App review: Planetary for iPad

The iPad's music player hasn't changed much since its debut, and unlike its desktop counterpart, it also lacks a built-in music visualizer for your mesmerization. Luckily, for the folks who are seeking ways to spice up their iPad music experience, you now have a new option: Planetary, by Bloom Studio. As you can tell by the name and the screenshot above, what we have here is a visually compelling app for exploring your tablet's music library. It's very straightforward: each artist or band is shown as a star, surrounded by albums in the form of orbiting planets, and then you have individual tracks displayed as moons orbiting each album.

During playback, each track leaves behind a trail on its orbit to indicate its play time, though you can hide the orbit lines (and labels) if you them too distracting. To choose other albums or artists, the good old pinch-to-zoom or the simple tapping on other 3D objects will move you between the moons and constellations, or you can just tap on the bottom-center button to jump straight to the letter selector for artists. Obviously, the former's more fun within the first few hours, but after awhile we found ourselves preferring the quicker option to skip the mellow animation. Head past the break for our full impression and demo video.

Like we said, Planetary is essentially a very simple app, and perhaps it's a bit too simple in some aspects: we certainly appreciate the standard set of playback controls integrated here, but it could also use some shuffle options -- right now we have to jump into the iPod app to enable shuffle or Genius, which isn't very convenient. Our wish list also includes a search box for even quicker access to our desired music, along with an option to stop the iPad's display from sleeping. As far as performance goes, we haven't had many problems on our iPad 2 except for a couple of minor bugs: scrubbing could be a lot smoother, and the app's failure to automatically go into landscape mode at launch is starting to annoy us. Still, as a free app, Planetary offers plenty of fun for the buck and is definitely worth a try -- here's hoping that Bloom Studio will also port this to other tablets as well.

P.S. It's worth noting that Bloom Studio's Creative Director, Robert Hodgin, is the co-founder of The Barbarian Group which designed Magnetosphere, the music visualizer in iTunes. Small world, eh?

[Thanks, Lance A.]