Google Translate has always been one of the unsung heroes of the free service space. On the one hand, it doesn't provide a perfect translation, so people are still hesitant to call it a true breakthrough. On the other hand, we use it all the time to translate web pages enough to get the gist and, when combined with speech-to-text and text-to-speech, you can use the Android app as the closest thing to a universal translator in your pocket the world has ever seen. Now, it's getting even better with offline language packs.

Starting today, you can download any of the 51 language packs available and have always-on access to translation between any combination of the ones you've chosen. Combined with the offline voice transcription in Android 4.2, and the only thing really missing is text-to-speech for the translated text to turn this into the most amazing app in the world.

Here's the full change log:

What's in this version:

• Translate without a network connection with offline language packages (available on Android 2.3 and above).
• Translate vertical text in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean with your Camera.

The timing of this update is notable, too. Just a couple weeks ago, Samsung announced its new S Translate feature. While this isn't the first product that another company has introduced that Samsung has quickly rebuilt and slapped an "S" on, it's easy to imagine this one stinging Google quite a bit, as Translate has been around for years. The one advantage that S Translate had over Google's product was the ability to perform offline for up to 9 languages. Now, with 51 language packs, it's safe to say that Mountain View has removed Samsung's advantage.

Well, the main advantage anyway. The other is a huge amount of marketing power. Maybe Google should get on that whole letting-people-know-about-its-products thing?

Thanks, Punit!