a tale of two solar system #ipad apps

so yesterday, i bought two solar system ipad apps — solar system for ipad (from the makers of the elements, an amazing periodic table app for the ipad) and solar walk (from the makers of the excellent star walk). the elements and star walk are both excellent applications, so i had high hopes for both. being about ten bucks cheaper, i was hoping that solar walk would be the better app.

my champagne tastes won out over my beer budget*, because i really like solar system. and maybe this is really picky, but my inital reaction when testing out solar walk was, “wait a minute. this thing has pluto as a planet. maybe this is an old app.” but pluto hasn’t been a planet for a long while, and there is no room for this kind of inaccuracy. 

solar walk is nice. i think most astronomy is beautiful and this is no exception — well, except for jupiter, which scares the pants off of me. always has. the models of the planets are great, the as is the way that they cast realistic shadows based on their location relative to the sun, and also the way you can travel by “rocketship” from planet to planet. it shows a good amount of info per planet and in general is a very good app.

except that solar system absolutely blows it away. the initial layout is similar to how the periodic table is laid out in the elements, very clean and easy to find everything, and then you’re put in a linear layout that goes into way more detail per planet than solar walk gives you. and THEN you can jump into a solar system view that gives you everything that solar walk does but a little more nicely.

interestingly, the elements and solar system are both classified as books instead of apps in the ipad app listings. they’re both a little on the pricy side, but both totally worth it. if THAT’s the model for interactive books on the ipad, then ipad publishing is going to work out just fine. solar walk is a good application, too, but given the choice, i’d pick solar system every time. they’re almost exactly the same, but there’s a clear winner.

and the winner correctly shows pluto as a member of the solar system but not a planet. 

*that’s not really true. i’d really take beer over champagne any day. just not this time.