The Best App For Identifying Plants – Tried & Tested
My wife, Kat, sells plants for a living; she absolutely adores plants. Whenever we walk anywhere, it invariably takes double the time because we can't go 10 metres without stopping to look at a plant. Even the dog stops tugging on his lead after a while. He knows it's pointless.
Now, I have to admit, Kat is very good at identifying plants. At least I've always assumed this to be the case since I've have no way of confirming. But this got me thinking. What a perfect opportunity for a human vs machine challenge. Not to mention, the chance to test an app for the Faculty of Apps website.
But is there an app for identifying plants? There are several apps on Apple's App Store for identifying plants. The majority use the phone's camera to identify a plant. The others simply provide pictures for manual identification. The apps range in price from Free (with IAPs) to $19.99.
The Best App - Picture This
This intuitive little app was one of only two that managed to recognise all five plants that I used in my test. Once installed, you can start identifying plants straight away, without needing to create an account. To identify a plant you either take a photo of it or import an existing photo from your phone's photo library.
Combined with identifying all the plants in my test correctly, the information provided on each plant was the most detailed of all the apps tested.
Plant identification is quick. The longest wait for the app to recognise one of the plants in my test was no more than 10 seconds. Once identified, the app provides useful information on the plant species, how to care for it and interesting historical facts.
The app's menu runs along the bottom of the screen and provides access to a map, showing the locations where you and other Picture This users have photographed plants. You will need to allow access to your phone's location information for this feature to work.
There's also a community board for sharing photos of plants, which allows comments, messages and social shares. The app automatically posts your snapped plants to the community, without asking or requiring a sign-in. It would have been nice to be asked first.
There's a library of all the plants you've previously photographed. Here you can retrieve the details and care information about each plant.
Finally, one of the standout features was the ability to make a poster from the photos of plants in your library. There are several options, and these can be downloaded and saved to the phone or shared socially. I thought this was a nice touch.
What does it cost? - Free (with IAPs)
The app is free to install. It uses ads and a premium subscription (sigh) to generate revenue. The ads were full-page and would randomly appear while using the app. That said, they were neither frequent or too intrusive and could be closed immediately.
The free version of the app provides six plant identifications. After that, you gain more identifications by either watching an advert or by sharing the app with a friend. You get one additional identification free each day.
If you decide to pay the subscription for Premium membership, it will remove the advertising. It also eliminates the limit on plant identifications. You can snap away at different plants all day long. Premium members also get access to time-lapse photos of plants blossoming and HD wallpaper themes, which may appeal to some users.
Pros & Cons
This app doesn't come with the social features of the other apps. I marked it down for this reason but it's not a show-stopper.
There's no sign-in required. Once installed, you can start photographing and identifying plants straight away. It is the only app I tested that doesn't have a limit on the number of plants you can identify for free. You can snap away to your heart's content with this little app. As with the Picture This app, it's quick to search its database and identify the plant. Depending on the type of plant, the information returned is either very detailed or limited. The app seems to pull data from a 3rd party Wiki page, which may be the reason for the disparity in results.
That's not to say the information isn't useful. In all cases, you will get the Family, Kingdom, Genus, Order and Species of the plant. It just lacks more personal details that Picture This app provides, such as: how to care for the plant, optimal locations for sun and shade, and fun facts.
Plant Detect allows you to manually add a timer that acts as a reminder to water and fertilise your plants.
Identified plants are all saved in a 'Collection' library. The only other option here is to tag favourites which can be viewed separately. Other than that, there is a search function to search for plants by their name or family, which accesses the same wiki page as mentioned above.
What does it cost? - Free (with IAP)
This app uses Ads to generate revenue, which can be removed for a one-off fee of $0.99. And you're going to want to pay to have the ads removed because they ruin this app. You will be hit with a video advertisement and associated audio on almost every click. In just doing this review I think I've had to sit through the same Blinkist ad about 20 times. ...please make it stop!
Having said that, the cost of removing the ads is absolutely minimal, making the app excellent value for money.
Pros & Cons
Best of the Rest - Plant Snap
The third contender for the crown was PlantSnap. PlantSnap appears to be the most popular plant identification app on the App Store. From its interface and the accompanying website, there's clearly been a lot of money spent on its development.
However, what immediately put me off was the two different versions of the app on the App Store. One is a free download, while the other is a 'Pro' version, costing $19.99. That seems fair enough and makes sense. But then the free version has its own in-app purchases, one of them being lifetime access for $29.99 or an annual subscription at $9.99.
So, which is it? Should I get the pro version for 19.99 or the free version and pay $29.99 for the premium features? I may have missed something between the two versions, but, either-way, it's confusing.
Having installed PlantSnap, you first have to create an account before using it (sigh). PlantSnap identified 4 out of 5 of the plants I tested. The information returned for each plant varied from very detailed to non-existent.
It's not all doom and gloom. The app is easy to use. It will save the location of your plant photos, which can then be shared. It also has a useful website that accompanies the app. There is an augmented reality option which, I must admit, I didn't test, but looks cool.
As with most apps, there is a limit on the number of free identifications you can do daily. You start off with 10, and you can either watch an ad to get 3 more or wait until tomorrow.
The Rest - Plant Scan, Plant Finder and Plant Identification
The other apps tested were Plant Scan, Plant Finder and Plant Identification. Plant Scan and Plant ID only managed to identify the two most common plants in the test. It failed to identify the other three. Plant Finder required immediate in-app purchase before being allowed to identify a plant, so I gave up immediately and deleted it.
How We Tested...
The five plants used in the test were:
The choice of plants ranged from the ubiquitous (Spider plant and Chrysanthemum), to downright unfamiliar (Aloe Aristata, Echeveria - Perle Von Nurnberg, Serissa Foetida Snow Leaves).
The type of plants in the test were also varied. The spider plant, for instance, is an indoor plant, the Chrysanthemum an outdoor, flowering plant. There were two succulents, the Aloe Aristata and Echeveria - Perle Von Nurnberg, and a shrub - theSerissa Foetida Snow Leaves.
Of the three apps that recognised the Serissa Foetida Snow Leaves, they all identified it as being called Snow Bush. I'm inclined to give them all a pass there. My wife was very impressed with the apps that were able to recognise the Echeveria - Perle Von Nurnberg, which apparently is frequently mistaken for an Echeveria - Purple Pearl.
Did you know that the typical indoor Spider Plant is one of the plants tested by NASA to help purify the air in their space stations? There are a variety of plants you can keep indoors to help reduce the toxins in the air.
If you are interested in learning more about Air Purifying plants, how to care for them and get the best results, try this short course.
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