Google is working so that Android 12 can automatically translate apps to your native language. Earlier this week, we got an unreleased build of Android 12 that contains a couple of new features and UI changes. As we analyzed the version, we discovered many new classes in the framework related to a new “translation service”.
Our search began when we discovered two new permissions added to this build of Android 12: BIND_TRANSLATION_SERVICE and MANAGE_UI_TRANSLATION. Android SystemUI has the previous permission to link to an app that has the last permission. This default permission is defined by the value config_defaultTranslationService.
Presumably, an application like Google Translate or Mobile Personalization Services can be configured as the translation service, but Google can open it to third-party applications since the permission has a “role” defined as one of the supported levels of protection. If you remember, Android 10 added “Roles” that define the applications that must have certain privileges; Google may add “Translator” as a role, but we don’t know if this role can be granted to user-installed applications.
In any case, we find references to these permissions in the framework code, where we detect evidence that this new translation code is acting on views within activities rather than on a screenshot or the recent applications panel.
Applications that are already automatically translated
Google Lens can now translate text in screenshots or in the recent apps panel, and together with the Phone Personalization Services, text can be translated directly from the recent apps panel. Meanwhile, the Android intent system already allows basic text exchange for translation. However, this new framework appears to be more complex and low-level. We believe that it aims to translate text directly within an application’s user interface, replacing text inline so that the translation feels more native.
We examined the latest versions of Google Translate and mobile personalization services, but found no evidence that either of them integrated this new API. This API may not use Google Translate directly, but a different API endpoint.
If this feature is implemented according to our speculations, we doubt that Google will charge users for this feature. However, they may enable Google Translate-powered UI translations as a unique Pixel feature. However, since the framework appears to be coming to AOSP, OEMs may be able to define their own translation service if they don’t want to use Google’s.
Google apparently building a UI translation framework directly in Android 12, users would no longer need to root their mobile to automatically translate apps into their native language. Hopefully this will make thousands of apps more accessible to users around the world.