can run most apps that I need. It has 02 camera so I can make video call with my clients easily. I used it mostly as a modem to my laptop (using tethering and wi-fi hotspot function). And to send or receive file to and from my clients. If they have a Trados apps may be I can even translate on the phone.icon_biggrin.gif The only down-side of this phone is extremely short battery life.

Hope it helps you.


Yuri Radcev  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:01
Member (2012)
English to Russian
+ ...
depends Mar 30, 2013

in my opinion, the answer largely depends on your expectations from a new toy.
if it is just emails + occasional docs, then BlackBerry is what meets a challenge.
but if you need some additional stuff like, say, dictionaries, neither BlackBerry nor WindowsPhone (hello to Nokia's Lumias) can give you a good choice of. iPhone or Android would be a better solution then.

[Редактировалось 2013-03-30 00:57 GMT]


Steven Segaert
Local time: 08:01
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Decide on platform first Mar 30, 2013

In many ways, your question is similar to "should I go windows, mac or linux?". It is a question about platforms first, and hardware later.

In smartphones, there mainly are iPhones (Apple), Windows phones (Nokia and others), and Android phones. Until recently, Nokia had it's own (quite good) phone operating system.

Do check online what the difference is between these three, and perhaps ask people around you (or the people in a phone shop) if you can hold it and play with it for a minute. If you are struggling with the controls after a few minutes, drop it (not literally) and try the next one.

All these smart phones can more or less do similar things.

iPhone has software that has been specifically written for the device you put it on, but it seems you have to pay for just about everything you do or get.

Android is very popular, and there are many different kinds of phones and tablets around that run it; Samsung and the Google nexus phone are probably the top contenders right now. The thing with Android is that it may take a bit more involvement from the user as there are more choices that can be made.

I have no experience with Windows phones or Blackberry.

But I need to tell you: whatever phone you use, you will be struggling to actually edit a word document on it. For tasks like that, I recommend you either look at a tablet or a netbook. If connectivity is an issue, it is also possible to add 3G to a netbook (either internally or using a dongle).


Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:01
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Nokia cameras are best Mar 30, 2013

With Lumia you can run MS Office on your phone. Also navigation is best in Nokia devices. The new Lumia 620 probably offers best value for money.
Pixel number is not the most important thing in a camera.


Diana Coada  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:01
Portuguese to English
+ ...
The only one I would consider today Mar 30, 2013

is the Lumia or the Samsung Galaxy.

Yes, the Lumia was recommended to you because its camera is the best on the market. By the way, the 620 is not new, the 920 is. But you can get the 820 model for about £18 a month with unlimited internet.

Also, there might not be a lot of dictionaries on offer in the Nokia store, but there's nothing wrong with bookmarking your favourite online dictionaries to your screen.


Yvonne Gallagher
Local time: 06:01
Member (2010)
French to English
+ ...
Thanks! Mar 30, 2013

Thanks so much to everyone for all these comments and really great tips. it certainly makes for interesting reading although there doesn't seem to be an overriding "winner" as yet. Yes, it may end up being just what feels best and easiest to use as Steven says or as Châu Nguyễn puts it "a good phone is a smart phone".

Yes, up to now I've been using a netbook with an Internet dongle when away from my desktop/laptop. I chose the netbook, a Samsung, because it is supposed to give me 8 hours of battery life (but I actually get around 6 hours if I am working on a document and using online dictionaries or have to Google some ref or other). But this is still much better than my laptop which was continually dying on me after a very short time which entailed running around and trying to find a place to plug in. I realise, from what people have told me, that phones have very short battery time as well so I'm not going to be doing much work other than what Helena describes as sitting in a café surrounded by "normal people"icon_smile.gif) but I would like to be able to look at attachments and do quick proofing and send them which I can't do on my present (non-smart) phone and I don't want to have to bring the netbook with me all the time.

Thanks Diana and Heinrich for mentioning the Lumia. As I said, the guy in Carphone Warehouse recommended that one, the 820, but the 9 is an even newer version. I think the phone with the best camera at the moment is the Sony Xperia? But the Lumia 820 has an 8MP (the 620 is only 5MP) which is OK. Yes, I believe the optical zoom X is more important on cameras than MP and I often have a small camera with me as well so it's not an overriding concern...

More comments are still welcome. At the moment I'm leaning towards the Lumia but I will go into a few different shops and ask advice before making a final decision. I think the screen on Blackberries is really too small and find it interesting that Emma finds it easier to type on a virtual keyboard but I seem to recall reading somewhere that Blackberry were trying to make a comeback with a new phone as well?

Happy Easter to all and thanks again!


Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:01
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
Phones too small for jobs Mar 30, 2013

Hi all, maybe I am going to be controversial, but apart from accessing emails, I find using phones-whatever be it iPhone, Blackberry, Galaxy, etc-too small to work on. My eyes were smarting when I used Internet for long time, better on a tablet. Personally, I would not use a phone to do the work on but just to see what has come in & then do it on netbook or tablet at least. Hope you see this side too. Happy Easter to from iPad user


Wolfgang Jörissen  Identity Verified
Dutch to German
+ ...
You asked "for translators" Mar 30, 2013

I guess every smartphone these days is quite good at manging e-mails etc. I am using an Android phone myself and I am quite happy with the OS itself. On the app side, there is not too much for translators yet, but there IS a terminology app for Android that opens tbx files. For the rest, I was quite disappointed in the capabilities of the pre-installed Office apps, since most of them don't even count the words in a doc, making it impossible to give a quite quote to a client. But with Kingsoft Office, I have now found a free app that covers this.
A good camera is not a wrong decision. Might even be good enough to take a picture of a page to have it OCR-ed later.


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:01
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Some ideas Mar 30, 2013

gallagy2 wrote:
I want to buy a smartphone but am unsure of which one is best for people in our profession. ... Basically I want to be able to get and send e-mails and view and send attachments when away from my computer. And do some editing of Word docs.

Every time this question comes up, I go read up on what is available for translators, and I examine the available options in the light of my own translation practice, and every time I come to the conclusion that it is unrealistic to expect that I could do any real work on a mere phone. I always discover that the smallest thing that will really be of any use is a tablet... and if you're going to carry a tablet, you might as well carry a netbook. And then you're back at square one.

I suspect that business people who work successfully on a smart phone do mostly administrative tasks and communicative tasks on the phone. Even if they do open Word files etc, they do it because they want to process the information in those files, and not because they want to create such files and/or edit them with the view of creating a polished final product. That's my guess.

I myself would not be able to give a client a quote on a job if I have only a smart phone with me. I need to open the files and analyse them and see if they work in my desktop computer's CAT tools, etc. You can't do that on a smart phone. Besides, more than half of the files I get for translation are already in some or other CAT format.

The only CAT tools you can use on a smart phone are web-based ones, and that means either Isometry or Wordfast Anywhere (for freelancers) and possibly XTM (if your client has a server).

Perhaps it would be a nice experiment to ask smart phone users to see how much effort it is for them to translate a small document in WFA, using only the smart phone.

A problem that I encounter with smart phones is that so few of them accept external keyboards and mice. You have to use Bluetooth (since most smart phones can't use USB keyboards), and Bluetooth keyboards tend to be designed for people who use keyboards only ocassionally.

I'll also be in Canada in August so do I just use roaming or buy a local sim card?

If you're going to be gone for just one month, I'd say buy a local cheapie phone and local sim card. If you regularly live abroad, consider getting a dual-SIM phone.


Yvonne Gallagher
Local time: 06:01
Member (2010)
French to English
+ ...
Thanks again! Mar 31, 2013

This has really been very informative so thanks to all who took the time. I think it has been a very fruitful discussion that should be of benefit to others who are planning to buy phones or upgrade.

It's also been good to learn about some of the free apps available

I guess it's really not possible to do any meaningful work on ANY phone so I'll keep bringing the netbook with me whenever possible to work on and just have the phone to take a quick look at files and respond quickly to e-mails as they arrive.

Thanks Samuel for your advice re sim card. Yes, I'll buy a cheap phone over there...

Hope you are all enjoying your Easter eggs or bunnies!


Dominique Pivard  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:01
Finnish to French
Android or iOS Apr 1, 2013

gallagy2 wrote:
I know that many people seem to be using Blackberry phones but when I went into Carphone Warehouse a Nokia Lumia 820 was suggested.

My piece of advice, FWIW: 1) don't listen to salesmen (they only care about their commission, not your needs), 2) go for a phone that has a strong app ecosystem, ie. Android or iOS (iPhone). Blackberry and Windows will never catch up.

Don't buy the latest and greatest: you'll be better off spending 250-300 euros every three years than splashing 500-600 euros and sticking to the same phone for six years. The Nexus 4 is nice IMO (if available where you live): recent enough, good specs and design, yet an attractive price compared to the latest top-end Android (eg. HTC One) or iPhone.


Jennifer Schottstaedt  Identity Verified
United States
German to English
Samsung Galaxy Sep 26, 2013

I have a Samsung Galaxy S3 and love it. It's definitely a two-hand screen; it's too huge to hold in your palm and touch the entire screen with your thumb. Good for reading documents, though. You can view PDFs and documents, save, view and share via Dropbox, and I have an app I use with which I can sign documents by signing with a finger, which is incredibly convenient as I don't have a scanner. The Galaxy Note would probably give you a better signature, and it's a larger phone still.

The Android Swype program makes typing very fast; answering emails is a breeze. There are a whole lot of apps that are very helpful: currency converters, time zone converters, that sort of thing. Plus it uses a micro USB adapter, meaning that even if you misplace your charger you can re-appropriate one from your camera, or just use a micro USB + USB cord and charge from your computer.

It also doubles as my music player when I'm running or in the car. Spotify's a nice little addition. I don't know the exact specs of the camera but that's all I had while on vacation and I got a lot of gorgeous, huge photos. Much better than any phone camera I've had in the past, although my father's ridiculously expensive Canon definitely outshone it.

Good luck!

[Edited at 2013-09-26 23:35 GMT]

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