Pocket Pond HD: You get what you pay for (literally)


Spoiler alert! Pocket Pond is free, and what you get for free isn’t bad. But paid apps give you a lot more, as you will discover once you launch the app. Here’s what makes it worth the time: if you aren’t sure you will like digital fish ponds like Koi Pond (which I have reviewed) or iFish Pond (which I plan to review), this will be a great way to find out.


It must be fish week. I reviewed iQuarium Tuesday, and stumbled across Pocket Pond immediately after, so I thought it seemed like an appropriate follow up. Unlike similar pond products, Pocket Pond is free so I didn’t have to explain to Carol why I went yet another five dollars over budget.

It’s hard for her to get really mad. The minute she says something about the money I spend on this blog, one of the cats we foster for Austin Siamese Rescue gets sick, she makes an appointment with our vet and we find ourselves several hundred dollars over budget because we only planned for three cats to need a visit this month. And, like Jeff on the show Rules of Engagement, I can put that in the bank for when I go over budget.

Not like I would deny care to one of our fosters. How could I? Isn’t a cat’s health worth more than money in the bank? Absolutely. Some people think Carol’s ripping them off when because ASR charges a hundred dollar adoption fee. They have no idea that by the time we put Precious into their loving arms we have probably spent three to five hundred nursing the cats through the illnesses they were exposed to in the animal shelter that don’t develop into symptoms until we bring them home.

No wonder I leap at the opportunity to review a free app.

Free apps are a mixed bag. Some of them are delightful, even more aren’t worth the time it takes to download and open, and most are free to download only. Once you launch them, you discover that the cool parts come with a price.

Even the apps with charges come in two flavors. There are the “lite” apps which tell you up front are for evaluation only. If you like what you see, you have to pay for the real app. Others pretend to be a full blown app only to hit you with the charges once you want to actually do something.

Pocket Pond HD pretends to be a really cool app with most of the features of a paid version. It isn’t presented as an evaluation version, but as a full-featured fish tank with the paid app available for players who want to catch and kill the koi as well. Once you open Pocket Pond, however, it becomes painfully obvious that you can either pay three dollars for the other app (iFish Pond) or pay four dollars for the extra features for this one (minus the fishing, so you can see where the math will lead you).

This doesn’t mean Pocket Pond HD is a rip off. It’s beautiful, has some decent features and it is, after all, free. If you never played with a koi pond and don’t know if you want to, you will know for sure about three minutes after launch.

Let’s start with what’s good about the app: Pocket Pond HD makes excellent use of the iPad’s HD screen. The fish are gorgeous and the animation totally realistic. The images are much brighter than the fish in Koi Pond, which is an excellent app. As with Koi Pond, when you touch the screen the water ripples and the fish swim away, but the effects are crisper.

The water and ambient sounds are pretty good too. The app uses real samples instead of fake digital sounds. So on the realism scale, I have to say Pocket Pond HD is first rate.

The animation is bright and the image crystal clear.

The app also offers limited customization options. You can add floating palm fronds, different colored fish and even sand dollars (albeit teeny tiny barely noticeable once they’re in the water sand dollars).

Pocket Pond HD offers limited customization features.

The additional features are just enough to give you a taste for more. It’s when you click on the barely visible information icon in one corner that you discover your real customization options. You can buy two different customization options for two dollars each, or you can buy ththree dollar upgrade to iFish Pond and presumably get all of those upgrade packages that way.

I stress presumably because I won’t know for sure until I download iFish Pond to review. But you will definitely get to catch the koi with a rod and reel. And you may get the thunderstorm that never seems to turn on.

It doesn’t take long to find all the paid customization options.

I didn’t find any reason to dislike Pocket Pond HD. It seems stable, but I don’t love fish enough to play with them for the hour or two at a time that it will take to cause an app to crash. Nor was I willing to pay to download one of the packages to see if that would cause a crash (which does happen with many of these apps). I was able to successfully move all of the optional items into the pond without problem and that’s really all you need to do.

As I said in the spoiler, Pocket Pond HD is really an app to discover whether or not you will really want to pay for a good fish pond. If you discover that fish bore you, you can delete it and know that your lesson was learned. If you love it, you will probably want to buy a better one.

Jenny Manytoes rates Pocket Pond HD

Jenny Manytoes would take a nap next to Pocket Pond HD. It’s a good starter app, kind of like a goldfish is a good starter fish. But if you discover that you’re hooked, you’ll want to delete it and make room for something you pay for.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System


Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

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About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day.
This entry was posted in 3 Stars - nap, Entertainment, Free, iPad and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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