London – a City Through Time: How To Ruin a Superb iPad App

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London a City Through Time iPad App

London – a City Through Time should be, and probably will be, a superb iPad app. Unfortunately right now it’s a terrible app – almost unusable because of some serious and seriously frustrating flaws.

The concept of the app is wonderful and the range of features is impressive:

Whether a native Londoner, moving-in or just passing through, ‘London – A City Through Time’ is the perfect companion. Probably the most advanced and complete portrait of London ever produced, it offers an indispensable reference to the 2000-year history of the world’s most complex city. It boasts over 6000 articles on the capital’s museums, statues, buildings, streets, trades, people, parks, rivers and more. Over 2000 rare prints and photographs. Thirty-five video documentaries and clips from the archives of the Pathé movie library.

Historic panoramas of the city from the 17th Century to the 19th Century – all viewable as high-definition zoomable images, plus 70 gyro-controlled 360º views of the capital’s grandest sites. There are wonderfully detailed spinable artefacts from the Museum of London. It has audio tours to the haunts and hideaways of robbers and royalty from London’s official Blue Badge guides, and a unique history by tube stop section to let you know what’s above ground when your under it. Linking everything is a synchronised time-line to help navigate with unprecedented ease through every aspect of London’s deep and amazing history.

But … it’s damn near impossible to enjoy the app in its current state. Here’s why:

When you switch away from and return to app it opens to its splash screen shown above, with prominent banners for the app’s sponsors. You can swipe up or down to get past this splash screen but it’s very annoying. In fact, in a $14 app it’s more than annoying, it’s downright stupid and seriously detracts from the overall experience with the app.

To make matters far worse, when you do swipe past the splash screen you find that the app does not remember where you left off, but instead dumps you back at the standard starting point. Bear in mind this is an app that’s full of an enormous amount of compelling content. An app you could easily spend many hours with. And every time you switch away to check email, respond to a notification, or for any other reason, and return to the app, you’ll have to wait on the splash screen loading, swipe (often more than once) to get rid of it, and then try to recall and look for the place you left off.

I love the idea of this app. Few cities in the world have histories as rich as London’s and the content of this app is a wonderful celebration of that history. For now though the app is crippled by poor execution.

I’ve contacted the developers and they say an update should be issued within the next week or so to address these issues. I hope this update arrives soon and does what it is supposed to. I’d love to do a proper review of this app when it works properly.

Here’s an App Store link for London – a City Through Time. My advice of course is to hold off on this app until it has been updated.


Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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