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Localizing apps for the global market

Developers of mobile apps and games are increasingly aware that large markets of potential users lie just beyond their own borders. The burgeoning growth in emerging economies combined with rising technological literacy means that more and more developers are localizing their apps for foreign markets. In this blog post, we’ll provide you some surprising figures relating to mobile apps, as well as some important points to remember when localizing apps for the global market.
 
The popularity of mobile devices has led to astronomical growth in recent years. In fact, according to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, there will be more mobile devices on Earth than people. People are won over by the smart phones and tablet computers because they simplify tasks, procure valuable information, and provide entertainment. More accurately, it’s the software designed to run on mobile devices ‒ mobile applications (or ‘mobile apps’, or simply ‘apps’) ‒ on those devices that are drawing in users. Mobile apps run the gamut from bill-paying apps offered by banks or credit card companies, to GPS-enabled mapping apps such as Google maps, from social networking app such as Facebook mobile or Instagram or additive gaming apps such as Angry Birds or Bejeweled
 
The mobile app market is big and it’s growing. In July 2008, users could browse through 800 different apps on offer in the Apple App store. Just a year later, there were 65,000 apps. Today there are some 900,000 apps. According to ABI Research, the mobile app market is currently worth $27 billion. It’s no wonder that sales have expanded across borders. Apple had App Stores in 90 countries in 2010. Today, Apple has App Stores in 116 different countries.
 
In order to release a mobile app in a foreign market, the app’s contents must first be translated. That much is obvious. But preparing an app for foreign or international release requires much more than mere translation; it requires localization. Localization is the adaptation of an application to meet the linguistic, cultural and other requirements of a specific target market or locale. (Read our post on language localization to learn more about the topic). Language and culture has a profound impact on the creation and design of an app: user characteristics; when, how and where the app is used, etc. Users’ satisfaction with an app ‒ and subsequently the developer’s revenues from those apps ‒ is dependent on the quality of localization. 
 
In fact, social and mobile apps rely heavily on user experience. Games in particular must be instinctive and easy to use. Any barrier to immersion, especially linguistic barriers, must be eliminated. Despite the technical framework, the translation of social and mobile apps is therefore comparable to literary translation and international copywriting. It requires competent translators who understand the requirements of localization while also possessing a creative flair for writing. (We’ve written previously about the qualities that make a good translator here). 
 
Developers must understand their target markets before embarking upon international releases of their mobile apps. To help with the launch, developers can partner with localization experts who can apply their expertise and put to work networks of programmers familiar with target countries requirements, as well as voice-over artists and translators accustomed to working on localization projects.
 

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