The name Cosmic Watch conjures up ideas of observing cosmos in the night sky, but even at first glance, it’s apparent that Cosmic Watch is so much more. Labeled as the world's first 3D astronomical clock, the Cosmic Watch app is a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure story, offering you the chance to view the planets in multiple ways.
Built by Celestial Dynamics Ltd. in Zurich, Switzerland, Cosmic Watch launched in the spring of 2015 and the most recent update came in 2018. The app reviews well with users, earning a 4.6 from Android reviews and 4.7 on iOS, closing ranks with many of the best stargazing apps of 2021 we've reviewed so far.
Even visiting the download landing page for Cosmic Watch (opens in new tab) lets users know they’re in for an impressive experience, giving users a taste of the stunning visualizations provided in the app.
The software includes three main modes: astronomy, astrology, and world clock. Each offers an in-depth and high-quality view with plenty of customization options. We found that one of the most appealing features was putting the app on a hyper-speed setting and relaxing while watching the universe move throughout time.
Useful for both stargazing pros and young learners – especially when teamed up with one of this year's best telescopes (opens in new tab) – Cosmic Watch offers a powerful and insightful look at our universe.
Cosmic Watch review: Functionality
While the majority of stargazing apps plant users on Earth’s surface to view the sky, Cosmic Watch offers the ability to observe from many different points of view and has dozens of optional layers.
Set-up is simple with the app initially asking users to set their preferred location from a database of 23,000 cities after which it takes users to the default view of clock mode. From here, users can click all over the world to get real-time data and views.
Focusing on the world clock modes, the app is capable of showing day/or night as well as indicating seasons, an equatorial clock face, and an ecliptic clock.
Astronomy settings include showing planets, constellations, stars, and the zodiac. It’s also possible to turn on long-exposure, interstellar gas and dust, and sky gradient. Further settings allow you to see horizontal coordinates, celestial rings, and planetary orbits. Users can also toggle between a helio-centric or geo-centric view at any time. You can set the app to send notifications, too, so you'll be reminded of certain celestial events and lunar phases.
That doesn't mean that you can't use it as a handy star map, as that feature is packed in along with all of the above. As with popular apps like Star Walk 2 and Stellarium, you just have to navigate to the right section on the app then point your phone at the sky.
Cosmic Watch review: Design
Even getting used to the app’s functions is a joy, allowing you to explore exactly what views Cosmic Watch offers and what overlays are possible with each view. A control panel running down the left side of the screen allows users to focus on the world clock, astronomy, or astrology aspects of the app. The bottom right corner offers time controls, and the upper right menu titled “Cosmic Watch” creates a clean screen by removing all setting icons.
Toggling the many options on and off might be overwhelming at first and occasionally, changing an option in one tab opens and closes options in another tab. Overall, the app hosts an incredible amount of customizations to view both Earth and the solar system, but will take some time to understand and learn how to utilize all of the options.
It's undeniably a little fiddly and arguably better suited to tablet screens, rather than smartphones. However, it’s well worth the time to explore just how powerful and educational Cosmic Watch can be.
Cosmic Watch review: Additional features
Users hoping to get the most out of Cosmic Watch should dive into the comprehensive online user’s guide (opens in new tab) to get a firm grasp on every feature.
The online guide also points out that Cosmic Watch could be used as a desktop clock when installed and displayed on a tablet. Some users could find this to be an aesthetically appealing clock since it can be highly customized to view Earth or the solar system.
Another worthwhile feature of Cosmic Watch is the app’s screenshot option. Indicated as a red dot on the right side, the app can take, share, and save screenshots easily.
Cosmic Watch review: Cost
Cosmic Watch costs $4.49 on Android devices and $6.99 for Apple devices. While there are many great stargazing apps offered for free, including several picks on our ranking of the best stargazing apps of 2021, none offer the comprehensive view and information that Cosmic Watch offers.
The app comes with no ads which is extra useful in this case since the app is already slightly cluttered with icons along the left side and the timing indicator on the right. The design of the icons, however, is not a negative, but does take some time to learn what each option controls.
Should you buy Cosmic Watch?
Anyone interested in our solar system, clocks, or calendars will likely find the price of Cosmic Watch to be money well spent. The app has countless combinations of viewing options to keep users happily observing the world we live in. At times, the app’s stunning visualizations can feel almost meditative, serving as an immersive break from any stressors.
Educators or young learners could also find the app to be well worthwhile, giving an interactive opportunity to explore seasons, clocks, planets, the solar system, and Earth from viewpoints all over the universe. Team it up with some of the best binoculars for kids (opens in new tab) – or best telescopes for kids (opens in new tab) – and you're onto a sure winner.