If we want to release our iPhone based (free) app to countries like Germany, France, Japan, Korea, Spain, Singapore, do we really need to translate them to local languages? Our app provides location based services, with a little taste of social network blended in.
Two arguments against doing so:
You are perhaps looking at this the wrong way. Of course you don't have to translate your app. Heck, you don't have to have an app in the first place.
You built your app so you could make money, correct? The question then becomes: "If you translate your app, will you make more money than if you don't?" Further will the additional revenues be greater than the cost of translation?
Microsoft used to sell Windows and Office only in English, and they made lots of money doing so. Now they both come in many languages and they have made lots more money. Would people still use Microsoft products if they only came in English? Sure. Do more people use them now that they come in multiple languages? Absolutely.
What you need to do is decide how many more users will buy the product if it is in language X as well as the cost to translate to X. Of course you will need to estimate these numbers. Then among all the possible languages pick the one that will make you the most profit and do it first if you feel it is worth it.
I live in Germany. All people here have english at school. But this does not necessary mean they can read/speak english. Actually my feeling is that most people here are not comfortable with english: my guess is 95% of all handcrafters do not speak it.
My father in law is a doctor and has a good education. He does not speak english because he never uses it. He is a tech-fan and has always the latest iphone. But he never installs software which is not translated.
the situation in germany might differ to the situation in for example finland. In finland movies are not always translated. Many of them are in the cinemas with the english original language and subtitles. Finnish people usually have an excellent english.
In germany there is not a single movie which is not translated. Therefore most people do not need the english language and forget it.
That being said, I even know some tech people with a very bad english.
And if you look at my post, you'll find many grammar / spelling errors. I can read the lord of the rings in the original. OK, all of my software is in english, but hey.
So my recommendation is to look at each country you want to publish and decide for each one.
Germany is a must.
France is even more a must - they are picky abou their language and they even translated technical names. In germany most people understand "hard drive" or "usb stick" without a problem, I head this is different in france.
The scandinavians all speak a good english.
Italy and Spain is like France/Germany.
To answer your questions simply, yes. Have you ever pulled up an app in the app store to realize it is written in a foreign language? If you want to seriously compete abroad I would suggest it.
I've got several applications on Apple's app stores (both iOS and Mac) and can say that there are certain regions where localized apps sell far better than English only versions. Mainly Germany, France, Spain, China and Japan.
Scandinavian and Dutch sales don't profit much from a localized version though.
If you'd only do 2 localizations I'd go for German and French. They are the most english-resiliant big markets in my experience.
Local versions make a difference.
Some companies have had success in getting their users to translate the app/phrases - so you get the translations for free.
Some planning is required.
Typically there is an increase in use with localized versions, but you have to make the decision of whether the cost to do so is worth it.
Because (at the moment) the vast majority of apps are in English, it's not mandatory to translate.
If you want people to love your app, it's going to make a big difference if you make some effort to engage with the language they use the most. Faced with a choice between two similar apps, which would you choose - a highly rated app only available in Spanish, or a slightly lower-rated app in English?
If there are country markets you really want to target, you're likely to see positive ROI from an appropriate degree of localization. If you're dipping a toe in the water, at least translate your app descriptions, then if and when download volumes start to build, reconsider.
I think i depends largely on who your application is intended to be used by.
I've built and sold business applications that have been sold in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. The most resistance we received to the fact that our application was English only was in Canada.
These were business applications being sold into multinational companies. They generally conducted business in English between their national units.
If you application is intended to be used by consumers in their leisure time I think national languages are a bigger factor.