The iPhone App localization opportunity

iPhone apps

So after a slow start upgrading to the iPhone 2.0 OS on Friday, I’ve since had a chance to review a number of the apps and have been very impressed so far (though a few did cause the iPhone to crash).

As I reviewed the Apps in the iTunes store I began to notice that they were available only in English. Here is a screen grab from the AOL IM app:

AOL IM iPhone App

Just to be sure about this, I also visited iTunes Spain and looked up the same AOL IM App. And as you see here, it is available only in English:

iPhone app Ingles

As far as I can tell, the only iPhone App currently available in a language other than English is Apple’s own Remote App, available in these languages:

iPhone Remote App

I know it’s early yet. But keep in mind that the iPhone launched globally on Friday, which means there are a lot of markets that have a localized iPhone but only one fully localized iPhone App to use on them.

This means there is a HUGE opportunity for the software localization vendors of the world to help these software developers take these apps global. Apple says it sold one million iPhones over the past three days — and 10 million apps.

Here are some of the companies that currently offer non-localized apps: eBay, MySpace, Bloomberg, Travelocity, MLB.com, Oracle, and Salesforce.com.

If you spot any iPhone Apps that have been localized outside of English, please let me know. This will be very interesting to follow…

UPDATE: Adam Houser just alerted me to  Anime Match by Jirbo, shown here:

 Anime Match by Jirbo,

This app is available in Japanese. It’s a catchy little game actually — and free!

Apple iPhone 3G illustrates the value of a global design template

Apple today announced the iPhone 3G — a tri-band phone that will operate in most countries around the world. So it’s no surprise that Apple wants to sell the iPhone in as many of these countries as quickly as possible.

Fortunately, Apple supports a consistent design across its many country Web sites. So when it came time to go live with the translated Web content on 22+ local websites, the process was a relative breeze. Here are four country home pages:

Apple global design template

Imagine how difficult this undertaking would be if each country had it own unique Web design requiring the redesigning of visuals for each site.

When it comes to global rollouts, it’s hard to argue with the efficiency of using a global template.

A globally consistent product requires a globally consistent Web site.

Having said this, Apple could still improve a great deal when it comes to Web localization. That is, a number of the local Web sites really aren’t all that local. Like this clip, from the Japan site — an A/V demo of the new MobileMe service — which is available in English only.

Apple Mobile Me Japan

Apple iPhone localization favors .com over country codes

The Apple iPhone goes on sale today in the UK and Germany.

Awhile back I wondered how Apple would localize its Web keypad, which features the .com button to accelerate the input of URLs. I own an iPhone and really do make use of this button.

So I took a look at the German keypad demo today and here is what I found. If you look closely here, you’ll see that if the user presses and holds the .com key the .de button also appears:

iphone germany keypad

This is an interesting way to provide two such shortcuts.

But I think Apple made a big mistake here. The .de key should not be the optional button, it should be the default button; .com should be the optional button.

After all, the most popular German Web sites all have .de extensions. Even American companies that are successful in Germany, such as Google and Amazon, use the .de domain.

Now what about UK? Is there an optional .co.uk button available by pressing .com? Oddly, no.

What this says to me is that Apple either:

  1. Apple was in too much of a hurry to launch in Europe that it didn’t really put the time and thought into localizing the interface correctly.
  2. Apple did indeed take its time localizing for these two markets, but the folks in charge inherently believed that .com is more important than local domains.
  3. Apple tested the interface both ways in both local markets and found that this solution is indeed whats users want.

I vote for scenario number 2. What do you think?