Pocket Planets – Our solar system, pocket-sized!
Tested version: 1.0.0
Latest version: 1.0.3
Requires Android: from 2.2
Just recently, the Perseids meteor shower graced the skies with thousands of shooting stars, but because of the light pollution to be found in all cities, night skies are not as spectacular as they are when viewed from a more rural setting. If you are like me, anything that has to do with astronomy will be right up your alley. This doesn't necessarily mean, however, that you can just up and leave whenever something eventful is taking place in in the great wide yonder. This is exactly where fun little applications such as Pocket Planets comes in: an app that brings you our entire solar system to check out, take a closer look at and learn about, and the best thing is that it fits right in your back pocket.
Features & Use
Test device: Samsung Galaxy S3
Android version: 4.0.4
For first tome Pocket Planets users there's a brief intro as to how controls can be used. If you want to give the instructions a miss it's no biggie, as controls should prove to be intuitive for most users.
The first view is that of the Earth. Infos regarding the camera distance to the object (i.e. Earth) can be found in the bottom left corner, as can other facts such as the current date and time.
Use pinch to zoom to look at things more closely or zoom out, and use your fingertip to move the view around. Double taps are also available and fix the camera on a given object.
Jump to objects via the menu, be it planets, moons, the sun, asteroids, peripheral planets and other celestial bodies. The visual camera journey is quite lovely, so enjoy the ride.
The standard settings for the camera are that it follows in relation to the current object, but you can change this in the seetings so that it moves around space freely.
Check out the encyclopedia entries to find out lots of details regarding an object, which are listed alphabetically. Read up on radius, mass, orbits, rotation and other facts. There's also a fun “Di you know?” type section.
You can change the view slightly, altering which information is to be displayed, as well as modify the effects and lighting.
Pocket Planets is a great find for an astronomy geek such as myself. The textures are great, the camera movements are beautiful and the information provided is perfectly satisfactory.
In short, the app provides every feature one might hope for from solar system simulator. Good stuff!
Screen & Controls
The graphics in Pocket Planets are great.
Controls are intuitive, but there's no lazy scrolling, which is a bit of a bummer.
When moving the camera you need to keep your finger on the display, unless you wish to interrupt the motion. I've seen more sophisticated versions of how this feature can work, e.g. in Google Earth.
Speed & Stability
Pocket Planets loads quickly and is relatively fluid. However, if you leave the app for just a moment it tends to end, meaning it has to be re-loaded. Too bad.
Pocket Planets is available for EUR 2.49 from Google Play, a fair price when you consider how much cool information the app holds.
A test version to see if the app is compatible with you device is available for free.
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