£10 for an app? You'd want some serious bells and whistles for that price. Fortunately, London: A City Through Time delivers with the very first bullet point:
- Read the complete text of the London Encyclopedia, the 1000-page monster source book we nominated as our favourite non-fiction book about London ever. Even on Amazon, this will set you back almost £20, so the app is a significant saving. But then the app surpasses even this masterwork...
- 2,000 rare prints, works of art and photos: everything from Uxbridge in 13,000 BC (note: not a photo) to a panorama from the top of the Shard.
- 35 documentaries from the Pathé archive.
- 71 zoomable panoramas of the capital at various points in history. These are gyro-controlled and swivel around the viewpoint as you turn on the spot. Remarkable.
- 20 'spinnable' artefacts from the Museum of London, allowing you to get closer than in the museum itself.
- Audio tours from Blue Badge guides.
- A 'my London' section in which famous Londoners reveal their favourite parts of town.
It even has its own trailer:
This swollen warehouse of Londonalia is tied together via a timeline, or can be sifted on a map interface. After a few minutes play, you begin to feel that the £10 outlay is a genuine bargain. If there is any flaw (and not everyone will see it as such), it's that the text can feel a little sober next to the flashy imagery. The source material was written for a traditional reference book, and much of it in a different age, before most people had a home computer, let alone a touch-screen tablet. The multimedia wants to tell a story, while the text is fact quickly heaped upon fact. You might find this clash of styles charming, or you might find it a bit awkward.
Unless someone manages to integrate a flux capacitor into a tablet computer, London: A City Through Time is the final word in historical London apps. Watch out for the download size, though. At a stonking 1GB, you might need to free up some space. It's worth every penny and megabyte.
London: A City Through Time is out now for iPad, price £9.99. It's a collaboration between Pan Macmillan, Heuristic Media and the Museum of London.