Did You Know? App Localization May Only Take You 20 Minutes

Done is better than perfect.” – Mark Zuckerburg

Breaking news – not everyone speaks English.

In fact, Apple's iPhone release into the Chinese market resulted in a cute little bump in sales to the tune of $94 billion dollars in profit. When you build your app, you may want to make sure that Victor in Russia can read what's going on just as easily as Mary in Maryland. Makes sense, eh? (Canadian French is important, too).

Localization can be described as the process of “internationalizing” an app, or including multiple versions that each serve up a specific language. There is a technical process for localization on the development level.

For those of you who care, it deals with creating Localization Targets (similar to project targets) in Xcode and is not a small operation. This will render the text in your app in the appropriate language based on the configuration of the device's language settings.

NOTE: you also have to provide new images if you have any language on those images. Ugh. Read the entire story here (if you're interested).

The best languages to localize an app for are (other than English):

  • French
  • German
  • Spanish
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Chinese (simplified)
  • Chinese (traditional)
  • Korean

This is based on number of devices in each market and a few other factors. This is also based on doing my own research with developers and browsing through forums with people who've done this.

Each app will have it's own best markets – for example, Alpha Combat kills it in Japan and France, Coconut Craze does well in China. So – do your own research and plan accordingly.

I wanted to appeal to these markets but I definitely did not want to create 10 versions of the entire game.

Apple has a solution – the ability to create the translated version of your description, keywords, and name (and screen shots if you want) for each language/store without needing an entire development project.


 90% Success Takes 10% of the Time

This is my inner Tim Ferriss coming out, looking at each and every project in business with the lens of “how do I leverage, automate, and scale this?”

My problem was simple – translate the description, keywords, and name of three iPhone apps and submit an update.

My other problem was pretty simple as well – I speak English. A little Spanish. Fluent in Emoticon. That's it.

I've been approached by countless companies asking me if I wanted some uber genius linguist to custom translate all my text, ensuring impeccable grammar and syntax in Brazilian Portuguese (and every other language under the sun).

Unfortunately, that would run a few grand for everything that I wanted and it would take about 2 weeks. Plus, how do I know they did a good job?! Not interested.

What I am interested in, however, is software that has a proven track record of success. What up Google Translate.

Copy Paste, 复制,粘贴, Copiar pegar

What's a man to do? I literally took my descriptions and copied them in and voilá – translated.

Now I was very much skeptical about this process until I did a bit of quality assurance – I translated it to Spanish and sent it to a buddy who is fluent, and the same with the Japanese, asking them to compare the translated to the original.

They both came back saying “It's not perfect, but it's surprisingly good.”

Each app now has 10 languages translated. Total time per app: 20 minutes.

Does It Work? We'll See.

The updates release in the next day or two and I'll be able to match back in those countries doing a week over week analysis, controlling for other factors. It should be interesting.

If you've had any experience with app localization, both on the development side or on the iTunes Connect side, let me know. I'd love to hear your results.

Localization is just one of the app marketing strategies that you have to understand. To learn about the others, download my free ebook.

Catch you later,




  • hitendra July 2, 2012

    Hey Carter,

    You should do an update to this well written post. I have used google Translate and I personally am not comfortable using it, though it does it’s job but is not great.

    Therefore I am interested to know what results you got, maybe in terms of reviews
    or downloads or otherwise.

    Thanks for writing such wonderful posts!

  • Carter Thomas Carter July 3, 2012


    RE: your question and update – no noticeable change in the regions I updated for. There were a few random reviews from China, but nothing more than usual. I guess my scientific conclusion would be that it really didn’t make that big of an impact…makes me wonder if full-priced localization is worth it? I guess that’s another test.

    Thanks for reading!


  • Andrej December 30, 2012

    Hi Carter again!

    Good post again! Congrts.

    I have a question about integration those languages in metadata.
    I have no idea how can we do different languages ( so for germany app store in german, italian app store in italian etc..)
    If you could help us, we would appreciate that very much!

    We wish you the very best year;)

    Regards from sLOVEnia.

  • Andrej January 24, 2013

    Hi Carter!

    I’m not sure if you have seen my postfrom 30.12.2012?
    I still couldn’t find the answer or solution.

    Thanks and best regards.

  • BT February 11, 2013

    Hi Carter,

    I am just weeks away from launching my very first app! So pumped and excited! I think this app is a fantastic idea that millions of people will love!

    My question is, if I optimise the meta tags for multiple countries, do I need to create a duplicate app in that language too? So when a new user opens the app, they can choose what language they want to view it in?

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas February 15, 2013

    BT –

    No, you just need to create new entries in iTunes Connect. They can leverage the same binary. It will just be a title/description, keywords, screenshots for each store.

    Good luck!


  • tasnim ahmed May 12, 2013

    do you localize your keyword?or put the same as english countries keyword?if you do localize what process/steps u r using?

    cause i can get 200-300 downloads daily for a single app/games in USA.but other countries download is terrifies.2-5/day!!!!!

  • Charles Clinton May 22, 2013

    Hi Carter, any update on the google translate localization now that a little time has passed? Thanks!

  • Adam A June 25, 2013


    I’d be interested to see what your thoughts are now of using Google Translate to localize an app. I was actually just in talks with some localization companies because I seem to be reading all of this craze on getting your app out there to different countries with their native language (I purchased the 4 Pics source code from your website).

    I was a little shocked to see that over a year ago you said you didn’t see much change at all. Would you still suggest to localize your app?


  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas June 25, 2013

    @Adam – I usually use a translation company now. It can be a big turnoff if your language sucks and GT can be choppy. One good strategy is to use English for the body of the description, but translate the first line for something simple like “Download this game now!” into 10 different languages.

  • Adam A June 26, 2013

    Carter, Thanks for the info. So would you suggest (for a game like Whats the Pic?) to use a translation company to just translate the picture names to make sure those are spot on, but then to use an English description with a first line as you described?

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas June 26, 2013

    @Adam – That’s probably your best bet, yeah. Good luck!

  • Chris June 27, 2013

    Hey Carter, your blog is awesome!! Thanks for all the great knowledge and inspiration…

    We just updated about 10 of our games last week with app name and description localization for 20 countries using GT(no keyword updates for these).

    Do you predict that localizing the entire description could actually hurt the app?


  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas June 27, 2013

    @Chris – hard to say, but imagine if you saw an app description in broken English that said “Yes our app is greatest! You will love download! Top top app! Thanks.” Would you trust those guys with your money?

  • Chris June 27, 2013

    Carter, good point!. Thanks!

    Well I am definitely going to watch closely the ones that we’ve updated, and I think we might reconsider how we localize going forward.

  • Frank September 11, 2013

    Hi Carter,

    If an app has options or controls which are labelled in English will Apple reject localization of only the itunes app page (ie no localization within the app) because people in other countries might be misled into thinking their language is used in the app?


  • Peter Vityi April 14, 2014

    Hi Carter

    How are your apps doing. I definitely believe that mobile app market getting international – if you look at the stats there are more than 1B smartphone users who do not speak English. Localization of apps still done the old way, not leveraging the mobile infrastructure. So we built an app – currently Android only – to manage the whole translation process over the mobile infrastructure, and for free for developers. If any interested contact me.


  • Julieane June 28, 2014

    Thanks. nice post. got some pretty good info.

  • Kevin Brown June 21, 2015


    I use Fiverr.com to do my translation. The person will translate the description, title, and keywords for anywhere from $15 to $85. So far so good. Some will even do ASO on your keywords and suggest better or more keywords that work in that country. The turn around is usually in a couple hours, depending on if its day or night in that country at the time of purchase.



  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas June 21, 2015

    Great tip Kevin! I love Fiverr, but I’ve never used it for translations. I’ll give it a go! Keep rocking!!

  • Holub June 23, 2015

    There is another interesting service that provides sdk and online update for ios apps translation: http://localize.io
    You can manage you localisation files without the need to think about which version of the app you’re updating. You also don’t need to recompile the app each time you add a new language.

  • Mohammed Al-Hajri October 7, 2015

    Great Article! I work as a translator from English to Arabic. Is there any program that can enable a translator to localize games and other types of application into Arabic? Any idea of any program that supports Arabic.

  • Stephen May 25, 2016

    Hello Carter,

    I reviewed most of your blogs and video content in the website, you did an amazing job compiling useful information. Thank you very much !

    I definitely suggest translate by a company, being a native Mandarin speaker, I understand that using GT alone can always be a total disaster. However I do have an advantage of knowing another language. So,

    1. Is it possible for me to purchase a source code, exchange the graphic, content into Chinese, alone with all the ASO stuff( Screenshot, description, Keyword etc) and place it under China/Taiwan itune store? Will it be rejected by Apple for being too similar to the original App? It may be a low budget project for me to introduce the same game into a potentially lucrative market ,since most of the people will choose Chinese version if they have a choice.

    2. According to your experience regarding App localization, by translating the same App into different languages, how much percentage of selling does it increases?

    It will be great if you would be able to shed some lights regarding those information, thanks a lot

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas May 25, 2016

    @Stephen – Thanks!

    1. Yes, definitely. In fact, that can be a powerful strategy – to start in a country that is non-USA. You need to make the app unique not just for Apple but because if it’s not unique, you will have a hard time getting downloads.

    2. Depends on the country, but I’ve seen anywhere from 5-50% increase in downloads.

  • Mahdieh November 9, 2016

    Hi Carter
    according to what is mentioned above, this marketing strategy is an approach that every app owner can apply on them selves app. Am I right?

Leave a Comment