Stuck on Earth is a superb new iPad app that is touted as a ‘new kind of travel app’ and ‘the ultimate app for explorers, photographers, and daydreamers’. Both might seem like lofty claims for an app to live up to – but happily once you’ve spent even two minutes with this app, you’ll see that it does and goes well beyond that.
I’m not a photographer or much of an explorer, but I am a frequent daydreamer and whenever I’ve had a chance to travel I’ve enjoyed it immensely. Although I’m a complete clod when it comes to photography, I enjoy seeing great photography – especially photos of places. And that’s what Stuck on Earth is all about.
Fittingly, Stuck on Earth – which is all about travel and photography – is the creation of one of the world’s leading travel photographers, Trey Ratcliff. This is not Trey’s first App Store entry – he’s also the creator of the excellent iPad photo effects app called 100 Cameras in1 for iPad, which I listed in my article on the best photo editing apps for iPad.
Here’s a little more about Trey and his aims for this app:
Hello, I’m Trey. I’m the guy that made this app.
I believe that one of the great purposes of life is to have as many awesome experiences as possible. To fill your life with stories — this is a wonderful goal. To this end, I created this app very much for myself. I am a travel photographer, and I run the #1 travel photography blog in the world at StuckInCustoms.com — so this is an area where I have a lot of experience.
There is a big problem that this app solves for me, personally. I have limited time, and I want the best information about where to visit and what I will see, generally, when I get there. When most people look at travel guides, they simply look for the pretty pictures and think, "I want to go THERE." This takes that experience to the next order of magnitude, and makes it all extremely practical with Trip-Planning.
And some of the app’s key features:
➤ Discover countless amazing places to visit – the best of the best.
➤ A smart algorithm chooses the best locations and photos based on a combination of crowdsourcing and curation.
➤ A wonderful map interface that allows you to zoom into any level in any country to find the best places to visit.
➤ Create trips for the future: "Florida in 2013" or "Wine escapade in France, le sigh!"
➤ All saved trips are available offline, since I know when you are on the road, connectivity can be tough.
➤ Professional voice actress, Karen Hutton, serves as your personal travel guide.
➤ A thriving community where you can submit your own geo-located photos.
When you first launch the app you’re greeted by the professional voice actress mentioned above(Karen Hutton), who asks for your name. I’m just going to refer to her as Karen from here on, a la Siri. Once you type it in, she’ll greet you by your first name and address you that way whenever she interacts with you while using the app. Then she’ll ask you to identify yourself as a Daydreamer, Explorer, Photographer, or all three.
There are various ways to browse around the app – and I imagine they may vary further depending on whether you choose to label yourself as photographer, explorer, daydreamer, or all three of them.
From the home screen you can choose to explore the world, explore spots near to you, view your saved trips, or check out any of the hundreds of Top 50 Lists. When you choose to explore the world you’re presented with a maps view that lets you search for a specific location or zoom in to any area you like. It highlights featured photo sets at each zoom level you drill down to.
— As you might expect from an app created by a photographer, the photos are fantastic. Worth the price of admission (which by the way is free, but even if it were $20 this would hold true) on their own.
— The Top 50 lists are a great resource, and just a super fun way to browse around as well. They cover things like Top 50 Airports, Top 50 Capital Cities, Top 50 Must-see Spots at Yosemite, Top 50 Lighthouses, Top 50 Apple Stores and so much more. You can also filter these by category, and the categories include architecture, entertainment, inspiration, nature, secret spots, and lots more.
— On each individual photo page there’s a handy toggle at the middle right edge of the page to toggle on and off information about the image. It shows the place name and the photographer’s name. On some pictures there’s a good description of the place shown in the photo. On others there is a lot of detail on how the shot was done, cameras and equipment used, and effects applied if any. There’s also a local map with directions for each photo. Also on each individual photo page, there’s a thumbnails slider at the bottom to move quickly through the whole set of images for that featured set.
— When you spot a photographer you like you can choose to follow them. Then you can use the Following filter when browsing to see photos from the photographers you’ve chosen to follow.
— Another fun way to cruise around the app is to tap on the big world porthole sort of button in the top left corner of the app. This will take you to a different, random area of the globe each time you tap it.
— On a more personal note, I love the fact that the app has some superb sets of photos of my hometown, Austin, Texas (where the app’s creator is also based). I’ve already used a few of these up above in this post – but here’s a couple more:
— For me, Karen is a little too friendly or over-zealous. For instance, each time you wake the iPad and land back in the app she’ll greet you with some playful banter and a suggestion for a place you may want to look at or a trip you may want to plan. Though she also offers some useful tips on use of features in the app, the banter and suggestions are a little much for me. This is not a big deal, as it’s easy to turn off sound via settings within the app.
— Response can be a little inconsistent sometimes when tapping on the featured photo sets – it seems like it sometimes needs more of a double-tap to be recognized.
Stuck on Earth is a superb app – a real pleasure to spend time with and a place you’ll be happy to be stuck in.
It’s a celebration of all the wonderful places there are to see on earth, and of photography and the process of discovering all the great places that are out there waiting to be seen.
It’s an app to keep coming back to time and again. For ideas on fun places to plan to visit. To explore just for the fun of it, even if you’re not planning a visit to some of the farther reaching places. To discover interesting new places even in your own town or surrounding areas. To paraphrase what was once said about the great city of London, if you’re bored with this app then you’re bored with the world around you.
Here’s an App Store link for Stuck on Earth; it’s a free app.