Around London with iOS (Part 4)

8/23/2012 9:38:40 PM

The Olympics

Although you may not have seen it mentioned much, the Olympic Games are coming to London this summer. The teeth-grindingly named London 2012: Official Join In App (free) has full details of all events, complete with a rather irritating fanfare that goes off when you do anything.

Of course, everyone else wants to jump on the Olympic bandwagon too: at the time of writing, scraping in the iAd revenue are such titles as London 2012 (free), which includes cursory information but calculates there are 4,168 days to go until the games start; not to be confused with London@2012 (69p), London_2012 (free), London-2012 (free), London 2012 Information (free) or London 2012 Schedule (69p). They’re not allowed to use the words ‘Olympic’ or ‘Games’, because those are specially protected trademarks – although saying ‘London’ and ‘2012’ in one breath is already pushing it.

Description: The Official London 2012 Join In app

The Official London 2012 Join In app

Not even Visit Stratford (free), the guide to the, er, 2012 sporting event borough, is allowed to use the words in its title. The only people granted that privilege are official sponsors: hence Coca-Cola My Olympic Game My beat Maker (free), a groove maker that builds loops ‘based on the official Coca Cola® Anthem’. If that makes you feel queasy, perhaps an ice-cold Coke would settle your stomach?

Places of interest

There are hundreds of London apps catering for every interest. Check out the rather poorly designed official Blue Plaques app (free) for a guide to who lived where, or go off-piste with Black Plaques London (69p), an altogether more eclectic and entertaining guide to oddities, mysteries and the bizarre: murders and executions feature prominently.

Of the many tourist guides, two from the London experts, Time Out, deserve a mention: Things to do: London and London Travel Guide (both free). These give essential advice that’s both relevant and hip. For a more right-of-centre view, ES: Go(free) is a ‘what’s on’ guide from the Evening Standard.

Urban art fans will appreciate the Banksy London Tour ($2.99), a guide to the locations of the artist’s 26 current surviving wall paintings, while more traditional art lovers find what they know they like in Love Art: National Gallery ($2.99), a comprehensive survey of the Trafalgar Square institution’s collection. Alternatively, Artfinder (free) is an overview of the art available in London, ordered by its proximity to you.

If you’re planning a visit to the Science Museum, go armed with James May’s Science Stories ($2.99), which uses markers at a series of exhibits in the museum to trigger May’s blokey augmented reality lecture on the history and purpose of each of the featured artefacts.

Historians can experience London as it was through Museum of London: Street-museum (free), which presents the city in old photographs and paintings with an augmented reality 3D view that displays the locations superimposed on the current view. Its companion app, Londinium (free), is an entertaining guide to Roman London, including a dimmable overlay that superimposes the Roman city over the map of London as it is today.

Description: Defend London - Streetmuseum

Defend London – Street museum

For more contemporary history, The Guardian’s Streetstories (free) covers the area around King’s Cross, the newspaper’s home territory, with a walking tour that takes in images, sounds and music.

More specific tastes are also catered for, from Haunted London (69p) to QX Gay London (free), from EastEnders Gossip (free) to Shopaholic – London (69p). It’s also worth checking out Beatles Walk – London (69p), a tour of 18 of the Fab Four’s familiar landmarks, from Abbey Road to Paul Mc-Cartney’s house – although it does struggle to find references: we’re not sure how many fans would travel to Marylebone Station just because it appeared in the opening scene of A Hard Day’s Night. Maybe Beatles fans should visit Liverpool?

And finally...

Not feeling paranoid enough? Crime Sounds (free) shows all the crimes in your current area marked by a pin on the map – and there are a lot of pins in London. It’s supposed to play an ambient soundtrack relating somehow to those crimes, but we couldn’t get that part to work, so we’re unable to report if the effect is soothing or horrifying.

We really can’t recommend the clunkily programmed Defend London ($2.23), in which you have to shoot down Nazi planes flying over a poorly rendered 3D city that’s randomly littered with an assortment of London landmarks, but you may care to check out the Lite version (free) just for the chance of shooting at Big Ben – or the Elizabeth Tower, as it may soon be known.

Finally, if you want to take a taste of London 2012 home with you, we can think of no better souvenir than iHobo (free). This app puts a young homeless person in your pocket, who you have to feed, keep warm and look after, just like a virtual pet. If you don’t care for him regularly, he’ll turn to drugs – and, of course, you can’t be there for him 24 hours a day, so a steady decline is on the cards.

Sounds obscene? That’s kind of the point: the app is made by Depaul, a leading homelessness charity, and is intended to promote its campaign by example.

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