Finally pulling the plug on its wearable Glass devices wasn't exactly the ideal way to kick off Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) new year. After years of holding on to Glass like grim death, despite ongoing concerns regarding privacy, appearance, and real-world applicability, Google CEO Larry Page finally said "enough;" just as he should of. When you're willing to push the innovation envelope as Google is, you have to be prepared to drop the ball now and again.
With that said, along with a few missteps like Glass come new technologies that have the potential to change consumers' lives for the better, and Google did just that recently when it took the wraps off its new Translate app. It doesn't take a tech geek to appreciate Translate or its real-world applications, which is one reason investors should celebrate. And not only did Google hit the updated Translate out of the park, it did it about the same time it was shelving Glass: essentially swapping one miss with a sure hit.
The possibilities are endless
Google's first iteration of its language translation app was fine, but this new version takes breaking down the language barrier to a whole new level. Translate serves two primary functions: the first is its "Word Lens" feature, which gives users the ability to take a picture of a road sign, menu, or other written foreign language text, and it translates to as many as 36 languages on both Android and iOS devices.
For instant text translations, the new Word Lens feature is limited to English and six other languages: French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Portuguese and German, but the list of instant text translations will continue to grow, according to Google. And users don't even need to be online to access Word Lens. You can see an example of Word Lens in action here. For travelers, the Word Lens feature alone offers a world of possibilities, but Google really nailed it with its new and improved conversation translation feature.
Real-time conversation translation has been available for about two years now on Android devices but was, by Google's own admission, slow and somewhat cumbersome. Not anymore. The new app instantaneously translates real-world conversations simply by tapping the mic on your smartphone to begin talking, tap the mic again, and the translation magic begins. After initial setup, users don't even have to select which language to translate from or to, Google's new app recognizes which language is which intuitively.
Beyond the obvious benefits to the aforementioned world travelers, imagine the implications for students studying a foreign language, or immigrants to a new country who want to learn the native tongue? Translate may not have the pizazz of The Jetsons-like Glass effort, but its real-world applications are undeniable. And make no mistake, there are significant revenues to be had in developing cutting-edge apps.
Google's primary competition in the world of app downloads, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), recently demonstrated just how big the app business is. In the first week of 2015 alone, Apple raked in nearly $500 million in app-related revenue: its largest one-week haul ever. And with the proliferation of mobile devices, the source of most app downloads, app sales aren't going to slow anytime soon. Sure, gamers drive much of the app sales Apple and Google currently enjoy, but cutting-edge apps like Translate can make a sizable a dent.
Though it doesn't have the "wow factor" of Translate, Google is also getting closer to entering what, for it, will be a whole new world: wireless. Google entering the hotly contested battle for consumers' monthly wireless business will be a boon for both shareholders and mobile device users. The days of $250 monthly fees for wireless service are waning due to increased pricing pressure. Now, with rumors swirling that Google is close to entering the picture – perhaps as soon as this summer – the wireless pricing battle will become an all-out war.
Google's version of wireless service is somewhat unique, in that it determines which connection a user receives based on the best available alternative among either Sprint, T-Mobile, or an area's local Wi-Fi hotspot.
Forget Glass, Google is back to its innovative ways with Translate, and about ready to turn the wireless industry upside down, just as it's doing with its lightning-fast Fiber Internet connection solution. In other words, Google's back to being Google.
Tim Brugger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.