Apple Everywhere

Planetary for iPad: A Whole New Way to Play Your Music

- 2011.05.10 - Tip Jar

Rating: 5 out of 5 rating

It's not every day you see an app that tries to totally reinvent the wheel. It's much safer to go with the flow, adding a few minor tweaks in the interface or functionality to make your app stand out.

But Bloom Studios has done just that, reinventing the media player with its first app, Planetary.

Overview

From the intro screen, where the Planetary logo is suddenly and unexpectedly eclipsed by the silhouettes of three planets, to the amazing galaxy of music that defines Planetary's interface, the whole purpose of this free app seems to be making music a physical experience again. Instead of LPs, tapes, or CDs, however, your music is represented by celestial bodies.

Start with the first letter of the artist's name

Interface

Planetary's interface is relatively straightforward - your entire iTunes music library is represented as a "galaxy" (I'd call it a star cluster, but then I don't yet have a huge music library). You select music by tapping the first letter of an artist's or group's name. These letters are displayed in a ring of letters around the galaxy.

select the artist's star from the star map

Next, select your artist by tapping his, her, or the group's star.

choose an album by the artist

You are then taken to the solar system that represents all the albums you own by that artist. To select an album, tap on the planet representing it.

Then, to select a song, tap the moon representing the song you want to hear (the album advances automatically once a song has been selected). To go backwards in the process, just use the standard pinch to zoom out gesture.

choose a song from that album

An optional control bar inhabits the bottom of the screen, sporting a few interface options (toggle help, text, and orbit lines, fly to current track, go to nav, and - of course - the usual play/pause, back, and forward), but this can be mostly hidden with a single tap to its hide/show button.

Controls let you change your viewpoint

As a little aside, turning off text can make things much more interesting - you'll basically be picking random tracks, unless you can memorize what color your favorite artist's star is, what your favorite album's planet looks like, and so on.

Experience

Planetary is a bold app - it totally redefines the media player experience. Despite the otherworldly setting, the music selection process feels totally natural and organic. It's also mostly lag-free - a testament to the care and effort that was obviously put into the app's design.

Other than on a single album that constantly gives me trouble (I won't name names, but it's not likely an album you'd be listening to), Planetary has never crashed, which is miraculous at such an early stage in its life. It's incredibly stable during every part of the music selection process.

If I had to sum up the experience in one word, I would have to say "gourmet" - your music is literally being served on a celestial platter.

Conclusion

Planetary is one of the most amazing apps I've added to my sizable app collection in a long time. If you are even a casual music lover who also enjoys beautiful visuals, this is the app for you. LEM

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Austin Leeds is a Mac and iPad user - and a college student in Iowa.

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