Rita El Khoury / Android Authority
Ever since I moved to Paris, I’ve enjoyed traveling across Europe and getting lost in another culture and language. I speak French so some Latin languages like Spanish and Italian are relatively easier for me to parse. Trying to communicate face-to-face in another language is often a fun experience, but all this joy gets thrown in the garbage bin when I have to call someone ahead to book or plan something.
People are less patient on phone calls — me included — and it’s incredibly tough to tell someone to wait while I figure out how to use Google Translate and manage the call at the same time. I’ve tried Google’s Pixel Live Caption for phone calls, but it only helps me understand what the other person is saying. It doesn’t translate my words to them.
Samsung Live Translate for phone call works offline and no matter what phone the other person is using, even a landline.
Enter Samsung’s new live translation feature on the Samsung Galaxy S24 series. This new Galaxy AI option works directly in the phone app and handles translations on the fly for both me and the person I’m talking to. It works no matter what phone the other person is using — even if it’s a landline — and doesn’t require a network connection. Everything happens locally on the phone.
But is it any good? Can you make a conversation on the Galaxy S24 with Live Translate enabled? How well does it handle different languages and local slang? I spent some time making calls in French and English then I tried to book dinner at a Spanish restaurant in Barcelona; here are my findings.
Have you ever tried to use translation during a phone call?
Live translation on the Galaxy S24: Languages, options, settings
Live Translate for phone calls isn’t enabled by default. You have to open the Phone app, go to Settings > Live Translate to enable it. Once it’s on, it’ll show up during phones calls.
But since you’re here, you should check all the other settings. You’ll be able to pick your language, choose one voice among two, change the speech speed, and mute your own voice so the other person only hears the translation and not your original message. The same settings are there for your callee.
It’s weird to pick the default languages beforehand, but you can still change them per contact or per call.
I thought it was weird to have to pick the other person’s language so early; after all, I might talk to people in different countries and with different languages. But Samsung has thought that through. You can assign different language combos for specific contacts, you can also change the language on the fly during the call.
Samsung supports 12 languages with a few different local variations for live translation of phone calls:
- English (US, UK, India)
- Spanish (Spain, Mexico, US)
I also recommend that you hit the More advanced intelligence features button and consider enabling the Process data only on device setting. This affects all of Samsung’s Galaxy AI features and will ensure that your data remains local if you care about your privacy.
I tested live translate for phone calls with the setting enabled and disabled and with data/Wi-Fi on and off, all with the same results. So Samsung seems to be sticking to its guns here and keeping this specific AI feature local. Others, like the S24’s generative photo editing, don’t even work when you pick local-only processing.
For me, the choice is rather simple. I don’t need to frequently make phone calls to people in other languages, so I enable server-side processing most of the time. When I do need to make a call, I switch to local-only processing to tighten up security a bit more. It doesn’t seem to be necessary because Samsung is handling this locally by default, but the placebo effect is real.
How good is the Galaxy S24 at live translating phone calls?
In general, very good. This is a pretty impressive AI feature implemented right where we need it.
You will have to manually trigger it, which takes away from the “intelligence” part of the Artifical Intelligence, but I guess Samsung didn’t want people to be surprised by an unexpected translation in the middle of a call. Tap the Call assist button, then pick Live translate to launch it, and it will only get triggered for real when you start speaking.
This new screen is where you’ll be able to switch the languages on the fly, or stop translating if you’re done with it. Obviously, you can swipe back to the main call screen to change audio output, pull up the keypad, or mute yourself.
The translation is near perfect if you speak clearly. In my tests, English (US) provided practically perfect translations to French. It handled contractions like “gotta” and “ain’t” and “imma.” It worked when I spoke faster and slower. That’s kind of expected. Every language-reliant feature these days, and specifically any AI feature based on Large Language Models, has the biggest training dataset in US English.
Live translation works very well for English, but stumbles with slang in other languages.
Other languages may not be as lucky, though I expected more from real AI translation. Things went smoothly when I spoke the official French (screenshots above), although it’s worth noting it chose to translate my callee’s “you” into the more formal French “vous.”
When I started adding some very, very well-known slang/argot words in Verlan, the translation engine had no idea what to do with that (screenshots below). “Meuf” became “moov,” “venère” was taken literally to mean “worship,” and “chelou” was left as is. These aren’t the most underground words either. Everyone here knows them, and “meuf” is already part of the Petit Larousse dictionary. I expect any half-intelligence, artificial or real, who speaks French to know that it means “woman.”
The valid counter-point to this is that if you’re talking to someone in a whole other language, odds are you’re not that familiar with them. So you’ll probably appreciate the more formal forms of a pronoun and you’ll speak in a more formal language. I wouldn’t use Verlan while booking a restaurant in another country, for example.
Enough testing, does it work with strangers?
People are less patient with phone calls, as I mentioned earlier. Some will hear an AI voice and bolt out of the call. A Spanish restaurant hung up on me when I started the translation and the intro message played to inform them that the call is translated.
There’s nothing Samsung or I can do about that, sadly. Google already has the same issue with Assistant call screening on Pixels. If the other person doesn’t want to talk to a machine, they won’t talk to a machine.
It doesn’t help that the translation doesn’t kick in until you’re done talking. So you have to speak, wait for the translation, wait for the other person to speak, then listen to their translation.
You can’t force strangers to talk to a machine, but if they’re patient and willing, this is a fantastic use of tech.
But if everyone is patient enough and waits, the back-and-forth is practically seamless, and it’s quite rewarding to be able to talk without any language barriers. A beautiful use of tech. Another Spanish restaurant chuckled at the live translation and was in awe of it a bit. They took my reservation without an issue.
Having control over the speech speed and whether or not you hear the original sentences helps too. I keep coming back to the fact that this is an AI feature made for real people and real use cases. I love it when complex tech simplifies real-life situations and this is one of those.
In a future version, I’d like to see Samsung offer a faster translation, though. Live translation should be “live” by definition, not delayed, so it should start after I’ve said five or six words, instead of waiting for me to finish several sentences before kicking in. This might help more people accept it.