I was very excited to read about the ability to assign “translate” to the Action button on my iPhone 15 Pro, but when I checked, it wasn’t an option in Settings. What’s the secret to getting this working? Danke!
While software developers try to anticipate every possible situation when debugging software, it’s inevitable that some corner cases slip through. We call them bugs and they’re not only the bane of the developer but can cause us users a lot of stress and confusion too. To get a sense of just how insanely complicated a smartphone’s operating system is, Softonics estimates that iOS has 84 million lines of source code!
In this instance, it turned out that updating your iPhone 15 Pro [or iPhone 15 Pro Max] to iOS 17.2 was insufficient to ensure that you were ready to assign the translate function to your Action button. I know, I had the exact same experience, as did a number of people who were unable to debug the problem on Reddit. The issue: If you don’t have the Apple “Translate” app on your phone, you won’t see Translate as an option for the phone’s Action button.
Shortcuts: Configure Apple Translate | Translate in the App | Assign Action Button | Translate with the Action Button
How is that possible? Because in an attempt to avoid accusations of bloatware, Apple identified a subset of iOS apps from the company that were optional and allowed users to remove them to recover storage space. On that list is, you guessed it, the Translate app. No worries, though, it can be recovered. In fact, here’s how I got my Translate action button up and running…
RECOVER & CONFIGURE THE APPLE TRANSLATE APP
This journey will start in the App Store on your iPhone 15 Pro. Search for Translate and find the match that has the following app icon:
If you haven’t seen it before, the cloud with the downward pointing arrow indicates that you’ve bought or downloaded this app on one of your devices at some point, but that it’s not on the current device. To install Translate on your iOS 17.2 phone, simply tap on that cloud icon and let it do its thing. After a few seconds you’ll be able to launch the app!
It’s a very functional interface where you pick the source and target languages and either type or talk into the device in the designated language to have it translated into the other. Since it’s very useful to also be able to use the app when you’re offline, pay attention to its initial prompt:
I have some pidgin Spanish but always appreciate smart devices that can help me, so I’m going to choose to download both English and Spanish:
There are quite a few languages available to download and use with the Translate app, including Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Thai, and Uranian. Once you’ve downloaded your desired languages, you’re ready to try out Translate.
TRANSLATE PHRASES WITHIN THE TRANSLATE APP
I’m going to ask one of the phrases I’d memorize for my next trip to beautiful Mexico. I simply tap on the microphone icon adjacent to my source language and talk. The app figures out what I’ve said and offers up a translation after just a few moments:
As you can see, “Can you please bring my friend and I a couple of beers” translates into “¿Puedes traer a mi amigo y a mi un par de cervezas, por favor?”. Undoubtedly helpful when traveling through Spanish-speaking countries.
But what about the Action button? Now that Translate is up and running, we can finally assign the Action button on the iPhone 15 Pro [or Pro Max] to this feature.
ASSIGN ACTION BUTTON TO TRANSLATE
Open up Settings and search for “action”:
A few interesting matches, but you want to choose “Action Button” to proceed.
For some reason, Apple has a completely different user interface for the Action button than anything else in iOS, as you’ve already learned. It’s pretty, but pretty inefficient too for those of us who’ve grown to expect lists and checkboxes:
Choose it by having it be the one shown and tapping on “< Settings” to leave the page. Now you’re ready to go with one-tap translation!
TRANSLATE ACTION BUTTON ON IPHONE 15 PRO
It’s a breeze to get the feature to work once you know the secret: Push and hold the button while you’re talking. When you release the button it will offer up the translation. Kinda like an old-school walkie-talkie. Here’s what I see when I push the Action button while on the lock screen:
Its functionality on the lock screen is a bit of a work in progress, in my opinion. The feature is way easier to work with when you’re phone’s already unlocked. For example, when unlocked, a push of the button causes the phone to switch into translate listen mode. You can then speak to it in either of the two languages you’ve chosen (in the Translate app) and it will translate to the other. Not only that, but it will speak the translation so you don’t have to show your phone screen to the other person.
When unlocked it certainly looks identical, zooming out of the Dynamic Island:
But I can can speak to it in either language and it’ll translate. For example, I might ask someone this question:
with the result being:
Want to translate a second phrase (or a response from the other person)? Tap on the Action button again and it’s ready for another prompt.
Note: I have to admit that in iOS 17.2 it seems a bit quirky in its behavior. I can only assume that the Apple dev team is collecting usage stats and will be iterating and fixing things at a rapid pace for the next version of the translate action feature!
Or, as Translate says: “Nota: Tengo que admitir que en iOS 17.2 parece un poco raro en su comportamiento. Solo puedo suponer que el equipo de desarrollo de Apple está recopilando estadísticas de uso y estará iterando y arreglando cosas a un ritmo rápido para la próxima versión de la función de acción de traducción.”
Anyway, now you know how to get this translate feature mapped to your Action button and how to configure it to work with exactly the languages you desire. Good luck!
Pro Tip: I’ve been writing tutorials for the Apple iPhone since it was first released. Please check out my extensive iPhone help area for lots and lots of useful content.