I've been holding off on getting an iPod/Phone/Pad but finally needed
one for a project. (I got an iPod Touch.) I was totally skeptical
about these things as the screen is too small (iPod/iPhone) or the
device is impractically large (iPad). Shows what I know, I'm a
complete and total convert. The iWhatever is the field guide of the
future. It's great news that there's finally something comprehensive
There's an old rule in computers that if you want to get people to
convert from a manual/paper system to a computerized system, you have
to make the new experience better than real life. To explain why I've
been converted, I'll list some of the virtues of f iBird Explorer Pro
a field guide for North American birds. There are several full field
guides for North America available now - including Sibley (best
plates). I got iBird because they've earned a reputation for having a
comprehensive and easy to use application. Here's why I live it:
* Size and weight.
If I'm only going to be passing through the US or don't have much
birding time, I don't tend to take a book along. As it was, I took my
smaller guide rather than my better guide for this reason in the past.
* Plates and photos
iBird has standard plates (they're fine) _and_ photos for the birds. I
like plates but photos as a supplement can make all of the difference.
This is particularly true outside of Australia where little brown
birds seem to be the norm.
* Lots of text
It costs nothing to put in more data as there's no printing costs. So,
they poured a lot of detail into the app.
Better than paper - it's a book with sounds. Fantastic. This is worth
the price of admission alone.
There are more and more field guides available now, depending on your
interests. It's tropical fish, edible mushrooms, birds and mammals for
me. There are also trees, butterflies, bugs, flowering plants, etc.
out there. Really, the range of applications is impressive now and is
only getting better.
For those that don't know about these devices.
* iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad all run an operating system called iOS.
These devices and the operating system are produced by Apple.
* The iPhone has WiFi and a phone and so is likely to require a
phone/data plan. Not sure, I don't use it. The iPod Touch is like an
iPhone but has no phone - just WiFi. That's what I have. The iPad has
a much bigger screen and no phone. Applications written for an
iPhone/iPod will run on an iPad, but the screen may be magnified or
look a bit off. Apps can be written specifically for the iPad. General
purpose apps tend to be written to run correctly on all three formats.
* You get applications onto your device by syncing it with a copy of
iTunes. iTunes is free and runs on OS X and Windows. You can put
movies (in some formats), movie and such into iTunes apart from apps.
Just to make sure it's clear, you do _not_ need to buy a Mac to use an
* Applications are available from the "app store". iTunes + the App
Store is part of what makes the whole experience work. Purchase and
installation of applications is _painless_. Too painless, in a way ;-)
Don't fear, there are stacks of good, free applications apart from the
paid ones. ($30+ is actually on the expensive side for applications
for these devices.)
* The operating system and such are kind of locked down. Meaning,
there aren't a lot of ways to mess things up, you can't get viruses
and the like. (I've never even heard of a proof-of-concept attack on
iOS, let alone something in the wild.)
* Stores are localized to particular countries, but I think you can
get accounts in more than one country. Don't quote me on that. The
Morcombe app is $US 29.99 at the US App Store.
* The iPod Touch was recently updated - the new version has a built-in
camera. So, you'll probably see a few versions around if you're
* The iPad is always reported to have unbelievable battery life - as
in up to ten ours. Chances are, they entire inside of the case is a
flat battery sheet. The smaller devices do well, but they certainly
don't last ten hours of full use.
* Retail is expensive in Australia because vendors can get away with
it. (Retail competition in the US, by comparison, is a bar fight with
knives.) Given the giddy heights the $A has reached, consider buying
overseas. I think that everything Apple sells has a universal power
supply (works on any voltage) and plug adapters are only a few
dollars. Don't quote me on the power supply...Another option is to
pick one up on the duty free side of the airport in Sydney if your'e
coming back from anywhere - the prices there are pretty close to what
you find in the US (usually the cheapest place for Apple gear) and
much cheaper than at an Apple Store in Australia. If you're at the
airport and see the Apple booth, you can even use their machines to
connect to the Apple store in Australia and see how the prices
compare. They don't sell everything at the airport (no Mac Mini) but
did have iPads and such when I passed through a few months ago.
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