Get This App: TRVL

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When the iPad debuted two years ago, it arrived amid talk that Apple’s tablet would revitalize the publishing industry. That really hasn’t happened yet—I’ve got the bank statements to prove it—but it has provided a platform for publishers whose vision for digital content goes beyond slapping a PDF of their magazine on the App Store and claiming that it’s been optimized for the iPad. One of the best examples of a publisher using every interface trick in the iOS platform’s arsenal to deliver something truly original to iPad owners can be found in the TRVL travel magazine. Fans of travel, photography, or just wonderfully designed publications need to download this free offering straightaway.

Each issue of TRVL focuses on a unique aspect of a particular place—the bike culture in Amsterdam, for example

TRVL publishes weekly, with a new issue arriving on Thursdays. After debuting in 2010, the team behind TRVL has built up an archive of around 60 issues, all of which you can download from within the TRVL app. Each issue focuses on a specific place and on a unique aspect of that place—the cycling culture in Amsterdam; pubs in Dublin, Ireland; the Mayan influences on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. The writing is superb and the photos—which get prominent play in each issue of TRVL—take full advantage of the iPad’s screen.

If that were all that TRVL provided, it would be a decent, if not terribly remarkable, app. Where it stands out is in the kind of extras that can be built into an iPad-only magazine. Each photo in TRVL includes an information box. (The box automatically appears when reading in portrait mode; you tap an “i” button to bring it up in landscape.) Not only does the info box include a caption telling you what you’re looking at, there’s also data on how the photo was shot—the info box lists film speed, aperture, ISO, and other items of interest to photographers. Tap on a globe icon, and you’ll bring up a map, with a pinpoint showing the spot where the photo was taken.

TRVL has a growing archive of back issues; you can download the ones you want directly to your iPad from within the app.

TRVL boasts more photographer goodies. Each issue includes a Photo Report section in which one of the photographers whose work was featured provides some photo tips and strategy, as well as the story behind the story of the images in the issue. If you’re a photography buff, you could spend a lot of time thumbing through TRVL’s virtual pages for inspiration.

TRVL includes embedded videos that complement the stories included in each issue.

TRVL doesn’t just rely on photos. Issues include embedded videos that augment the writing in TRVL. A look at The City of London Financial district, for example, included a video about the London Underground as well as a very engrossing animation that depicts the building of the Tower Bridge. The beginning of every issue includes an in-app link to a Google Map of the profiled area, and you’ll find built-in slideshows in some issues as well.

Perhaps best of all, none of this—the great writing and photography, the clever design, the interactive elements—costs you a dime. TRVL is a free download, and all of its issues are freely available as well. The app does feature a $1 monthly subscription option, included so that TRVL can appear as part of iOS’s Newsstand feature. TRVL’s publisher take the money earned via subscriptions and donate to charities selected by subscribers.

Not many apps give you the chance to see unique parts of the world at no cost. TRVL does.

Developer: Picture Contact
Platforms: iPad
Price: Free

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