What are the differences between iBird for iPhone and iBird HD?

This document explains the differences between iBird for the iPhone and iBird HD for the iPad. A table below shows the differences as well.

iBird for iPhone

iBird for iPhone is an electronic field guide for birders.  A powerful search engine allows you to identify birds by their attributes (size, color, family, song, etc.).  It contains a rich database of bird species that includes color illustrations, photographs, range maps, bird call recordings, identification information, habitat information and more.  iBird is also an Apple universal app, which means that even though it is an iPhone application it runs in full screen on the iPad.  iBird is the perfect field guide for birds for the iPhone, with the added convenience that it runs in full screen on the iPad.

iBird for the iPhone also has a cool Photo Center feature that lets you import your own photos to the species pages so you can show them off. It also lets you share them on FaceBook or Twitter with your own comments directly from the phone. There is also a spectrographic display of the audio bird calls so you can see lots more information in them.

iBird HD for iPad

iBird HD is an iPad application that contains all of the search features and information from iBird for iPhone. Unlike iBird for iPhone, iBird HD is a native iPad application, so it was designed with the larger screen of the iPad in mind. Therefore it supports multiple device orientations (landscape and portrait views), multiple pop-ups and windows for more information on a single screen and in general provides a better user experience on the iPad. The HD stands for High Definition and refers to the fact the illustrations are 720 pixels tall, which is a format used by large panel televisions.

iBird HD also allows you to compare birds side-by-side, this feature is not available in iBird for iPhone.  This feature allows you to list the attributes of up to three birds side-by-side so you can easily identify differences between the species.

Searching for Dummies

iBird HD also has a more powerful search function since it uses Mitch Waite Group’s SAVE algorithm which stands for Smart Attribute and Value Elimination. This search technology is covered by US Patent 7,363,309 (see Note 1 below) and was developed by myself and Robert Levy, a programmer who was only 17 years old at the time we filed for the patent! To fully appreciate the beauty of algorithm lets first review the search method used by the majority of birding apps including our own iBird for the iPhone.

The simple way to build a search engine is as a series of filters; you pick a characteristic, such as shape and the filter narrows the database to just those birds that match that shape.

You then pick a second characteristic, such as color, and the search engine filters the shape list to birds with just that color. Can you see a flaw in this approach? What if none of the birds in the list of matched of shapes in the first filter match the color you pick in the second filter? You get “no matched birds” as a result. Now this might not sound like a big deal since you can just try a different color until you find one that matches but if you do that you are guessing and guessing can take a long time. Its a messy and inefficient way to search. The problem is similar to the way Google and all search engines work today–you pick a keyword or phase to search and you either get a million links back or you get the message “sorry nothing matches your phase”.

The SAVE Method of Search

SAVE is a method that narrows down the search criteria as you select attributes of the bird you are trying to identify and never gives the “no matched birds” result.

The importance of the SAVE method is you are always guaranteed to find a result, meaning you can’t get a blank screen with “no birds matched.” For example, if you select the shape of the bird as “duck-like”, SAVE will eliminate blue from the list of primary colors, since there are no ducks with blue as a primary color. This is “value” elimination. In the iPad the color values that won’t yield results are grayed out so they can’t be tapped. The other thing the algorithm does is eliminate attributes that won’t contribute to the search results or will give a no matched answer. For example ducks are not backyard feeder birds, so if Duck is picked as a shape the Backyard Feeder attribute is eliminated on the iPad. So the SAVE feature lets you know which attributes will yield search results and which won’t. If an attribute of the bird has been eliminated, then you know that one of the attributes you previously selected may be wrong.

SAVE makes the iBird HD search feature great for those birders who want to focus on identification and is a fantastic teaching tool.

Which One Should I Buy?

If you only have an iPhone and never plan to buy a iPad there is no choice, the iPhone version is what you want. If you own an iPad or plan to buy one in the future you could buy the iPhone version first. Since it will run full screen on the iPad you will be able to see the full size illustrations and photos. However if you are a birder who wants to learn to identify like the experts iBird HD for the iPad would be a good app to buy. Also since it was designed from the ground up for the iPad it has a more sophisticated 3 window display and provides more information on the screen at one time than the smaller iPhone screen. This means less button pressing for you. If you don’t plan on taking lots of hikes were the portability of the iPhone is a benefit the iPad version would also be a good idea. We sometimes refer to iBird HD as perfect for “armchair” birders, as a replacement for  textbook and for those who really want help in learning to identify birds.

Comparing Features of iBird for iPhone to iBird HD for iPad


iBird for iPhone

iBird HD for iPad

Covers Birds of North America

Search Feature

Runs on iPhone

Full screen on iPad

Native iPad Interface

Smart Attribute and Value Elimination Search (1)

Compare Birds Grid

Species Page Features (2)

Photo Center to Import and Share Photos

Song Spectrogram Display

(1) Smart Attribute and Value Elimination Search or SAVE is a patented parametric search algorithm developed by Mitch Waite Group and Robert Levy. This method of use is covered by one or more of the following patent(s): US patent number 7,363,309 and foreign equivalents.

(2) Includes Illustrations, Photographs, Slideshow, Range Maps, Bird Call Recordings, Identification Information, Ecology Information, Similar Birds and Interesting Facts.

17 thoughts on “What are the differences between iBird for iPhone and iBird HD?

  1. Hi Mitch my name is James and I’m a recent convert to your wonderful birding app! Thanks for taking the time to describe the differences between the iPad and iPhone tailored variants. I currently own the iPhone variant and still think the search is great. Are there any chances, however, of implementing the SAVE engine onto the iPhone app or are there limitations due to copyright issues? Thanks Mitch.

    • Hi James – thanks for writing and glad to hear you are getting so much from iBird. Regarding implementing the SAVE method of search on the iPhone it’s not a copyright issue as we own the rights to the algorithm. Its the fact that when we implemented the iPhone search the processor just didn’t have enough power to give a good user experience. We did not want users to get the spinning wait cursor (as they do on some of our competitors products). However I would say that the possibility of doing that looks much better now that the iPhone 4S is out with its 4X faster processor. Of course not everyone is going to rush out and buy the 4S and so we need to make sure that older phones and touches still perform well. We may need to implement a fall back mode for those slower devices. Hope this helps you understand.

  2. My mom only has an iPad but really wants to add her own pictures to her bird reference app of choice. Is that a feature you may add to a future update to the iPad app? I think she’d mostly prefer the iPad version of your app, but the photo feature is one that would make her love your app above all others, I think.

  3. Looking for an ap that allows me to record the bird call when I encounter the bird – and then the ap identifies the bird based on that recording. Does your HD ap do that?

  4. I’ve been using iBird Explorer Plus for some time now and love it. I am getting an iPad and was wondering if I can use my existing app on both devices without repurchasing it, and I was also wondering if there was an upgrade path to iBird Pro HD, knowing it would no longer function on my phone (I know there is an upgrade to Explorer Pro). I’d like to take advantage of the new search features, but rather not repurchase an app I already purchased just for that, and would more likely just upgrade to Explorer Pro for now. Thanks, Michael.

    • Michael: all iNird apps for the iPhone are “universal” and run full screen on the iPad. So no need to repurchase anything. There is no upgrade path to HD as its a total rewrite and does things more advanced than the iPhone apps. For example it has the Smart Attribute and Value Elimination algorithm (SAVE) which makes search easier.

      • Thanks for the super fast reply on Christmas no less! I kind of figured that was the answer, but no harm in asking…..I know iNird was a typo, but it made me chuckle out loud. Our Birding Photography group (and many others I’m sure) often refers to themselves as “Bird Nerds” 🙂

        • I think iNerd would make a great app for identifying Dweebs, Duds, Creeps, and other types of Nerds particularly those with social disorders. iNerd’s search engine would help you find the type of Nerd you’ve encountered. Once you discovered you could then learn all about the Nerd, listen to it talk to itself, learn what kind of habitats its found in, the type of junk food it eats, the different plumages, and even how it reproduces (not very ofen).

  5. How is the latest version of iBird Pro HD compared to iBird Explorer 5.1?

    It says on the App Store for iBird Explorer 5.1 updated in December that there are 148 new audio clips, iCloud, Paired Illustraions, Photo Center and YouTube clips, are these features not on iBird pro HD which was last updated in October?

    I’m still not sure which one to buy :S

  6. Hi Mitch,

    Any thoughts on the new iPad in relation to ibird apps. Don’t know how much size difference there would be if you increased the app resolution.


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