App

What was an information-rich but slightly awkward app gets a new paintjob and becomes best-in-class

The original Star Walk was an award-winning astronomy app — and rightfully so. It was packed with information about the heavens, enabling you to explore the night sky through your iPhone’s screen, examine the position of the stars in the past and the future, and use your device’s camera to overlay digital information on to the sky when outside. Even today, the app remains impressive, and so we were curious to see what this update — an entirely new app — would bring.

For the most part, Star Walk 2 is about visual bling. The original app took a kind of stereotypical science interface approach, all hard bleeps and neon-green overlays. This revamp instead lays on the serenity of stargazing rather thickly — the colors are subtler, the animation is smoother, and the sounds are less jarring.

Star Walk 2 3D constellation

Constellations can be spun with a swipe of a finger.

Special effects

There have also been quite a few changes in how the main view is represented. By default, the horizon is now a distant view of rolling hills, beneath which you see a reflective body of water. The stars above are mirrored, and it’s an impressive visual effect, but it also covers up stars below the horizon, and so we were quick to turn this off. At that point, you end up with a simple horizon line and the means to focus entirely on the objects in the sky. In either case, you drag to explore and tap to make selections that then provide optional access to information pages.

Users of the original Star Walk will notice a shift to 3D throughout this update. Constellation artwork that optionally sits behind relevant points in the sky has been changed from subtle illustrative fare to shimmering low-polygon models that are interesting and a bit different, but also a touch distracting. A better use of 3D comes when you access an item’s information — along with a text overview and details, you can now spin a 3D model about. For nebulae, this isn’t terribly impressive, given that the models are rather blurry and low-resolution; but it’s fun being able to view a constellation from any angle.

Star Walk 2 in portrait

The app also works in portrait mode.

More of the same

Elsewhere, the app essentially matches its predecessor, with a useful night mode, the means to x-ray the sky, an augmented reality overlay via your device’s camera, and a repetitive and mildly irksome ‘ambient’ soundtrack you’ll want to rapidly disable.

In terms of value, the app is a mixed bag. Some of the components that were originally bundled are now IAP, which is a pity — you now pay $1.99/£1.49 for access to comets, satellites and deep sky objects. Additionally, an event calendar is absent, although reportedly due to return in an update. A big plus, though, is the app is now universal, meaning that if you’ve an iPhone and an iPad, you needn’t pay twice.

Star Walk 2 sky live

Sky Live gives you information about important bodies you can see.

If you’re new to iPhone stargazing, we’d say Star Walk 2 is a great purchase, even with the IAP, and now sneaks ahead of its rivals. If you own the original, though, this update is fairly slight, and will depend on how desperate you are for a softer, more pleasant browsing experience and the means to spin a constellation with a drag of your finger.

Price: $2.99/£1.99
Size: 123 MB
Version: 1.0.0
Developer: Vito Technology Inc.

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Star Walk 2 Review: explore the heavens with this revamped stargazing app
For
  • Enhanced interface
  • Now a Universal app
  • Spinning constellations is fun
Against
  • Some features are now IAP
  • Certain visual effects distract
  • Poor soundtrack
4.1Overall Score