How Localizing Your Apps Can Double Your Downloads

How to use iOS app localization to help your mobile app get downloaded more.

With the ability to distribute apps to over 150 countries and in more than 40 languages, the App Store provides the opportunity to get your app into the hands of people from all over the world.

But is it really worth doing? After all, it was difficult enough to get your app working in English. Do you really want to go through all that trouble again?

In this post, we will show you why it is something that you should at least consider, what the difference is between internationalization and localization, and point you in the right direction if you feel that it is something that you want to pursue.

Let’s start with the big picture. Of course this may not work for all apps, but if your app has the potential to be used by an international audience, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that having your app available to larger potential user base can mean more revenue.

Here is a quote from the Apple Developer Website that is an example of why you should think about expanding your reach beyond English speaking countries:

We were amazed by how much support we got from our fans in China after we localized Plants vs. Zombies on iPhone into Chinese. The comment boards were flooded with positive comments, and in only three days, the Chinese version reached the number one paid application spot on the China App Store. {"We’re selling twice as many copies now, in Chinese, than we ever sold in English. - Leo Liu, PopCap Country Manager"}, Greater China.


As we can see from the quote above, even though some non-English speakers may already be using your app in English, your app is significantly more likely to be downloaded if it is targeted for specific languages. Therefore, you need to localize your app.

Localization simply means that you are going to translate all the language elements of your app into another local language. On top of that, there may be some cultural translations that need to be made, like changing the date format from mm/dd/yyyy to dd/mm/yyyy, or using the metric system.

The first place to start is your App Store metadata. This includes:

App Store metadata
  • App title

  • App description

  • Screenshots

  • Keywords

  • Privacy policy URL

  • Support URL

  • Marketing URL

  • What’s New in this Version

No matter how good your app is, if people who speak a certain language cannot find it, they will never know how awesome it is. Localizing your title, description, keywords and screenshots will help them find your app more easily. After you tune your metadata, then you need to rework your app.

This includes changing:

  • Instructions

  • Notifications

  • Icon

  • Home screen

  • Help text

  • Etc.

Remember, syntactic and cultural nuances can get lost in (Google) translation. Be sure to sit down with a professional translator and/or query several native speakers to be sure that what you are presenting makes sense in that culture/language.


This is how the Apple Developer Website defines internationalization:

“Internationalization is the technique for organizing localized resources so that an app can select the user-preferred set of resources at runtime.”

So you can think of it as a method of displaying all the language and culture specific translations that we talked about in localization, based on what the user wants to see. However, it can also be though of in a broader sense, as in, how to expand your app business into other countries.

If the latter is your ultimate goal, then you may want to start small and see how much traction you can get in another language by making a few simple localization tweaks. You can do a simple test by translating your app title, search keywords, app description and change log.

Then monitor the downloads from your target countries to gauge the interest in your app. If there is very little interest, you didn’t waste a lot of time and resources. If there is significant interest, then you are probably on to something and should consider localizing the whole app. But that is only part of the picture.

Just like launching your app in your current market, you will also need to localize your marketing, find public relations and customer support and hire a local lawyer to help protect your interests. Not a small task, but as we have seen, the payoff can be huge.


So if you are just starting out, get the English version of your app up and running smoothly first. Then tackle other countries and/or languages, one-by-one. China would be the next obvious choice, but that will depend on your app and your target audience. If you already have apps that are selling well, take a close look at internationalization as way to scale your business.

We hope that this post will encourage you to consider expanding the reach of your app so that it can realize its full potential.

Do you have any other tips on taking an app global? What are your biggest concerns about internationalization and localization? Share your thoughts or experiences by leaving a comment below.

Related Posts

Tutorial: How to Create Localized Screenshots (link)

Should I Localize the Title of My iOS or Android App? (link)

5 Successful Puzzle Games Can Still Grow Through Localization (link)

Clash of Clans vs Candy Crush Saga - Which App Localizes Better? (link)

The Internationalization Tool Discovers Localization Opportunities (link)

Revealed: Localization Strategies of the Most Valuable iOS Apps (link)

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Hugh Kimura

Written by: Hugh Kimura, Head of Content

Date: July 2013

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