Here’s a quick self-test…how far is your Mobile Device from you right now? If you are like most divers, you are never far from your Smart Phone, Tablet or laptop computer. The meteoric rise in the use of mobile devices has generated an ever-increasing selection of Mobile Application Software, or Apps for short, for your mobile device.
Apps first started appearing in 2008 as a productivity aid. First introduced by the owners of mobile operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Mac iOS and Linux (Android), the number of Apps available has grown from less than 800 in 2008 to over 1.5 Million for Apple devices alone in just over 6 years! Users of mobile devices can readily download Apps from many different sources, including Apple’s App Store, Microsoft Windows Store, Google Play, Amazon Appstore and BlackBerry App World.
Apps are computer programs that run on your mobile device. While some are free, many require a small fee to download. A user generally downloads an App directly to the device (phone, tablet, laptop) they intend to use it on, but many can be downloaded to the user’s PC for use there, or on shared devices.
Most of us are never too far from our smartphone or tablet, and there are a number of great Apps specifically designed for divers. Apps that help you plan a SCUBA dive range from basic renditions of the “dive tables” to highly sophisticated dive profile planning apps for technical divers. They can track and log all your dives, conditions, locations with maps and photos, weather, and a myriad of other details.
Divers can also take advantage of a number of new Apps that can improve a diver’s breath hold ability (for Freedivers), help with training, log dives and data and even occupy a diver’s surface interval with fun games and informative Apps linking to webpages for popular diving magazines and organizations.
In evaluating Apps, we look at four areas; Price, Functionality, Relevance, and Graphics/Appearance. These results were assigned ratings from 1-10, and the average is the score.
Apps can range in price from “Free” to upwards of $100 for technical Apps for pilots, boat captains, etc. But the majority of Apps are just a few dollars. Free Apps typically have an ‘Upgrade” link you can pay for that gives the user additional functionality like music, voice-overs, Ad-free use, and the ability to link to your social media like Twitter or Facebook. The nominal fees charges help pay the App developer and publisher. So, a “Free” App would get the best rating, right? We felt it was more important to rate the content of the “Free” version versus any “For Pay” upgrade. That gives a better idea of what could be available for a paying user. Since none of the Apps we evaluated cost more than $2.99, it’s not likely to break the bank for the average user. So, for Apps that have a “Free” and a “For Pay” version, the “Price” Category was weighed to reflect value for price and which had the most features available to the user. If there is only a “For Pay” version, then it was rated based on overall value in comparison to other only “For Pay” Apps. If there is only a Free Version, then it was weighted the same as a $2.99 version.
How easy is the App to download and use? Is it available on a wide range of mobile devices, or only on a single platform? Can the average diver (giving the reviewers the benefit of the doubt) figure out how to navigate the App, move through different screens or tools with ease? All of the Apps reviewed are available on the iOS platform for Apple and Apple-compatible devices. There will be a subsequent review of Apps optimized for use on Android devices.
Is the App relevant to the target audience? If the App is supposed to be for Apnea competitors, does it have a bunch of functions or information not relevant to it’s audience? Is it useable for the intended purpose? If it was a “training” App, does it actually work to improve or aid a user in their training regimen? If it is a game, is it fun and engaging? This is the most subjective area in many respects, so the reviewers used each App in “real world” tests for two weeks. This was long enough to give a solid indication of training efficacy and/or usefulness.
Does the App look like something a five year old could have drawn up at the breakfast table, or is it a shining example of the best computer graphics available today? Is it designed in a typeface that is easy to read, is it laid out in a user-friendly way, allowing for quick transitions and ease in finding information?
Apps are optimized to work best on a particular iOS platform and delivery device. All of the Apps evaluated were designed to be used on the Apple iPhone 5. So, after we downloaded all of the Apps to an Apple iPhone 5, we spend three weeks playing, training, reading and exploring these Apps.