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iPad App of the Week: "U.S. Panoramic: Philadelphia"

The iPad app U.S. Panoramic: Philadelphia is pretty simple: It has seven historic maps of Philadelphia you can zoom in on. That's it. Initially, it's a bit of a let-down. Shouldn't it do more, like provide some history or have slideshows or speak to us in a female voice about cartography? It does none of those things—its "INFO" function is very buggy—yet it's completely entrancing. Each map is incredibly detailed and the resolution improves as you zoom in. Three of the bird's-eye-view maps are superb, though the one published in Harper's Weekly in 1872 is the best of the bunch, with bold street names, precise lines, and bodies of water like Mill Creek clearly identified. An 1888 two-color map has pictures of local businesses around its perimeter, and the gorgeous facades are a must-see for architecture obsessives. The other maps are fun too. Just let those fingers do the zooming. [iTunes]