In my review of National Geographic’s World Atlas app for the iPhone and iPod touch, I said: “It’s also rather limiting to look at a large map on an iPhone’s rather small screen; these maps beg for a larger screen. As such, I’d have no hesitation grabbing the iPad version of this app, which also costs $1.99.” Now that I have an iPad and have grabbed the iPad version of that app, I’m happy to report that yes, National Geographic’s maps do benefit from the extra screen real estate.
We are, after all, dealing with digital versions of wall maps: other things being equal (like pixel density), a larger screen will always be better. On the iPad, you have a far better balance between detail and context: that is to say, you can see the map’s detail without having to sacrifice a view of the surrounding areas. For example, if I look at Ethiopia on the lowest zoom for the regional maps, on the iPod touch I see very little else: Eritrea and Djibouti, and bits of Somalia/Somaliland, Yemen and northern Kenya. On the iPad, I see most of eastern Africa and the southern Arabian peninsula, from Darfur to Oman, and from Cairo to the Seychelles.
The included Bing Maps viewer also benefits from the extra screen real estate. (It’s safe to say that every iPad map viewer will look better than its iPhone/iPod touch counterpart.) Like the iPhone app, it’s GPS-enabled, and it works. (Most iPad map apps I’ve run across have a GPS location button, and they all work: if they don’t, then there’s something seriously wrong with the app’s georeferencing or it’s a system-wide problem.)
The Nations feature, providing data on every country and territory on the planet, is now a pull-down menu; choosing a country highlights it on the map. It’s a nice iPad-specific touch, but the map doesn’t change its zoom, which is problematic if you’re zoomed too far in and look up a large country or vice versa.
Previously: Review: National Geographic World Atlas.