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Moonphases in Your Pocket – iEphemeris for the iPhone & iPod Touch Reviewed

by J.Edwards

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 iEphemeris Screenshots

Up until just recently, setting the current phase of the moon on a client’s watch at work used to involve me referring to a calendar on the wall and then counting off the number of days since the last full or new moon. I would then use this information to set the watch, first to the according full or new moon and then to the current phase by flipping through the appropriate number of days to reach the current day’s state. At one time I had a set of tables that listed the state of the moon for the full year, but the upkeep for that was all to easy to fall out of considering the amount of use I actually got out of it. A quick look-up on the Internet would have been a most welcome improvement, but we don’t have net access in our workshop. So I’ve simply been left longing for the ease with which a couple of keystrokes could so easily render me the appropriate information.

Not content to wait in mild inconvenience any longer, I’ve skipped the keystrokes all together and am basking in the smooth intuitiveness of multitouch technology. This past week I loaded iEphemeris Lite on my iPod Touch, a free application available on the iTunes App Store. With a simple tap of my finger iEphemeris Lite lets me know exactly what phase the moon is currently in, when each of the next four quarters will occur, as well as the current age of the moon. It is a simple, perfect-fit solution for any watchmaker living in the digital age who happens to make daily use of an iPhone or iTouch.

I was so pleased with iEpemeris Lite that I decided to purchase the full version, iEphemeris Pro. To my disappointment, however, I can not say that I was nearly as pleased with the paid-for version as I was with the free version. The additional graphics are lackluster by comparison and the user interface is glitchy at times (it stutters and will sometimes whiplash diagonally instead of straight across when scrolling from screen to screen). My biggest piece of criticism for the full version, though, is how much of a headache it was to set my location in what could have been an effortless configuration using the Core Location services that Apple has built into iPhone and iPod Touch. Granted, GPS localization is available for the iPhone, but any hint of Core Location is entirely absent on the iTouch. I found the settings panel to be altogether unintuitive and felt that it could do with some refining. I am hoping for a more polished update from the developer down the road.

Initial hiccups with the pro version aside, one week into using the application I have to say that I am happy with it. It has been a dream of mine to carry a simple sunrise/sunset reference on my wrist or in my pocket since I was a little tyke and iEphemeris is the first such means I’ve had of making that small dream a reality. The ability to carry a lifetime’s worth of easy to reference, ephemeral information in my pocket for less than the price of a latté is money I consider well spent.

If you’re looking for an lightweight app to track the moon’s phases, picking up a copy of iEphemeris Lite is a no-brainer. 

For more on iEphemeris, check out the developer’s website.

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  1. Cameron
    Posted December 23, 2008 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    You should check out Emerald Chronometer for iPhone/iPod Touch. It does everything you said and so much more. It is a set of mechanical watch “emulators” that are truly well done. The app is very polished. The app is $3 and I am so sure you will like it as much as I do, if you don’t like it I will refund your $3. Buy the way, I am not the developer, just a very satisfied customer.

  2. Cameron
    Posted December 23, 2008 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    I was wrong the app is $5 but my offer still stands.

  3. sarah
    Posted December 23, 2008 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    hi! i came by your blog when i was looking up the lititz watch tech. i work in jewelry and help out with very minor watch repair. the watchmaker at my store thinks i should be a watchmaker (he thinks everyone should be one! ha) i was wondering if you had the lititz email address. their website is a little sparse. thanks!

  4. J.Peter
    Posted December 23, 2008 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    Great post J. Edwards, I’ll be checking this one out, and maybe Emerald Chronometer too, Cameron.

    Thanks guys,

  5. Posted December 24, 2008 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Thanks J.Peter. Let us know if you do purchase Emerald Chronometer.

    I have seen the Emerald Chronometer app, Cameron. Thank you for bringing it to our attention. I would take you up on your offer, but I hate the idea of taking your money. I am sure that for a lot of users it is a great app to have. Coming from the perspective of a watchmaker, however, it doesn’t hold any appeal for me. Other watchmakers may differ. I’m sure a lot of work went into creating it, but I have difficulty resolving the point behind it. There is a reason that certain astronomical information is displayed the way that it is on a watch, as its form dictates heavily how it functions. The iPhone is freed of those constraints and its form dictates content on a completely different level. I feel that iEphemeris takes much better advantage of the iPhone’s features. I only wish that it integrated even more seamlessly with the core functionality of the iPhone and iPod Touch than it already does. The bits and bytes that fuel Emerald Chronometer simply don’t do justice to the complex mechanisms it is attempting to emulate. If it simulated the mechanisms themselves, and not just the façades, I’d bite. For the mere functionality, though, I’d rather have an app tailored to the inherent characteristics of the iPhone.

    Sarah, the contact email for Lititz is:

    Best of luck! In my opinion, it is the most beautiful watchmaking campus in North America. Not to mention well tutored and equipped, given its roots.

  6. Cameron
    Posted December 29, 2008 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    J. Edwards,
    I understand your point.

  7. Steve Pucci
    Posted April 11, 2009 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    J. Edwards, thanks for the thoughtful analysis of Emerald Chronometer. I’m coming a bit late to the party, but I *am* one of the two developers of Emerald Chronometer and found this comment by Googling the app name (ah, Vanity).

    I can’t disagree with either of the central points. I’ve been designing computer user interfaces for 20 years, and working on this particular product has at times been frustrating to me because of the restriction of hewing to the “mechanical model”, even one interpreted as liberally as ours is (we insist on things that look like moving mechanical parts, but play fast and loose with the practicality of actually implementing the mechanisms that would move them appropriately). And because we have that liberal interpretation, it does feel a bit like cheating to not be able to show the underlying mechanism.

    Still, it’s been an interesting design challenge. My development partner insists on getting as close to we can to what the skies look like, and I insist on hewing to our limited mechanical model. As an example, as an amateur astronomer he hates the traditional clock/watch moonphase display because of the incorrect shape of the moon’s terminator near the new moon (the curve goes the wrong way), so we designed a mechanism with covering leaves to achieve the correct shape mechanically ( I’d love to see that mechanism in a real watch or clock, although I suspect it’s essentially unimplementable because of the fine tolerances required. See, btw, our competitor “Sun Clock” for another clever way of mechanically showing the right terminator shape, although that wouldn’t work on a watch because of the thinness of the case.

    Sorry to ramble on for so long. Anyway, J. Edwards, if you’d like to evaluate the app just email me at and we’ll send you a promo code to download it for free. I don’t expect to change your mind but it costs us nothing to give it to you.

    – Steve

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