Do you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch You may have been enjoying reading digital DIVER on your device, but Gavin Parsons has been looking at some of the other diving-related apps available (never fear, Androiders, your turn will come) to sort the smart from the dismal

hspace=4 A FEW YEARS AGO, a phenomenon occurred. In a flourish of media and marketing hype, Apple launched the iPhone. Critics dismissed it as nothing more than a mobile in a fancy suit. It made calls, it had a rubbish camera, it sent text messages, and it really annoyed people with fat fingers.
Nokia, Motorola, Samsung et al dismissed the upstart, but they failed to grasp its potential.
What Apple did was to open its phone up to a million geeks and entrepreneurs, and let them loose with a big pot of creativity.
Their imaginations ran riot, and an App Store was created. Even my mother now knows what an app is, even if she’s never used one.
The app “gold rush” has now reached a sort of saturation point. Some apps are great; others terrible. Some are free; some cost a few quid.
The question is, which ones are worth trying to remember your iTunes password for, and which should be consigned to life’s trashcan.
Entering “scuba”, “dive”, “wreck”, “fish” or “shark” into the App Store is as bewildering an experience as it would be for a three-year-old to find a particular book in a library. But I’ve sifted through 28 diving apps so you don’t have to!

CALCULATORS

ISCUBA PLAN LITE
(Free, full version £2.49)


This app is a dive-table calculator. It’s a bit pointless for multi-level air divers using computers, as most of us do.
It could be handy for students who have to work out pressure groups and equivalent air depths, although that defeats the object of learning tables and nitrox theory.
However, it is easy to use and understand, comes with metric and imperial measurements and lets you plan two dives in a day.
This app comes into its own when diving nitrox, though you need the full version because it can calculate equivalent air depths and dive times instantly for any mix.
If you’re planning on a nitrox 36 mix and end up with 35, your calculations can be more accurate.
The app uses a stylish and well-designed graphic and numeric system for input, and to show you the results.
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AIR DEPTH (Free)

This is another simple calculator – you provide the depth, the oxygen or nitrogen mix and the partial pressure you want to achieve, and the calculator works out the equivalent air depth.
Sliders are used to input the mixes you want, which can be frustrating to get exactly right – as you lift your finger off the screen the slider often moves.
But once the numbers are in, this simple app is a good tool.
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INITROX (Free)

This simple nitrox calculator provides the user with equivalent air depths, along with maximum and contingency maximum depths (working on 1.4 and 1.6 P02 levels).
There’s not much to it, but the sliders are solid and don’t move as you take your finger off!
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GAMES

TAP REEF (Lite version free)

I never did get into the whole virtual pet craze.
I believe the genes needed to enjoy it are stored somewhere in the extra bit in the double X chromosome, and my Y chromosome couldn’t get enthused.
Tap Reef requires such a caring attitude.
You have a tropical-fish tank and you make the fish happy by cleaning the tank and feeding them.
I was getting on OK until I had to buy more fish, and couldn’t work out how to do it.
My Y chromosome was soon urging me to go and do something interesting, so I can’t really say I liked or disliked Tap Reef.
The graphics are good, and if you like watching C-grade celebs try to dance or wannabes try to sing, you might see Tap Reef as the next Tamagotchi.
My girlfriend loved it.
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SQUID (Lite version free)

The designers of Squid have cleverly employed the iPhone’s gyroscopic controls to create an interactive game. Gameplay is simple – as all phone games should be – and sees the user control a squid (which looks as if it’s made of cheese) as it swims through a submerged
cavern system picking up gems (as squid do).
It’s not aimed at divers, but it’s harmless fun. Or it would be if it was easy to play.
There’s a practice level where you get to grips with the controls without exploding, but in the real game, STUBS (as the squid is called) can’t touch the sides or pillars of rock. One touch and you’re dead.
After quite a few premature deaths, my interest waned. A phone game should be easy to play, so a squid that can take a few knocks would be better.
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SHARK (Lite version free)

The shark element in Shark is small, and I reckon it should have been called Diver, but that might have less popular appeal.
Shark is a quintessential phone game. The gameplay is straightforward, the progression ladder good and the game is fun, well-drawn and imaginative.
You’re a bikini-clad young lady working as a fish- and gem-collector in some tropical destination. You start by snorkelling and selling your collections at the merchants, and with the money earned you begin buying gear and equipment.
The sharks are to be avoided or, as you collect either a knife or speargun, shot! I’m one of the most conservation-minded people I know, but I can also distinguish between real life and phone games.
So while killing sharks is a terrible act in reality, doing so in pixels during a meaningless game is tolerable, especially as one has a laser on its back – see how stupid it is!
Accuracy is put aside in such games, which is good because the ascent speed, duration and number of this woman’s dives would leave any mortal in the pot in the real world. But that’s missing the point – this game is fun, and will pass a train journey pleasantly.
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DEEP DIVE (Free)
You’re a weird little diver who passes through the water column to collect treasure and top up your oxygen on the way.
Oh, and you get points for hitting the different-coloured bubbles.
The goal is to stay in the game the longest and collect as many bubbles as possible. You use the phone’s gyroscopic controls – tilt it one way or the other and the diver shifts across the screen.
Beware of the squid and jellyfish – hitting too many will end your dive early.
It’s a simple game that’s well-designed, well-drawn and a bit of fun.
Yes, it confuses oxygen with air, but you can’t have everything.
It’s more for kids, as adults may get bored quickly (I did).
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GENERAL REFERENCE
CDWS (Free)

The Chamber of Diving & Water Sports was set up to oversee dive centres along the Egyptian Red Sea.
Formerly organised by dive operators, since the Egyptian revolution it has been pulled into the Ministry of Tourism and its function is less clear.
But this app provides a simple directory of dive centres and boats licensed by the body. Each is listed by location with email address, website and phone.
There is also a search facility.
It’s a useful tool if you’re Red Sea-bound – unfussy, and works fine.
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PADI (Free)

The app of the world’s largest dive organisation enables you to locate its dive centres rapidly and fairly accurately, using your phone’s current location or a search facility.
You set the radius and it lists centres by name with address, website and phone number.
It also provides scuba news.
It’s simple, smart and very user-friendly.
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SCUBA EXAM LITE (Free, full version £2.49)

All divers must take exams to show that they understand scuba basics.
They are taught the material on which they’re examined in such a way that failure is not an option.
However, some people need a little help retaining information, which is the purpose
of this app.
The Scuba Quiz has a set of questions that it asks randomly, each with four possible answers, providing a good way for new dive students to brush up on diving theory.
The full version has more questions and more informationin its diving theory section, but both versions feature a quiz based on dive tables and a scuba-related glossary.
This app works well, doesn’t crash and is suitable particularly for new divers and perhaps those progressing into instruction.
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SIMPLY SCUBA (Free)

An iPhone link to the popular online store for scuba gear, the Simply Scuba app allows you to order dive-gear while you’re on the move and have the items delivered to your door.
Payment is through the Simply Scuba website, and you can use a Paypal account
if you don’t have cards handy.
This is a great app for checking prices and buying, so long as you have an Internet or 3G service.
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WHITBY WRECKS (Free)

Wreck-divers love nothing better than finding new places to dive, and Whitby on England’s north-east coast is a great place to find wrecks.
I found that I had dived a few of the 30 in this guide.
This is quite a simple application, with a location map (not, as the disclaimer says, a navigational map), and includes only the name of each wreck along with a short description of it.
There are no layout diagrams or even any pictures, but it’s easy to use and simple.
I would have liked to see a link from the map to the wreck entry, but then, this is a freebie.
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DIVERS BOOK (Free)

Divers Book stores all your dives, your buddies’ details, dive sites, personal details and the equipment you own. It’s the electronic version of a good dive logbook.
I have grown up with a huge array of electronic gadgets designed to keep my contacts and information in one place.
Some of these got broken and some got lost, while others were simply superseded and the data lost.
But if you are happy to store everything on your iPhone and regularly back up your phone on your computer via iTunes, this is the app to use.
While I was using it, it seemed stable and the details generally easy to enter.
However, inputting my details, it allowed me only the option of a DAN identification number, and I use another insurance provider, but that was the only niggle.
You can view your logged dives on a map, and see the actual dives on a profile chart.
The equipment section is handy, although I would have preferred another segment to add the serial numbers of my gear, making it a handy reference for insurance.
At present it indicates only the item and the manufacturer.
It’s easy to forget that the Divers Book application is free because it’s good, with plenty of detail. I would just warn you to make sure that you back up regularly.
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AQUA LIFE IMAGES (£6.99)

Unless you have the right number of images and the knowledge of a Paul Humann, it’s difficult to produce a marine-life identification guide with the range of species and detail to justify the cost.
However, this fish ID app edited by Dray van Beeck is a valiant attempt and a pretty good species guide to more commonly seen fish in the Red Sea and South-east Asia.
Each entry has its own page, a few pictures and its scientific name, size, description, habitat and a few other relevant facts.
Aqua Life Images does have a few oddities, and some mismatched names and duplicate photos make life a bit confusing if you’re being pedantic about it. For example, a European barracuda is excluded but the pike (a freshwater fish) is there in the chapter on barracuda.
The fish tagged “Arabian angelfish” is more commonly known as a yellowbar angelfish, although the Latin name and picture are correct.
And the giant dottyback has its picture duplicated on the oblique dottyback page.
Quirks aside, this app is OK as a pure guide, but what it lacks is any interactivity – it is just a book.
The pages don’t auto-rotate when you want to view the text at a larger size, and overall usability is clunky and doesn’t make use of the iPhone’s features.
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LOGBOOKS
DIVING DUDE (Free)

More than a dive log, more than a contacts book, Diving Dude is a one-stop diving community or, at least, it’s trying to be.
The latest incarnation requires a software update, the ios 5. This can be time-consuming, but that’s not the app’s fault. Once updated you get a slickly designed, easy-to-use interface that allows you to interact with diver friends around the world.
Log and add your dives, add dive buddies and, as with Facebook and Google+, view a stream of news from your dive-world friends. It even links to Facebook and Twitter.
It looks great, works well and, like other social networks, helps you to stay
in touch.
What it needs now is users. The Add Buds area has a facility that
allows the phone to look through your contacts. How it knows they like diving is beyond me, but it seems to work.
What it can’t know is whether they have a phone that allows them to interact with the Diving Dude system – or perhaps it does. The technology seems sophisticated.
I like Diving Dude.
It’s well-thought out, beautifully designed, welcoming and easy to use. I hope it does well, because it could be an invaluable dive resource if it reaches a critical mass.
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MARINE-LIFE ID
MARINE FISHES IDENTIFICATION GUIDE (£4.99)

Although this app is based on a book, it has used the interactivity of the iPhone and iPad and is great on either platform.
Marine biologist Marcelo Szpilman’s book concentrates on the southern Atlantic, specifically Brazil, but many of the species are relevant to the entire ocean, from the Canary Islands and Azores to the Caribbean and the eastern coast of the Americas.
This guide uses beautifully drawn illustrations rather than photos. The colours are bold and the guide is a joy to look at and use. Each entry comes with details of colour, characteristics, size, range, habitat, behaviour and similar species.
It was originally written for the Brazilian market, but the translation is superb.
The heart of the guide is the dictionary, which lists all species in English, Portuguese and Spanish. To identify a fish you can search by name, family and genera. This is not aimed at beginners, because you need some working knowledge of fish families to use it effectively, but starting with the visual list of families should help anyone to track down their quarry.
This imaginative app also has some light relief, including an ID game. Twelve fish are set up per page, and you have to identify them from a list of five choices. It’s a good way to learn the difference between species. A memory game provided is just a bit of fun.
If Szpilman could push this superb guide to include the entire world, he’d have me sold on buying all of them.
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REEF FISH LITE (Free)

A guide app called Reef Fish doesn’t fill me with confidence when its first entry is a reptile – a green turtle.
There is a full version, but if it’s like the Lite version it will contain minimal information with some rather average pictures.
Avoid.
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REEF FISH GUIDES LITE (Lite version free, full guides £2.99)

This lite app is a free taster for the full ID apps provided by Indigo publications, and comes with a slimmed-down selection of fish.
So I can’t comment on the full species list, but it has been well-thought out and starts with an identification guide split into families.
The description for each species is fairly basic, though it does include a scientific (Latin) name.
The page design is basic too, with little care for aesthetics, but the pictures are of good quality, and each fish is clearly identifiable.
So far there are guides for the Caribbean and Hawaiian regions.
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LEARN SHARKS (Free)

This is a quiz app for the uninitiated looking to identify sharks.
It uses images from the Internet that would appear not to take account of the photographer’s copyright.
I would steer clear.

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SHARK MATE (Free)

It features only 21 shark species and distribution details are provided only for the Americas, so this app is limited.
It uses a combination of illustrations and images that range from good to average, and includes images of dead sharks on slabs, so it has disjointed feel.
There is also no key to help the user identify an unknown species.
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SHARKS (£1.49)

At first glance this looks superb – lots of shark species listed in a well laid-out manner. But don’t let the fancy clothes fool you. This app simply takes information from Wikipedia and puts it on the screen in alphabetical order.
A fundamental flaw is that many of the sharks appear twice, because the creator hasn’t distinguished between scientific and common names. And because of its origins, the information is in no particular format, so you have to pick through each entry to glean the details you may want.
None of the images is properly credited, so it isn’t clear exactly what the copyright position is.
My advice on this one is to steer clear.
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NUDIBRANCH WIZARD (£1.49)

These colourful sea-slugs are found the world over from the warmest to the coolest waters, so an app to identify them would be welcome. This one comes close to being great, but what it fails to disclose in its name is that the initial nudibranch species all come from
the Indo-Pacific area. App Store information mentions that free updates will be available, but gives no idea as to when.
The most straightforward way of identifying a nudi with this app is the show-all, listing scientific names in alphabetical order.
Each comes with a good-quality image, but few other details, except for a few that are often misidentified.
The second method is a descriptor search that requires you to describe what your nudibranch looks like. Going on memory will probably yield nothing and it’s best to use a picture, but if your subject has a slightly different coloration from the App image (and colours can vary a lot within species) it won’t come up.
However, this is potentially a good app, and with more subjects to be added for free, it’s a winner for me.
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RED SEA FISH GUIDE (69p)


This app promises much but doesn’t really deliver.
The species list is supposed to be alphabetical, but is listed under Latin name first, which makes it hard enough. Even then, it’s not in true alphabetical order.
Each entry has a couple of videos and photographs, which look as if they have been taken off the Internet (with the copyright holder’s permission, we hope!).
The larger images do not spin or shrink to fit the iPhone screen, and the videos are basically links to YouTube.
Some of the species are wrong, and the text has been assembled from various sources and is poorly set-out and inconsistent.
The diving map is static and the Red Sea info an out-of-date Wikipedia page – disappointing.
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MARINELIFE (Free)

This app is designed for scientists working in the aggregates industry, to tell them whether what they have dredged up is rare or not.
However, for marine-life-wise divers with a good grasp of scientific names, it’s a great free guide.
It deals primarily with the seabed-dwellers that are hard to find in other guides – snails, starfish, urchins, worms, anemones, crustaceans and the odd fish – so if you know your way around Latin names it comes into its own.
Combined with a bit of Internet searching, suddenly all your photos of benthic marine life will be identifiable.
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MARINE LIFE ENCYCLOPAEDIA (69p)

Encyclopaedias used to be heavy books full of amazing facts and interesting pictures – it was an encyclopaedia that got me interested in the natural world as a child. What does the modern app equivalent have to offer today’s child
The pictures in this encyclopaedia are uninspiring and the layout dull. The information is OK, but there is far more interesting text on the Internet.
The publishers could have made this application exciting had they been bothered. The entries are disjointed – for example, the section on marine biology finishes randomly with a segment on kelp forests.
And it looks about as interesting as a school maths lesson from the 1970s, so however fascinating bits of the text might be, you just don’t want to read it.
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TIDES & WEATHER
TIDES (69p)

Tides is a US-based app that professes to have a global reach. On activation it finds your phone’s location pretty easily, and the nearest tide station used by the system.
My closest was Portland, and when the data is loaded you get a graph of high and low water.
Unfortunately, it’s not very good. It looks like a graph a three-year-old would do on an Excel spreadsheet. The times are clustered at the bottom and the tide height on the left, but they are too small to read easily.
The date at the top is also too small, and the figures run into each other. A waste of 69p.
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WORLD TIDES 2011 (£1.49 per year)

This app has a good interface, a lot of locations and a graphic representation of the tide. It also lists high and low tide times, plus sunrise and sunset.
But it seems you can’t plan too far ahead, which is annoying and, according to other users, some of the times are out.
I assumed that in December 2011 the 2012 version would be released (at a price), although there was no indication of that.
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MET OFFICE (Free)

The Met Office has a great free app that allows users to track the weather.
It provides blocks of three hours for the current and next day, and then day and night predictions for the next three days.
Details shown include sunrise and sunset, wind direction and speed, and actual weather.
It can get frustrating, because at times the weather changes so much in a day that it’s not so much a prediction as an observation. But it’s an app I use daily.
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All apps from iTunes (download it from www.apple.com). If you come across any diving-related apps, whether for Apple or Android devices, that you consider useful, informative or just downright entertaining, let us know at steve@divermag.co.uk