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Review Collins Bird Guide app for Android

 
 

This page contains 3 reader comments. Click here to view (latest Thu 15/06/17 11:06).

We're currently nearing the third anniversary of Collins Bird Guide's debut as a smartphone application, when it re-lived the instant success of its first print run in 1999. It has been a fundamental part of the Apple birder's artillery ever since, but the developer's nightmare that is cross-platform coding has left Android users empty-handed. However, NatureGuides has been cultivating a solution all the while and the company's handiwork is now available for download.

Anyone who has seen the iOS version before will be greeted by a broadly familiar experience on opening the app, with a few minor and mostly cosmetic variations. As on iPhones and iPads, the app's three levels enable intuitive browsing, starting with families. These are essentially presented in taxonomic order but sometimes pragmatic rather than strictly scientific, for instance falcons being grouped with Accipitriformes. The middle tier previews multiple species plates at once, each of which can be tapped to call up a full-sized beautiful Collins plate and the accompanying lucid text which gives general, identification and voice descriptions as in the printed guide.

Every relevant species also has a coloured Western Palearctic distribution map and it is most satisfying to be able to zoom in on these. Most species have at least one, and up to five, generally good voice recordings available to play upon tapping a speaker icon. Here, the Android app has the edge over the Apple version in that all recordings are labelled according to vocalisation type. Maps from the BTO's Bird Atlas 2007–11 are again available as a £1.49 add-on, extending the app's interest and reference value but, unlike its previous incarnation, it is a nuisance that switching between 'breeding' and 'winter' maps refreshes the entire image, as does toggling plate annotations on or off.

Among the nifty functions shared with the Apple version include the ability to create multiple lists, potentially a way to keep daily birding records or create a British or Western Palearctic list. Additions can easily be made while viewing a species profile or editing a list, enabling date, time, location and further notes to be added to each record. However, some may find off-putting the inability to add any of the unillustrated species dumped in the 'vagrants, accidentals and introduced' category. The first of these points is also a niggle with the Apple version, on which you can, however, list species without extra details being forced. It's also a shame that the map used for fixing a location cannot be switched to satellite view.

Also inherited from the iOS app, the 'compare' function is a slick and potentially handy way of quickly achieving an identification, allowing up to six plumages to be picked from the plates and viewed side-by-side. Beginners may also appreciate the function to filter species according to location, time of year, habitat and structural and plumage criteria but the annoying inability to search by scientific name, unless this is set as the primary 'species language', is unique to the Android release.

A minor teething problem with this new version of the app is that around a dozen images will not appear in 'compare' mode but the lack of the incredible video library, covering all illustrated species on iOS, is more disappointing. However, NatureGuides are on the case and Android users are assured that the clips are something to look forward to fairly soon, while the missing images will be sorted out. The app is sizable, at 700MB, but does not need a data connection to run. As well as being an invaluable tool in the field and as a go-to reference, the harmony struck by the smooth interface and long-celebrated content makes the Collins Bird Guide app a continuing marvel in this eagerly anticipated Android release. At £12.99, it represents incredible value for a weightless and unrivalled library of over 700 Western Palearctic species.

Screenshots

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The information in this article was believed correct at the time of writing. BirdGuides accepts no responsibility for errors, or for any consequences of acting on information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily shared by BirdGuides Ltd.

hide section Reader comments (3)

#1
Hmmm, interesting. I suspect this review was by an iPhone user... could be wrong. But... no mention that the App is far cheaper on Android, the maps are actually 59p on Android (at least for me), not £1.49, and the issues with toggling between maps, and plate annotations on or off do not exist on my phone, unless at least I'm worried about something that take the same time as it takes me to blink!
   Pete Morris, 14/06/17 21:45Report inappropriate post Report 
#2
Hi Pete, I am an iPhone user but reviewed the app on an Android phone (a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 running on Android 6.0.1). We were advised that the price of the BTO maps would simultaneously increase for Android devices and fall on iOS to meet at £1.49 by the time the review was published but your experience suggests that this did not happen. However, we can expect this to come into effect shortly. As for the toggling 'issue', which was more a minor niggle, I found that switching annotations on/off and toggling from the 'breeding' to 'wintering' maps resulted in the entire image refreshing. This is a much smoother action on iOS devices that I have used, maintaining the level and position of zoom, allowing for easy comparision of the maps and seamless viewing of the plates. As for the price, it seems my final sentence was lost while the piece was processed; indeed, at £12.99 v. £17.99, the Android release is cheaper than you'll find on iPhone devices.
   David Campbell (admin), 15/06/17 10:47
#3
The missing final sentence mentioning the price of the app has just been reinserted into David's review, updated to reflect the price shown on Google Play this morning (Thursday 15th June 2017).
   Dominic Mitchell (admin), 15/06/17 11:06

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