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Google Launches Indic Language Support For Gmail On Feature Phone Browsers

gmail-indic-headerSo Google hasn’t stopped development on Indic language tech after all…the company has just announced the rollout of Indic language support for Gmail on feature phone browsers, for six languages: Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu.

The Next Half A Billion Theory

This, as the post from Google suggests, is keeping mind that the next half a billion users from around the world will join the Internet between now and 2015: in India, it is likely that, give the terrible state of wireline Internet penetration in India (around 25-30 million connections, of which only 15 million connections are broadband), that these users will be mobile, and more comfortable with Indic languages than English.


There are counterpoints to this theory, though: Rediff found out a few years ago that almost no one was using their Indic language services on Rediff Mail (then a popular email service in India), and Rediff Founder Ajit Balakrishnan said then that is would be fallacious to assume that Indian users want Indic languages. Five years on, we wonder if the state of communication in Indic languages has improved. That said, the population online has probably more than doubled in India since 2008, and with mobile Internet usage exploding, there’s an entire set of users that might prefer an Indic interface. You never know.

While India is transitioning swiftly from feature phones to smartphones, most reports on data usage still indicate that feature phone usage in healthy. A feature phone specific launch for Indic language integration with Gmail will probably address the period of transition.


Writing Support?

Also, it’s just as important for people to be able to write in Indic languages on feature phones, and we can’t tell if Google has support for writing in Indic languages on feature phones. We’ll update when we hear from Google.

The need for enabling writing  in Indic languages  explains messaging apps like Plustxt integrating Indic languages. Google too had launched a Hindi input and transliteration application.

Now we need Indic language versions of Android from the company, although Robosoft beat them to that.

Indic Keyboard apps

– SwiftKey offers support for Hindi and Hinglish (a mixture of Hindi and English, with Hindi transliterated into Latin script) languages to its language options. Switfkey also allows multi-lingual users to enable up to three languages simultaneously and is available for Rs 99 on the Google Play Store.

– KeyPoint Technologies also offers an alternative text input app called ‘Adaptxt‘ which provides keyboards for 74 languages including 13 Indic languages like Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu among others and transliterated Indian languages including Hinglish (Hindi + English), Kanglish (Kannada + English), Tenglish (Telugu + English), Tanglish (Tamil + English), Manglish (Malayalam + English),  Odinglish (Oriya + English) and Marathinglish (Marathi + English). The app is currently available as free download on the Google Play Store (Phone & Tablet), GetJar Marketplace (Phone & Tablet) and Amazon Appstore and is available for Rs 5 on the Nokia Store.

– Nuance Communications, which had acquired the gesture based adaptive touch input keyboard Swype for $102.5 million in October 2011, had also introduced support for Hinglish in July 2012.

– AndroidTweak.in had also launched an alternative text input application called Indic Keyboard, which offers support for Malayalam, Tamil and Hindi languages.

Also read: Futuregazing: The Opportunity In TouchScreen Handsets In India

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