Atlas by Collins for iPhone and iPad review

Atlas by Collins is an iPhone and iPad app and evolving data visualization tool that represents worldwide information on a section of themed globes with over 200,000 places you can discover and explore. Atlas is not only a great learning tool for individuals, but can also be used in a classroom environment or for giving presentations.

Saying that Atlas is packed with information is understatement. Because of the sheer volume of information included, not all maps are initially downloaded when you install the app. Instead, you get to choose which maps you want and download them at your leisure. Just make sure you're connected to WiFi as these are not small downloads! The maps included with Atlas are the following:

  • Satellite map: A clear satellite image of the Earth from space down to street level
  • Physical maps: 3-D maps display physical features such as oceans, mountains and deserts
  • Political maps: Current states and territories, political and economic alliances, and historical maps showing the effects of exploration, colonialism and conflict
  • Environment: The impact of human life on the natural world, and how countries compare on environmental issues such as pollution and forest loss
  • Population: Statistics about the people who inhabit the world, including population trends, migration, and birth and death rates
  • Communications: How technology connects the world, including mobile coverage, Internet usage and number of telephone lines
  • Energy: The distribution of energy resources, and patterns in energy production and consumption

Each map is initially displayed as a globe and you can rotate around it and zoom into the areas you wish to learn more about. The points of interest on the globe are indicated by an icon. When you hover over a point of interest, the text field at the top of the screen will switch to its name. To learn more about the location, tap the information button and more info will pop up.

Most globes will be color coded to represent information that is unique to that map. For example, when looking at the population distribution map, the entire globe will be one of 10 colors and the scale is displayed at the bottom of the screen so you know what each color represents. Some globes may also include special points of interest that are unique to that map.

Unfortunately, Atlas does not let you in zoom in to the maps as far as I would've thought. If you zoom in too far, the map will convert to Apple Maps and the search bar will be replaced with "Search in unavailable in Apple Maps". The zoom threshhold isn't very close and greatly affects one's experience while using Atlas. For example, in California, the closest the map will let me zoom does not show any cities between San Jose and San Fransisco. The good news is that if you know the names of cities in this region, you can search for them and Atlas will find them.

Overall, the performance of Atlas is great. With such a large amount of information included with each map, one of the first things I was concerned about was scrolling, as laggy scrolling is a major pet-peeve of mine. That good news is that Atlas performs great -- mostly. If you scroll around and zoom in/out without giving Atlas enough time to start loading loading information on a point of interest, then scrolling is perfect. I tested this on the new iPad, the iPhone 5, and the iPod touch 5. All of them did great. However, if you pause on a point of interest and Atlas starts to load it (the little curser will start spinning) and start to scroll or zoom in/out before the loading has completed (typically less than 2 seconds), then the performance will begin to lag. This is annoying, but understandable. If you're aware of it, then you can take measures to avoid it so that your experience is ruined.

The good

  • Explore colour-coded world maps showing up-to-date information on topics from mobile phone coverage to energy resources and environmental threats around the world.
  • View mapping offline down to 1:2,000,000 scale, plus zoom-in on any location down to street level when online with Apple Maps
  • Explore satellite, physical and political maps at their most detailed and up-to-date.
  • Research in-depth country profiles for every nation on Earth.
  • Discover over 200,000 cities, towns and major natural landmarks instantly through search, even when offline.
  • Keep up-to-date with new data releases so you’re always in the know about changes to our world.
  • Switch seamlessly between iPhone and iPad without losing your place.
  • Coming soon: download globes on world economy, climate, global development, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and more.
  • iPod touch 5 offers the same performance when using Atlas as the iPhone 5 and iPad

The bad

  • Although it usually runs great, if you pause over a location for a minute and then try to move while it's loading the transition will not be smooth
  • If you zoom in to far, the map will switch to Apple Maps and a search field will be replaced with "search is unavailable in Apple maps". You don't have to zoom in that close for this to happen.

The bottom line

Atlas by Collins is an awesome geography app that is packed with information. Even as someone who is typically not interested in this type of information, I find Atlas to be intriging. For me, I like to look at the broad information to get a general idea about the map and exlaim things like "wow! I knew there were a lot of people in China, but I didn't realize there was that many!" Geograpy and social studies buffs will appreciate the other detailed information including both historical and current data.

$9.99 - Download Now

Leanna Lofte

Former app and photography editor at iMore, Leanna has since moved on to other endeavors. Mother, wife, mathamagician, even though she no longer writes for iMore you can still follow her on Twitter @llofte.