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Localization vs. Localization

By Kee Nethery — January 5, 2016

Localization vs. Localization

The word “localization” gets tossed around in the smart phone app world and it has two quite different meanings. Let’s start with the dictionary definition. According to Merriam-Webster, “localize” is defined as:


verb | lo·cal·ize | \ˈlō-kə-ˌlīz\

  • 1. to make local : orient locally

  • 2. to assign to or keep within a definite locality


For smart phones, both distinctly different usages of “localization” fit the definition shown above. That is why I use the modifiers “language” localization and “geographical” localization.

Geographical Localization

Geographical localization is when a smart phone knows where it is on the globe via; GPS data, cell tower identifiers and a cell tower location database, or wi-fi station names and a wi-fi station location database. The phone can display location specific data to the user (nearby restaurants, hotels, etc).

The standard way to obtain the location of an iOS device is to use the “Core Location” framework.

Language Localization

Language localization is when a smart phone app is available in multiple languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, etc.). The same app binary is downloaded by all global users and contains all the language translations. The app displays text according to the users’ language priority preferences.
iOS Settings: General / Language & Region / iPhone Language

Cultural Adaptations

Software developers discussing “localization” frequently are referring to cultural adaptations, and most commonly, language translations.

Basic adaptation concerns the display of; numbers, dates, times, currency, symbols, icons, colors, etc. The OS handles these variations.

The sophisticated adaptations involve; cultural references, objects, actions, or ideas that might be viewed as insensitive or confusing in a specific culture. And, of course, don’t forget legal restrictions for specific locations. These are things your translator should mention if your app sales will suffer because of them.

In between these two is the most common usage of localization, language translations, adding additional languages into your app (Russian, Chinese, Portuguese, Malay, etc.).

El Loco Is Here For You

El Loco sits between the developer and their chosen translators so that each can be as effective as possible. We automate everything except for the human translator. From the developer’s viewpoint, we make localization fun.