We just wanted to update you about recent development decisions made for the iNaturalist mobile app.
The iOS version of iNaturalist’s mobile app was introduced in 2011, and the Android version was released in 2012. Since their inception, these apps have been designed and written specifically for their respective platforms, which has led to significant differences in both design and functionality between the iOS and Android versions of the iNaturalist app.
While there are advantages to having apps written in native code and design language to iOS and Android, there are also significant downsides. In iNaturalist’s case, these include:
- Functional disparity, where some functionality is missing from one app or the other
- Inconsistency in functionality, design, and workflows, which causes confusion
- Complicated support, tutorials, and bug reporting
- Specialized development - only a few people on our team can develop for these apps, and they also have other areas of responsibility, such as computer vision development
In 2018 we released Seek by iNaturalist, which we built with a cross-platform framework called React Native that targets both iOS and Android devices, and after a lot of discussion we’ve decided to go the same route with the standard iNaturalist app.
Doing so will allow us to develop and release new features on both platforms more quickly, and give both iOS and Android users a nearly identical experience when using the iNaturalist app. We’re hoping this will also allow us to address more systemic problems with translation, accessibility, and stability that we have with both of the existing native apps. We’re also hoping this will make it easier for volunteer developers to contribute code, as the barrier to entry is a little lower for React Native. We think this puts us in the best position to support and improve the app in the long term.
What does this mean going forward?
From a user’s perspective, not too much for now. However, after one or two new functionality updates and various small additions, we won’t be developing the current native Naturalist iOS and Android apps any further, aside from fixing bugs with the available functionality.
Behind the scenes, it’ll be a lot of design and coding work on our end, and we don’t anticipate releasing the new app publicly until after the 2022 City Nature Challenge. If you want to submit mobile app feature requests you may still do so, but it’s unlikely we’ll delve into them until then.
And to be clear, this only affects the standard iNaturalist mobile apps - Seek by iNaturalist is completely separate.
Thank you so much for your continued support.