These days £6.99 is a lot to pay for an iPhone or iPad app, even if it is a reference tool. However, first impressions of Atlas by Collins are good, especially because the app looks so beautiful.
It opens with the globe of the earth spinning gently in space. You can swipe across it to rotate it back and forth and use the pinch gesture to zoom in on a specific region or location. Once you've picked an area you want to explore you can tap on the Info button to find out more. There's also a location bar at the top of the screen that you can tap on to search for a place, feature or country anywhere on the planet.
What's more, you can switch between different globes to view different types of information. The default globe is based around satellite imagery, but there's a physical one that majors on stuff like mountains, lakes and deserts, and a political one that shows political boundaries and economic data.
Throughout the app the information is presented in a beautiful and elegant way. There are neat charts, lots of interesting text and some beautiful photography, especially the landscape shots.
The app is huge, though, needing 620MB of space to install, and that's with just one globe installed. If you want to install the political or physical globes you're looking at an awful lot of storage space and may need to delete some other apps or movies to make room for it - you see why we complain about a lack of expandable storage on phones now.
We noticed a few oddities as well. For example, in the political atlas although the boundary between the republic and north of Ireland is shown, the boundaries between England, Wales and Scotland aren’t plotted. Also, as you zoom in on the globes there's a jarring jump between the integrated mapping imagery and the switch to Google Maps for the closer up view. It also crashed a few times while we were testing it.
More troubling is that often when you zoom in on a place and hit the info button there's very little information provided. For example, the entry for the Caspian Sea simply gives its latitude and longitude and some alternative names for it. The rest of the description simply reads 'a lake', which is almost comical, especially in an app that costs £6.99. Sadly it's a similar story with many cities and other features around the world.
Atlas by Collins is beautifully presented and does have a fair amount of content. However, it's also annoyingly lacking in certain areas, suffers from some glitches and takes up a massive amount of storage space.