iPhone app globalization: Ready for take-off

The WSJ has an article about iPhone developers taking their apps global.

It’s very early days, but it’s safe to say that localization vendors are drooling over the possibilities. Although many apps aren’t going to present much in the way of translation revenue, the localization engineering work can be quite substantial.

I’m currently aware of two vendors that have been doing a good job of specializing in this area:

Some app developers I’ve spoken with still question the degree to which they must localize their apps. After all, many report significant sales in markets around the word WITHOUT any localization investment on their part. So they naturally want to know what additional sales they’re going to get for their investment. There are many factors to consider. The ROI of a 99 cent app could be tough to achieve if you’ve got to completely internationalize your app. If your app is already internationalized, the ROI is much easier to achieve.

But China and Japan, as noted in the WSJ article, could be what pushes more and more developers into finally opening their checkbooks.

Here’s what one iPhone developer says:

“We definitely have plans to get all our games localized,” said Andrew Stein, PopCap’s director of mobile business development. “We may see more than half of our sales come from outside of the U.S.” PopCap’s $2.99 “Plants vs. Zombies” tower defense game is currently No. 1 in China, according to App Store rankings.

The article stresses that few apps are currently localized — and I will second that. In fact, the only apps that I’m aware of that support more than 20 languages are Apple’s own default apps. Outside of Apple, PayPal and Google apps appear to be the most global overall.

Here’s a rough tally of what I’ve seen so far:

  • PayPal Mobile: 15 languages
  • Google Mobile: 15 languages
  • Facebook Mobile: 7 languages
  • Monopoly: 6 languages

What am I missing here?

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Author: John Yunker

John co-founded Byte Level Research in 2000 and is author of The Web Globalization Report Card. He also co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.