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    cjvitek's Avatar
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    Default Review: Go Sky Watch (universal binary), by GoSoftWorks

    Go Sky Watch Planetarium (universal binary), by GoSoftWorks
    $5.99, *****


    • Nice, easy to use controls
    • Lots of nifty, unique features
    • Can adjust natural light dimness


    • Seems to lose compass orientation often

    Planetarium Apps seems to be a pretty staple, and lucrative, iPhone/iPad market. A well done planetarium app can appeal to lots of people – just about everyone likes to look at the stars! Today I review another planetarium app, Go Sky Watch, by GoSoftWorks. This is a universal binary, priced at $5.99, although there is a free, iPad only version (which is odd, usually you see a more expensive iPad version!). I am posting the same review for both forums, simply using the appropriate iPhone or iPad images.

    Go sky watch starts out by showing a dark screen, representing the “now”. If you want to lock your view (meaning you control it with touch controls) you double tap the screen – nice and simple. In the four corners of the app, you have various control options. On the lower left is an information button. If you have something centered in your view screen, you can tap information to get further details about the object. There is also a “goto” button here, but I am not sure of its purpose, since you are already centered on the object! I also like the fact there is a Wikipedia button so you can go online to get more information about the celestial object if you want.

    On the upper left side of the screen, there is your search button. When you tap on it, you get different categories to search for – planets in the solar system, constellations, deep sky objects, stars, and a rather unique feature “star light date”. Star light date tells you the date that the light you are seeing originated from a specific star. Personally, I find that fascinating and it really drives home some of the distances you are talking about when you think that the light I am looking at originated 3, 4, 10 years ago, or longer! When you choose an item, you are given the same information screen as the previous “information” button, but here the goto button will take you to the object you are search for.

    On the lower right of the screen is another feature I find great. It looks like a clock, but let’s call it out “WayBack Machine” (Thanks Sherman!). With this button you can choose to either view the sky with the current date/time, or you can choose a specific date and time to see what was in the sky then. Talk about your time machines! You can actually choose a future date or past date, and any specific time (down to the minute).
    All in all, I would say avoid this app. It’s poor interface, lack of features, and high price combine to make it barely worthwhile. Save the $9.99 and instead buy another X10 unit if you want to work with home automatic. Two and a half out of five stars.

    On the upper right of the screen, you have your settings button. There are the normal settings that you often see (night mode, show/hide deep space objects use a grid, etc). You can also choose from different location (or add new locations) to see what the night sky looks like from elsewhere. In addition, there is another great feature that I like – a brightness setting. Not a brightness for the app, but a brightness of your surrounding area. If you are in a town or city with lots of light, you can set a high brightness, and the stars will dim – meaning you will only see stuff on the screen that is visible in real life. If you find yourself out in the desert, miles away from the nearest house, you can set it to low brightness and see the full featured night sky.

    The night sky view itself is okay, it has some standard features (like constellations fading in and out depending on how you orient the view). Unfortunately, on the iPhone, the screen itself is so small it is difficult to make out any details. I couldn’t find anyway to zoom in on a specific view to make it easier. On the iPad, you didn’t have this concern. One thing I noticed was that it seemed to lose the compass orientation quite often. I am not sure if this is due to my location (I was inside when testing it except for one night I went outside) or if it is a fault of the app. Since I wasn’t sure it was the apps fault, I didn’t blame the app for this problem.

    All in all, this is one of the better planetarium apps I have seen. In addition to it being a universal binary, it has enough interesting and unique features (like the date/time selection, the star origin calendar, and the variable surrounding brightness scale) to make it stand out from other planetarium apps. At $5.99, this app seems like a solid purchase, especially if you are using it on an iPad (or both iPad and iPhone). Five out of five stars.

    Rating scale:

    * = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
    ** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
    *** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
    **** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
    ***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.

    Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating. 

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