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Recce: App of the day
What is it?
A free, whizzy new mapping app for iOS that shows London from above with 3D buildings. Perfect for Olympic tourists looking for landmarks, or natives keen for a new perspective on their city.
The visuals: smooth and sharp, they're the latest hint at the way mapping is evolving on smartphones and tablets. That, and the fact that it works offline, so won't burn through your data allowance.
iPhone / iPad - Free
3D maps are big news in Silicon Valley - and beyond - thanks to Apple and Google both investing heavily in the idea. Which, let it not be forgotten, Nokia has been doing for a while too.
This isn't just about big companies, though. British developer eeGeo has released Recce, an app for iPhone and iPad that offers an eye-catching 3D map of London, just in time for the Olympic Games.
The company has clearly put a lot of work into making the app easy to use: you're not bombarded by options, and its user interface does a great job of getting out of the way until it's needed.
Scrolling around, pinch-zooming and rotating is fast, and you can tap a signpost button to pop the 3D buildings up and down - the latter being used when you want to use Recce as more of a traditional map. If you're in London while using it, a button at the top of the screen flicks the map to your current location.
Another button - a magnifying glass - brings up a menu to help you find places: landmarks, coffee shops, food (subdivided by cuisine), nightlife, arts, parks, hotels and banks. There's also a search box to type in specific queries.
Tap on any one, and a bunch of icons appear on the map, which can in turn be tapped on for text descriptions, and options to 'pin' them as a favourite or visit their official websites.
It just works really well - and more importantly, it works offline so you don't have to worry about how much data you're using. There are some nifty little touches too, like the animated cars and trains. The London Eye even goes round.
Recce also pulls in some live information. Tap on a tube station, and it'll give you the latest service updates. Tap on a BorisBike hiring station, and it'll tell you how many bikes are currently available. Both of these features require a data connection, obviously.
In short, Recce is great. It won't replace something like Google Maps entirely - for example if you're searching for a specific street address. But it's a good alternative to have to hand on your iPhone or iPad, especially as it's free.
This is very early days though. Recce could pull in a lot more data than it's currently doing: reviews of restaurants for example, or discount vouchers for tourist hotspots.
Meanwhile, on its website, eeGeo says its technology will be used for "a new generation of social apps, location-based services and real-world games", with Recce just being the first example.
It's tempting to think that with Apple and Google charging forwards on 3D maps, there isn't room for innovation elsewhere. Recce shows there is.