The Chinese character dictionary (with Cantonese pronunciations) provided by the Chinese University of Hong Kong is available on Android devices as a free app. (The name is 粵音字庫; the publisher is Superlubu. An iPhone version may also exist, but I’m not enough of a hipster to be able to find out easily.)
What I liked
- It has a simple interface, and even on a the smallest smartphone, entries are generally displayed on a single screen.
- There is always a brief English definition at the bottom.
- It’s easy to find 同音字 (characters with the same pronunciations), which helps with mentally grouping similar characters together.
- It gives a selection of compounds for each character you look up.
- Variant pronunciations are indicated as such.
- Since most smartphones and tablet allow handwriting-based input, you don’t have to know how to type a character before you can look it up.
- (Most importantly) you can hear someone read out each character very slowly and clearly.
What could be improved
- (Most annoyingly) you have to be connected to the Internet to use the app. Not everyone has a smartphone or tablet with an 3G.
- You can’t save a list of characters you’ve looked up for later reference.
- Even common oral Cantonese characters (such as 啱 or 哋) are not included.
- Although pinyin is provided, you can’t listen to the Mandarin pronunciation. (A small gripe for a Cantonese app, but it wouldn’t hurt to have Mandarin sounds as well.)
Since it’s free, there’s no reason for Cantonese learners not to download this app. Hopefully the publisher might find the time to make some small improvements in the future. Here’s hoping!