1. cjvitek's Avatar
    Starmap is a night sky app, designed to help you find and identify different objects in the night sky. These objects can include stars, planets, constellations, meteors, and even deep space objects. The idea is that you take the app out at night, and can use it to look at the night sky (or in my case, try to point things out to my daughter so I sound smart!).

    The app has a number of nice features. You can choose what objects you want to show or highlight, so you can determine how cluttered or uncluttered your view is. It has a search feature, where you can try to locate a specific object. It also has a night view feature where the images are in red to avoid giving off too much light (and influencing what you can see). As you would expect, it can use the GPS to auto-locate. All features can be accessed from a "turning" wheel at the bottom of the screen, so you don't disrupt your view of the sky.

    When using the app, you can pinch and zoom on the sky map to change your depth of view. Keep zooming in, and you will get more and more detail about the stars that aren't visible to the naked eye. Tap on an item and you will get details about that item. Swipe across the screen and you will change the section of the night sky at which you are looking. You can even use tilt controls to change your view.

    All in all, this is a visually stunning application. The graphics are very nice, the images are clean and crisp...I was just waiting to hear Carl Sagan's voice narrating some sort of planetarium show. The options are nice and present a wide range of settings that a user can customize.

    In theory, this is a very nice app. However, in practice I was somewhat disappointed by the complexity. To start with, using the auto-locate feature was accurate, but the closest "city" they had for me was Monterrey, Mexico - about 216km away from me! Wehn trying to use it to identify objects in the night sky, it was very difficult to orient myself. I found Orion on my own, and was trying to use that to orient my view in the app, but it didn't work very well. Tapping on the N, W, E, or W buttons (depending what I was looking at) didn't help at all. Using some sort of compass feature would be great to auto-identify the direction you are facing so that you don't have to figure it out on your own.

    Finally I used the search feature to find Orion in the program, but then the view that the program gave me was nothing like the sky looked - I think because I am close to a city, I saw much fewer stars than were indicated in the app. I eventually found a "brightness" setting to adjust the amount of light (both ambient light and the brightness of stars) so I was able to adjust my view more towards what I was actually seeing. I would think this could be done automatically with the camera, but maybe that is too difficult.

    Lastly, it seemed difficult to toggle various settings. I would have liked an easier way to turn on/off planets, deep space objects, constellations, etc. For example, if I just wanted to show consellations, it would be nice to toggle all other stars off. The settings are there, it just seemed not to be an intuitive as I would have liked.

    Pros: Detailed, lots of features, visually appealing

    Cons: Difficult to "just use" without learning the ins and outs first

    This is a really nice program, and the depth of options is great to see. In order to really use all the functions, you need to spend some time learning the ins and outs of the app. I would like to see a "simple" mode where you can just go out and look at the night sky using your map, or a complex mode where you can start adjusting all the various settings. If you want a full featured star map program, this is a nice one to get. At $11.99, it is not a cheap purchase, but if you want to put the time in to learn the application (a must) then it could be worth the price. Four out of five stars - but only if you aren't looking for a simple, "here's what you see" kind of app.
    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.
    03-24-2009 11:02 AM
  2. cjvitek's Avatar
    Revised Rating. I am increasing my rating to four and a half stars. After more hours of playing with it, I have decided that my intial confusion was mostly due to a preconceived way I thought that app should work, instead of simply looking how it did work. It is still more complex than a simple "here is the night sky" app, but it offers a wide range of features. The one thing that would be most beneficial IMO is including some sort of tutorial or guide instead of just instructions.

    This is a full featured, quality star gazing app, and I recommend it strongly for people that might be interested in such a program.
    03-26-2009 12:16 PM
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