I have to start with a confession. I think the iPhone display (yes even the 4 inch iPhone 5 display) is too small for graphically rich magazines. With that said, I was curious about all the fuss my colleagues were making over the newly released National Geographic Magazine for both iPad AND iPhone. I decided to take a look and buy one issue (you download the App for free and either buy single issues or a subscription if you don’t already have one). I must say that I found that they really did a good job making it easy to enjoy the text of the articles as well as the photos. They didn’t fall into the common “design hole”! In stead of trying to take a large magazine page and size it down to a smaller iPhone size, they redesigned the experience completely. When I tapped to read the “Sailing the Dunes” article, there was ONE picture at the top and the rest was simply the text of the article. However, this is after all National Geographic. They are known for beautiful imagery. At this point I noticed at the very top right of the interface and there are two buttons “READ” and “LOOK”. When you’re ready to look at all the pretty sand dune pics you tap “LOOK” and you get several slideshows to choose from. Brilliant! Don’t try to squeeze a normal size magazine page down and make a pinching, zooming, scrolling nightmare. Instead rethink the experience and medium in hand. Also keep in mind that this is a Universal App. So if you do have an iPad, you’ll enjoy it in all the iPad’s display size glory.
Great, but not perfect
The one thing that I do have to ding National Geographic on was that this App is not sized for the 4″ iPhone 5 screen yet. It would be even nicer if it filled my screen from top to bottom. The only other thing I’d like to see is at least one “free” issue. Get people hooked with the free sample!
As a frequent international traveler I depend on my iPhone at times to help with translations. I’ve reviewed a few here including ones that can translate in real-time. Worldictionary is one of those kinds of apps. It uses the camera on your iOS device as a live scanner to look at and translate words in real-time as you point at them. However, unlike other Apps I’ve tried, this one gives you the choice of live translations one word at a time or the ability recognize sentences/paragraphs in batch by taking a picture or using a picture on your Camera Roll. You can also choose between different translation engines and different languages (most at no additional cost). As with all translators someone that speaks the native language would be quick to point out that the translation may not be quite how they would say it. However, if I had a native translator standing next to me then I wouldn’t need the App
There is a potential problem though with the Sentence mode and that is not only does it have to do translation, but it first has to do OCR (optical character recognition) this means that it has to be able to read all the characters and if you have a bad, dark picture, the translation will suffer as a result. Of course this is true for the Live translation too, but at least with the live translation you’re seeing it in real-time and therefore can adjust the angle or the postion of the camera to get better results. Another nice benefit is that this App can pronounce the word/sentence for you.
Great, but it could be better
The first area for potential improvement is by making this App native to the iPhone 5 screen. This is going to be an ongoing ding for any reviews of NEW or updated Apps I do from here on out. The most recent update (as of this review) had bug fixes for iOS 6, but not updated for the iPhone 5/4 inch display size. The other thing I’d like to see is a native iPad version. It would be great to see this on the bigger screen of an iPad. Lastly it would be nice to be able to translate a line at a time in addition to a word at a time.
If you travel or work with text in other languages, this App would make a nice addition to your arsenal.