Forest Xplorer is the Forestry Commission for England’s free mobile app, for Android and iPhone. The app, which you can download today, is a great little companion app to have with you whether you enjoy a walk in the forest or enjoy camping in the forest.
The app is one of the best guides we’ve seen in the “forest sector”, it has a handy events finder and one of the best features we think is the UK tree identifier utility (more about this later).
The app itself is quite large at almost 30mb, this means you will need a wifi to download the app. Once you have the app though you can not only use the guide, the events and facilities finder and tree identifier but you can also download trail maps. The trail maps can be downloaded via 3G networks or wifi, each file is a PDF which your Android or iPhone will easily be able to open later without a connection.
As mentioned above the Forest Xplorer app offers a UK common tree identifier. You take a picture of the bark, leaf or seed and the app will tell you what the tree is. You can see some great 3d illustrations of the trees and double check it’s correct with the photo gallery the app includes. It’s such a good little feature it’s won awards!
Forest Xplorer was launched last year and was a big success with The Sunday Times listing it amongst it’s top 500 mobile apps of 2011. Since then the app has been updated to include finding places and information for forest camping, holiday cabins in the forest and the local event finder.
What do we think of the app?
Having done a little testing with the app there are a few areas we think could be improved. We tested the app using 2 android phones. The phones were running Android OS’ Ice Cream Sandwich and Gingerbread, as such we got a decent insight into how the app performs.
The first problem was of course the size of the app, both in download and use. Older smart phones without great processors, such as the Gingerbread based phone struggled with running the app. It opened and felt sluggish, especially in comparison to running it on a Galaxy S2 running ICS. We gather it’s the same story with newer vs older iphones, it’s always the case with new apps in fairness though.
The app itself ran well and the only snagging point was downloading maps. It seems they are big enough to take forever to download using a non 3G signal, 30 seconds is on 3G about 5 mins on non-3G. That is kind of to be expected though, but something worth bearing in mind as many forest don’t have 3G and probably don’t have any network at all. Basically learn our lesson of download the maps before setting out.
The tree identifier worked fairly well, we couldn’t trip it up and really enjoyed the 3d models on the S2, though again the older phone felt more than a big sluggish. Other than that we couldn’t fault it, identifying conifer, spruce and pine trees amongst others in the Kielder Forest.
Overall the app is well worth trying out, a huge well done to the forestry commission. Even if you only go for a walk in the forest once this year, because you tried this app, I think you will agree with us that it was worth it.
Where can you get Forest Xplorer?
Forest Xplorer is available for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The icons below link directly to the mobile download page for the app. Enjoy.