The World by National Geographic
Compatible with iPad.
Requires iOS 3.2 or later
Age Rating: 4+
I’ve always enjoyed poring over a good map. Whether it’s thumbing through a road atlas, spinning around a globe or sticking pushpins into a wall map to designate where I’ve been and where I want to go, I can find countless ways to amuse myself with a well-designed map. So if there’s an app that can bring that experience to the iPad and tell me a little more about the world around me, I’m eager to give it a try.
National Geographic Society offers a pair of iPad-optimised atlas apps – World Atlas HD and The World by National Geographic but we will be looking at the latter. Both apps deliver the world to your tablet, with an easy-to-control interface and a decent amount of data. Unfortunately, neither app taps into the full capabilities of iOS and both left me wanting more.
The World by National Geographic takes a visual approach to the planet. The World launches to a globe that you can rotate and spin in any direction. Here, however, the globe is peppered with yellow dots, each one representing a specific region. Tap on one of those dots – Western Canada, say or South Central Asia and the app will zoom in on that region. Tapping the label produces a more detailed map of the region you want to examine. (A Maps tab, with regional maps organised by continent, also lets you summon up these detailed views.)
The World also includes the nation factboxes found in World Atlas HD, but puts its own twist on the feature. Call up information on Belise, for example and The World lists population, language, GDP and other data; it also includes a brief description of the country. But there’s a photos tab as well, offering National Geographic images.
The photos look great on the iPad’s screen, but there’s something of a missed opportunity here. If I’m looking at the photo of Mont Blanc that’s included in the France factbox, I’d like to see some indication on the attached map of where that photo was taken. The World doesn’t do that and while it certainly isn’t a deal-breaker for the app, it’s one of those things that would have made The World so much more valuable to users.
That complaint aside, The World by National Geographic is a decent mobile atlas, if not a standout one. Students interested in geography – and anyone looking for a different view of the world – will find some value in National Geographic’s offering.