Review: Why you need the BBC’s amazing Story of Life app

A perfect expression of the best of both tech innovation and the wonders of nature

I’ve been enjoying the new BBC Worldwide iOS app, The Story of Life, since it first appeared earlier this month. It’s the biggest ever mobile release of amazing material drawn from Sir David Attenborough’s enormous archive of natural history films. It’s fantastic, fascinating and free.

1,000 stories

Available worldwide on both iOS and Android platforms, this app has become my favorite way to while away time in the evenings. It provides you with access to over 1,000 incredible moments from the natural world.

The clips are breathtaking and the animals amazing. I particularly like one clip in which we see a female Orangutan sawing wood – she may be furry, but she seems ever so human. Many may have seen the dramatic clip featuring an iguana running desperately away from snakes as the clip was heavily shared on social media in the last week or so (take a look at below if you missed it).

a7 mockup creating Images supplied by BBC Worldwide

How it works

The app offers full screen video. When you open it up you’ll watch a brief introduction from the renowned naturalist, and can then explore the clips. You can either dive directly into the whole collection, or explore featured collections, for example: “The ‘Big five’ beasts of Africa”, “Beautiful birds of paradise”, “Unique species first filmed”, and so on – you get the idea.

As you explore the clips you can tap the display (or use the Apple Remote) to move to and fro between them, and you can also access tools including a Like tool (heart) and another that lets you create your own collections of clips. You can search by habitat, species and behavior.

Easy to use

The app is clear, the clips are sometimes astonishing, navigation is simple, but what I find most exciting about this app (other than it being free) is that you can share the clips you find. Sharing takes the form of links that take you to the BBC website where you can explore these collections. Options include social media, Messages, email and more and I think the ability to share these astonishing clips so easily from within this engaging app is highly compelling. The natural world is truly miraculous and this wonderful collection fills me with thankfulness at the splendor of life on Earth.

b1 mockup real Images supplied by BBC Worldwide

Why the app?

Available now worldwide, why has BBC Worldwide released the app? It turns out that this is a gift to everybody from Attenborough to mark his ninetieth birthday this month (November). Attenborough explains:

“This is natural history for the digital age, allowing people to explore the story of life on earth and share their favourite natural history moments with the world.”

The app includes clips taken from across his greatest works, Life on Earth, The Story of Mammals, The Story of Life. The collection also includes some easter eggs, exclusive films you won’t find anywhere else. More clips will be added to the app in future.

Buying advice

I’ve felt compelled to write this short review of this amazing app because since I began using it I’ve found it very hard to put down.

I think it's an important release. After all, Apple often talks about its place being at the intersection between technology and the liberal arts, and I think that this world-class release helps illustrate this notion at its best.


Because it’s a perfect expression that combines the timeless wonders of the natural world with the astonishing innovation of humanity.

Each clip has huge value, it is, after all, a vast collection of some of the best moments ever captured on film from the world around us, including moments that had never been captured on film before. And this life’s work is being made available across the planet for free. I simply can’t recommend it highly enough. Now I intend looking at some stunning caves hidden beneath Antarctica, why not join me?

PS: Once again, happy Thanksgiving to my US readers.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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