Geographical iPad/iPhone app review

Geographical Magazine, the official magazine of the Royal Geographical Society, is available as an iPad and iPhone app by  Exact Editions (http://www.exacteditions.com/exact/browse/17/402). I recently downloaded both versions for free. Upon installing  the iPad version it swooped into my Newsstand app.  A tap on its icon revealed a beautiful glacial landscape as a splash screen followed by the cover of a special issue “Scott: The Man and the Myth”.

True to the developer’s company name, an “exact digital edition” of the magazine is presented. Page navigation is the usual margin tap or swiping. A click on randomly picked article brings you to the in-app purchase screen. A one-month subscription is $4.99, a one year is $35.99. The subscription includes access to back issues through September 2006. A shared access code can be entered for an existing subscription. I purchased a 1 month subscription. The app asked me to confirm the purchase and an iTunes password prompt appeared.  Next the app asks for the use of your name, email, zip in accordance with their privacy policy.  I chose, “Don’t Allow”. User control over sharing their information is an important issue with Apple and me, I’m happy that Geographical obliged. The subscribtion was quickly activated over my Wi-Fi connection.

On my iPad (ver. 1), pages rendered in about 3 to 4 seconds depending on the content when swiping between them. Top to bottom rendering allows the user to begin reading while rest of page renders. I suspect this is less of an issue with the more capable iPad 2. Navigation was very straight forward, tap on either left or right margin to turn pages or swipe between them. Tap in the middle to bring up top and bottom navigation bars. Double tap to zoom, pinch to reduce. Tapping on the open magazine icon in the bottom navigation bars allows you to swipe through pages quickly in a cover flow like manner. Tap a page and it expands to full size. Tapping the “Issues” button spawns a  drop down menu of previous issues. Embedded hyperlinks to additional web-based content opened in mobile Safari.

After exploring the iPad app I turned to the iPhone version on my  iPhone 4s. The app proceeded to sync my subscription information to my iPhone with no issues. The same top to bottom rendering occured on the iPhone, but was much quicker largely due to the difference in processor. Obviously the magazine loses a bit of it’s visual impact on a smaller screen, but the convenience of access is handy.

I found the reading experience very good. Absolutely brilliant color photographs and the text was readable at default settings.  It is an exact copy indeed, right down to the ads. My only qualms with the app is the lack of bookmarking, highlighting or annotating text on a page. These features should be standard for  magazine apps as they (mostly) are for eBooks. This magazine is a wonderful resource for geography educators and highlight/notetaking tools are important for learning. And in my wildest dreams, being able to link articles to a note in Evernote would greatly enhance ones productivity.

If you’re looking for the same reading experience as a print magazine, Geographical Magazine’s app is for you.

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About Michael Ritter PhD
Professor of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, science textbook author, educational technology blogger, podcaster, and freelance media consultant.

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