SCUBA-DIVING HOLDS so many pleasurable moments, even outside of the dive itself. I’m thinking of the excitement and anticipation on the way to the dive-site; warming up in the sun during the surface interval; the excited banter of divers gently mocking each other as they gear up; and the thrill at reviewing your photos and finding a keeper!
I’ve also always delighted in grabbing the nearest fish-identification book to find what we’ve seen so far, and making bold plans to seek out the most exotic-looking species on the next dive!
The thing is, there’s usually only one copy of the book around, and, if I selfishly keep it to myself, I run the risk of becoming the subject of one of Simon Pridmore’s scuba-etiquette columns!
Bringing my own copy is a potential solution, but with the draconian weight limits on flights I’m loth to sacrifice dive- and camera-gear for an ID book.
The solution in today’s day and age should be a good fish ID app that can easily be accessed the world over. The question is, which one to get?
Scoring the 7 Apps
I have reviewed each contender in the following selection based on five criteria, each scored out of five for a possible 25 points.
Coverage: In an ideal world, I’d like one app that covers all possible dive-locations and all the fish species therein. In fact, while I’m being greedy, I’d take all marine species, full stop. If I had to sacrifice one aspect, I’d rather have a comprehensive species list for one given location than a small selection of fish from a large number of locations. Most importantly, if I’m looking for a mystery fish, what are my chances of finding an exact match using that particular app?
Content: How much information does the app provide on a given fish species? I would like to know the key characteristics to help with identification. Information regarding distribution and habitat would also be nice. The cherry on top would be insight into behaviour and engaging facts about the fish. Does the app provide any information above and beyond the above?
Interface: Is the app easy to use, or does it leave me feeling like a dinosaur having its first go on an iPad? Does it look and feel good? Beyond the fish facts, is it pleasurable to use?
Image Quality: “It’s an ID shot” are words to make most underwater photographers cringe but, in the right circumstances, a good fish ID shot is a thing to be relished! I’m looking for profile photos that show the full length and body of the fish, a realistic representation of its colour, with enough clarity to allow me to distinguish the subtle differences between species, and ideally showing the fish in its normal habitat.
Value: Quite simply, how does the price measure up with the content?