The iPad’s native iPod app isn’t particularly pretty nor easy to use – you either get a dense list of artist names or a scattershot cover view – but even if it did get a swell redesign, it’s hard to imagine it existing in the same universe as the breathtaking cosmic music player Planetary.
What is it?
Planetary, free, iPad. The first iOS effort from the exciting new interaction design group Bloom, Planetary is an iPad-only music player that renders your collection as a stunning universe of stars (artist), planets (albums) and moons (songs). Each successive level is fluidly interactive: tap on the name of a song to play it, give the display a gentle nudge to set the solar system spinning in motion, and expand with two fingers to zoom out back to album view. It’s hard to explain the experience in words, but it’s just one of those brilliantly designed apps that responds to your every touch just the way you think it should. As Captain Jason T. Chen, Huge Dork, summed it up to me: “Set course for Rihanna, maximum warp!”
Who’s it good for?
Anyone who listens to music on their iPad.
Why's it better than alternatives?
It's admittedly not the most efficient way to browse through a big music collection - when you're at the highest level of stellar organisation you kind of just blindly pick a letter and explore from there - but it's the rare app that shows what the tablet (and in this case, only the tablet) can really do. It's a totally new way to explore one's music collection. And it's brilliantly executed: the textures look phenomenal; it's totally responsive to every touch, whether you're bumping things into motion or sending a moon flying at a dizzingly spin; and it's filled with clever details, like the size of the individual song satellites being determined by play count, or the orbit of those songs being determined by the length of the track they represent. Plus, of course, it's free, so there's really no reason not to try it.
How could it be even better?
As I said, the highest organisational view - just a wheel with the first letter of the artists in your collection - seems like a clunky way to kick off the experience. Maybe there could be some sort of broader view of star clusters arranged alphabetically. Or something. I don't know! Also, the app supports HDMI out, but who has that little HDMI dongle? If there was someway they could do AirPlay video support, even if it temporarily turned off the interactivity and locked you into one view to account for the lag, I'm not sure I'd use my TV for anything else ever again.
Planetary for iPad [iTunes]
Video music: Clams Casino