New National Geographic app puts the world in your hands

If you’re a fan of maps, then you’re definitely going to want the latest iPad app from Nat Geo. The new app, entitled The World by National Geographic, provides an interactive atlas that lets you explore the planet from your easy chair, while giving you multiple zoom levels, country facts, and wonderful photos from a variety of locations.

When you launch the app for the first time, you’ll be presented with a view of the Earth from space. If you’re anything like me, your first instinct will be to spin that globe, just like you would a physical one that exists in the real world. I was delighted to find that swiping a finger across this virtual representation of the planet did just that, with the animation running very smoothly. The usual array of iOS gestures work as well, and soon you’ll find yourself intuitively pinching to zoom, tapping on points of interest, and so on.

At the start, you’ll be able to easily identify the seven continents, with red lines clearly marking the borders between countries as well. You’ll also notice a number of yellow dots sprinkled across the globe that indicate that more detailed maps are available for that region. Some of those dots will be labeled, while others won’t indicate the area they represent until you tap on them. Double tapping will zoom the view in much closer, presenting a higher resolution version of that region that offers far more detail, including individual towns and villages, roads, rivers, and much more.

Along the bottom of the screen you’ll find alternative ways of navigating the app, including a “Maps” section that shows all of the individual regional maps that are available in the software. You can also search for countries by name or continent, which will show an alphabetical listing of those nations along with a graphical representation of their flag. In this mode, when you tap on the country you wish to find, the globe will automatically spin to that destination, while simultaneously zooming in to a more detailed level. You’ll also be presented with a number of facts about the country as well with such data as population, capital, currency, and much more placed at your finger tips.As you might expect, the “Photos” option presents a number of beautiful images from a number of countries, which are once again listed in alphabetical order. Tapping on an image displays a larger, higher resolution version and includes a caption to let you know exactly what the photo is and where it was taken. While you can spend a couple of hours flipping through the photos, I would have liked to have seen even more. As a fan of National Geographic’s trademark photography, I felt the offerings were sparse at times, with many countries having just one photo or none at all.

I’ve always been someone who has been fascinated with maps and atlases, so I found myself thoroughly enjoying The World, but if you’re not a map fiend, you may find yourself growing bored rather quickly. You’ll also discover that without an Internet connection, some of the higher resolution version of the maps won’t be available to you. That said however, this app isn’t designed to be a navigational aid, but more of a reference. In other words, you won’t be heading out on your travels intending to use this for finding your way around. Instead, you’ll curl up with it on the couch when the need to explore comes over you, but you just don’t feel like heading out the door.

The World is available now in the App Store for $3.99 and is yet another high quality app from National Geographic, who has put out a steady stream of them over the past year or so. Unlike most of their apps however, this one is only available for the iPad and won’t run on the iPhone or iPod Touch.