6th August. Birdguides iPhone App

I heard a while ago that Birdguides had a new clever iPhone app up there sleeve that would blow the socks off any of the competition. So when it was officially released yesterday I jumped in and paid the £5 Bird News Anywhere fee (for 1 month).

First impressions are a little mixed, with some good features and some lacking ones

Firstly it gives you the ability to filter your alerts, much the same as the Birdguides web access does. That way you don't have to trawl through a wedge of minor scarce to get to the good stuff.

The 'recent' feature gives you everything reported

Setting the filter is straightforward.

And you only see what you want

A 'report' feature makes it very easy to submit all your sightings, removing the *gibbering idiot from rarity reports left on answer machines. I tried this feature last night on a handful of Yellow-legged Gulls and Red-crested Pochard at Orgreave, within five minutes they had appeared.

*I hate talking to answerphones and phoning a rare in when your adrenalin is pumping is even worse. I think most panicking birders, breaking the news, probably sound like Boomhauer from King of the Hill.

The killer feature for this app is the 'nearby' feature. Using the iPhones built in GPS it selects all the records that are, as the feature states' nearby. I can imagine this being very useful particularly for holidays and day trips.

Now the downside:

No Push Notifications. With this feature Birdguides would have created an app that would have sounded the death knell for the pager - at least for those pager holders with iPhones. I can't deny that when I saw the app advertised I did think this is it, a dedicated bird news app that I can setup notifications to text me when a mega is reported. Downloading the app, which is free by the way, and paying my £5 (BNA monthly fee) I clicked on the settings icon only to find that the expected notifications setting wasn't there. I was slightly disappointed to say the least and without this feature feel that apart from the 'nearby' feature it's just an easier navigable version of the Birdguides website. I could of course subscribe to the text alert as well for another £40 per annum.

In fairness, I mentioned this to one of the Birdguides staff who suggested that push notifications will be available when Apple release iOS 5. However rumour has it that iOS5 won't run on 3G and 3GS iPhones! So if you want the ultimate news service it looks like an upgrade to an iPhone 4 will be on the cards. Also in the meantime it doesn't look like Android users will get a look in, though given the popularity of these a compatible app must surely be in the pipeline.

The photo gallery is a nice touch if you're sat on the bus and want to look at some nice pictures, but other than that I can't help that the effort put into it could have been spent elsewhere.

In conclusion.

A smart app that lets you submit sightings, instantly find what's nearby and an excellent filter system. But let down by the lack of push notifications and availability to only iPhone users. At least for the foreseeable future I'll stick with the Birdnet Twitter service. However those already subscribed to Birdguides will find this app a real bonus.

If you've managed to get this far down (it did get a bit techie a few paragraphs back) click HERE for a review of the Birdnet Twitter service I did last year.


Anonymous said...

The other downside (and to pagers etc) is that you obviously only get the news that's rang in, which in some areas now is getting very thin on the ground.

alan tilmouth said...

Mark, I've been beta testing this over the last 4 months and the other feature that I've found really useful is in the report function. If you're at a known, named site it's easy to use the intuitive drop down box of site names but if you're in the middle of nowhere you can use the GPS function to drop a pin on the map determining your exact location and send that with the report. This has the potential to improve directions to any out of the way megas and is dead easy to use (could even be done one-handed whilst consuming a pie).
The other point I'd make is that all reports whether they are used as 'news' or not get forwarded to the BTO, so there is actually a benefit to reporting sightings through the app and into birdguides beyond the 'news'

The Leicester Llama said...

I like the way it has little pictures so twitchers can easily check that they're looking at the right bird when they get there!

alan tilmouth said...

Andy, the Iris Gallery can be expanded full screen for those older twitchers who haven't been to Specsavers