Sky Live is a clever, but flawed astronomy program

Sky Live is the latest app from Vito Technology, the people who gave us the highly praised Star Walk app.

Sky Live is a (mostly) free app that will tell you if your local skies will be good for stargazing. It will let you know if moonlight will interfere with your star gazing, what planets will be up, if skies will be cloudy or rainy and how bad the light pollution is at your location. It also lists the bright stars that will be up, but you'll need another app, like Star Walk to identify them.

The app is a good idea, and the design is beautiful. The text looks great against a striking nebula or galaxy photo that changes frequently. The developers told me it is based on the Yahoo Weather app design, and that's a good design to emulate.

Now for the negatives. Much of the useful information is not in the free version, so you have to get a one-year subscription to the extra info, which is US$0.99. I don't want a recurring subscription charge for an app like this. I'd much rather pay a fee and be done with it; $0.99 is cheap enough, but leave subscriptions to the big boys like Adobe. (Note: Happily the subscription arrangement has now been dropped and the app has a one time $0.99 in app fee.)

As it is, you get the moon phase, but need to pay to get things like moon rise and set times. That's silly, and that information is free from a number of places. Light Pollution for any location is given as a percentage, but nowhere is it explained how that number is arrived at. Also, I live about 20 miles north of a moderate-size city, but the app assumes I am in the center of a city I don't live in. It should compute where I am by my GPS position, and apply whatever math it does to get me more reliable light pollution numbers. The app only allows you to check your location or you can navigate an imposing list. I'd like to see multiple saved locations offered, just like most weather apps.

I tried to do the in-app purchase to make the app complete, but when I clicked on it, the app was non-responsive. I was told by the developers that the in-app purchase is "not working now." So why was this app released? (Note: The in-app purchase finally went live about 24 hours after the app release.)

Vito Technology delivered one of the best apps ever with Star Walk. It's hard to believe this app came from the same people. Sky Live is a good idea, and the free version is OK as far as it goes, but much of the information in the paid version can be had for free elsewhere.

As an alternative, let me suggest myCSC, a free app that links to the Clear Sky Clock web pages, a sky forecast produced by a supercomputer in Canada that gives very reliable sky conditions for North America.

Sky Live requires iOS 5 or later, and is optimized for the iPhone 5. It's great looking, but pretty rough in its debut.