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Arches National Park iPhone App

March 22, 2010

UPDATE (July 2010): In hindsight I suppose this is predictable and I should have known better, but because of this post I’ve been inundated with e-mails from other app developers asking me to review and/or write a post promoting their product. While I think such information could be useful for many of my readers I do not want this site to become a product review site. In other words, this post was the first and last post of it’s kind — so, if you are a developer please do not e-mail me about writing a review. Thanks!

Several weeks ago the folks at Tasa Graphic Arts, Inc. asked me if I’d take a look at their Arches National Park iPhone app and blog about it — whether it was positive or negative. I absolutely love my iPhone and am always on the lookout for interesting applications, especially ones related to geology, so I agreed to take a look at it.

I already have Tasa’s geotimescale app, which I like very much for its simplicity and utility as a quick reference so I was interested to see how this app, one that is specific to a region, was done. Overall, this is a great app. Sure, I would’ve liked to test this app while actually visiting Arches Nat’l Park but, alas, I couldn’t get out there for a weekend trip :)

I’ve included a couple screenshots below that I grabbed from the iTunes page for this app. As you can see at the bottom of the screenshot, the app is divided into four sections — info, geology, tour, and park map.

screenshots of Tasa 'Arches National Park' iPhone app (credit: itunes.apple.com)

The user can take a virtual tour of the geologic features of the Park by choosing a location or topic and hit ‘play’, which will go through a series of images with some audio narration. The ‘tour’ and the ‘park map’ are the best parts of the app in my opinion. The tour includes seven regions and >30 specific locations. But the best part is that the ‘map’ section lets you access this information by clicking on a part of a map (as seen in the left image in the screenshot below).

screenshots of Tasa 'Arches National Park' iPhone app (credit: itunes.apple.com)

Is this app perfect? No, of course not — no mobile app is. One thing that I’d like to see improved in future versions is a better interface for the geologic map. Ideally, it would be nice to be able to zoom in or out and have the resolution of the mapped geology change*. I’m not saying this would be easy to implement — I’m sure this is a significant challenge — I’m simply communicating what it is I would like to see improved.

Finally, some may balk at the price of the app — at time of this writing it’s currently listed at $5.99. Hey, I like free (or nearly free) apps as much as the next person but, at the same time, if paying a bit more (and still quite modest) leads to better products then I’m willing to do it. There is easily $6 worth of information in this app.

In summary, I definitely recommend this app for anyone who is planning a trip to Arches soon. While I don’t think this app would be able to replace a good collection of guidebooks and old-fashioned hard-copy maps, it would make a great addition to those resources.

* this also goes for the Geograph series of U.S. state geologic map iPhone apps from Integrity Logic (I have the California one)

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. @cbdawson permalink
    March 22, 2010 10:48 am

    I’ve been thinking about this type of app on trips this last year. Are the maps and info downloaded so that they reside on your phone, or do they require a live connection? The download versus live connection is the big difference in real usability in my experience in trying out various apps in the National Parks.

    It would be handy to have two components 1) static info (maps, etc.) that is downloaded and resides on your phone so that you can access it anytime without cell/wifi service and 2) “live” or current info that requires a connection or that you can set to automatically updates whenever a connection is available (weather forecast, program schedule, park’s twitter stream, etc.) Hopefully down the line we’ll see more park apps that integrate with the park online info (the NPS web site, flickr, youtube, etc.) and recreation.gov.

  2. March 22, 2010 10:55 am

    “Are the maps and info downloaded so that they reside on your phone, or do they require a live connection?”

    Good question, I didn’t think of that. Just now I put my iPhone in ‘airplane mode’ (which turns off cell and wi-fi) and the app was still able to access everything as far as I could tell.

    One thing about the maps in this app — they are good enough to see where all the other locations of the ‘tour’ are, pretty good for context. But I would most definitely use a hard-copy map for navigating and such if I were there.

  3. Mick permalink
    March 23, 2010 12:52 pm

    Well, the maps better be static. I live in Colorado and make a trip or two out to the Moab/Arches/Canyonlands area. I must say that the cell phone coverage out there is spotty at best. If I remember correctly, cell phone coverage (ATT) ended about a mile from the visitor center. Regardless, that part of the world is an amazing outdoor laboratory for geology research including my specialty in sequence stratigraphy.

  4. Julien permalink
    March 25, 2010 6:20 pm

    Mick, as far as I remember I could have a cell phone coverage in most of the Arches park, and in the other parks in the area (unless you go deep into the green river) but it may depends of your brand ?
    Such I-phone apps will be great when they will provide true usefull geo maps with GIS (similar to the very expensive but great new ArcGis – Pads).
    This area is just one of my preferate place in the world – landscapes, geology (particularly sedimentology), dinosaurs & wild. I’m now living in Australia, it’s awesome, but I still think that there is too much emphasis on this country while you can find similar – or even more crazy places in the Utah/Colorado/Arizona parks.

  5. April 7, 2010 12:07 pm

    We have a similar app available to look at. It includes video for the points of interest, a detailed map, photo galleries and much more including trip planners. Its less than this Archs app, and offers some different features. You can check it out at http://www.geoquesttech.com.

  6. April 8, 2010 2:00 pm

    The GeoQuest apps are nice, general travel guides to Zion and Bryce. And, they do mention the geology of the Colorado Plateau, but the Tasa Geology app for Arches NP provides an extensive description of the geology of the park with illustrations, animations, photos, and narration. Deborah Ragland does a terrific job of explaining the geology in terms that most can understand.

    If you want to understand the geology of Arches NP, there is no comparable app for that. Considering the extensive content, the Arches app is well worth the price (a dollar more than a GeoQuest app).

    I look forward to more apps from Tasa on the geology of Zion, Bryce, and the Grand Canyon.

    And yes, the app is completely self contained and works without any internet connection.

    For more reviews of education apps, visit my site apps4education.com

  7. July 8, 2010 5:05 pm

    Big Escapes creates educational and entertaining Apps with National Parks as well. Yosemite Falls just launched into the iPhone store and is a very deep guide to the 2 miles around Yosemite Falls given by NPS Rangers Bob Roney and Vicki Mates. 130 megs of content fully self contained. If you are headed to Yosemite check it out. http://bit.ly/axCzlX

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