AVSIG: Which Android IFR chart app? wwswsigarch.jpg (7236 bytes)

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Dean Gibson [PAE]
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Reged: 06/05/05
Posts: 263
Loc: Seattle, WA
Which Android IFR chart app?
      #414104 - 08/19/15 07:04 PM

I'm sure this has been discussed many times, but I couldn't find it in a quick search. So, feel free to refer me to a reasonably current thread on the subject.

For the past several years I have been paying the FAA about $200 a year to send me all the TERPS approach charts on a DVD every 28 days, which I then processed into a directory tree (by state and then airport), and generated HTML web pages for easy navigation. I then loaded the whole thing onto the removable microSD cards in four Android tablets (two for cockpit backup, two for home backup) for airborne usage. Last year when I paid that in September, I decided that the Android market for IFR chart apps had enough choices, that I was going to consider moving to one of them when my yearly subscription was due. So, here's what I've examined in the last three days:

1. Avare: This is an open-source app that is free to everyone. It's quite good; includes geo-referenced charts. The download screen makes it very clear what data is current. It takes a bit of undocumented download directory shuffling to have two cycles on the device at a time.

2. DroidEFB (the successor to FlightPro from Avilution): $75/yr, except that it is free to current CFIs. Geo-referenced charts are an additional $75/yr. More polished, but less intuitive than Avare. Reading the well-written PDF manual is a must, in my opinion. The weather info for an airport is exceptionally good. However, you really have no idea whether your downloaded charts are current, unless it tells you. circular items on the charts (both VFR and IFR) display as ovals (at least in the Seattle area) on a variety of my Android devices. Currently, they are not responding to support eMails. I do realize that they might be busy putting together data for the next cycle date (tomorrow). There is no provision that I could find for coverage spanning a new cycle date.

3. Garmin Pilot: $75/yr (there's a 30-day free demo period). Geo-referenced charts are an additional $75/yr. I am really impressed, especially since I think some of Garmin's other software sucks. This is what the above two apps should aspire to. The download screen makes it very clear what data is current, AND you can download the next cycle's data ahead of time and have both cycles available. I mean, the FAA, Jeppesen, and Garmin understand the necessity of providing the next cycle well ahead of the cycle date, why not the other apps? Lots and lots of features, but not confusing or cluttered.

4. Naviator: $35/yr (there's a 30-day free demo period). Geo-referenced charts are an additional $75/yr. I have not tried this app, because I think if you are going to sell a product, you have to tell me what it does. I mean, you can sorta tell that it supports IFR approach charts by off-hand references. Whatever happened to good documentation? This app seemed focused on "gee-whiz" features like synthetic vision, but hey, it's a competitive market. Still, tell me how you handle IFR charts; that's what I want to know about. So, any reviews here of this app would be really helpful.

All these apps do "chart stitching", which I am not fond of. Give me overlapping charts with the ability to control which one is on top, and grey out lower layers. Of the first three apps above, Garmin does it the best, even moving VOR "balloons" around for readability when necessary. The first two apps above admit that some chart data may be missing in a stitched area. Well, in the Seattle area, there are at least six of these, including the VOR balloon for my home airport. This does not disqualify the app, but means you better have a separate FAA enroute chart (paper or the downloadable PDF file) available.

I don't care about synthetic vision (Naviator's emphasis), integration with Microsoft Flight Simulator, or any toy features. Geo-referenced data and showing where I am is nice but not essential (and not worth $75/yr to me). All of these apps have flight planning/filing capability, which is also nice but not important to me. Sadly, all of the apps apparently store TERPS charts as a graphic image. All of the FAA IFR charts (Hi/Low/TERPS) are distributed in vector-based PDF files, which makes them infinitely zoom-able without losing clarity, a nice feature in "a dark and stormy night". That's one thing I miss from my FAA subscription (see http://airman.mailpen.com/terps/.raw/ ), but the benefits of the modern apps (not just financial) outweigh the loss.

My present plan is to have the first three on each of my tablets (two, one for backup in the cockpit). Comments welcome, especially about Naviator (or any other app I've missed). I'm not interested in any iPhone apps, except as a possible baseline for comparison.

Note that I have blocked a couple users here, based on past experience. So, if I don't see and respond to your message, don't take it personally.

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Bruce Gorrell [EQY]
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Reged: 04/29/04
Posts: 7864
Loc: Charlotte, NC
Re: Which Android IFR chart app? [Re: Dean Gibson [PAE]]
      #414107 - 08/19/15 09:00 PM

I use Garmin Pilot and I'm completely pleased with it. Downloads are even fast which is very strange for Garmin. I find no down side. It integrates cleanly with external GPS's (Garmin ones, anyway) and with Connext, it can interface with several panel mounted Garmin products.


I am a little confused about your comment on zooming in on an approach plate. I find I can zoom much further than I would ever need.


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Dean Gibson [PAE]
Public Guest


Reged: 06/05/05
Posts: 263
Loc: Seattle, WA
Re: Which Android IFR chart app? [Re: Bruce Gorrell [EQY]]
      #414124 - 08/20/15 11:44 AM

Well, this morning (chart cycle date) It's taking over three minutes to just start up (and this on five different Android tablets). I updated to the (then) next cycle yesterday, so all the current charts are there. It shouldn't be taking three minutes to start up on a new cycle date.

Once it comes up on a particular tablet, if I quit the app and start again, it comes right up on that tablet. It's not related to a network connection, because it takes the same amount of time to come up the first time, whether or not I disable the network interface.

My guess is that it's deleting the prior cycle charts (because they are gone), and doing other stuff related to the cycle change.

I'm glad I'm going to be flying with MULTIPLE chart programs installed on the two tablets I fly with.

As for the PDF zooming, it's probably OK. I just wonder how it would be on a very bumpy ride at night.

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Bruce Gorrell [EQY]
Top Gun


Reged: 04/29/04
Posts: 7864
Loc: Charlotte, NC
Re: Which Android IFR chart app? [Re: Dean Gibson [PAE]]
      #414145 - 08/20/15 09:42 PM

My Samsung Tab A (Android 5.0) only took about 2 minutes just now.

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Dean Gibson [PAE]
Public Guest


Reged: 06/05/05
Posts: 263
Loc: Seattle, WA
Re: Which Android IFR chart app? [Re: Bruce Gorrell [EQY]]
      #414172 - 08/21/15 10:46 AM

Now that I know that it will take a couple minutes on a cycle date, it's not a problem.

I found an excellent thread on this subject here: http://www.pilotsofamerica.com/forum/showthread.php?t=72618

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Dean Gibson [PAE]
Public Guest


Reged: 06/05/05
Posts: 263
Loc: Seattle, WA
Re: Which Android IFR chart app? [Re: Dean Gibson [PAE]]
      #414177 - 08/21/15 01:48 PM

Quote:

I found an excellent thread on this subject here:




I meant the topic of this thread (which app), not the Garmin start-up delay after a cycle date.

I've also looked at FltPlan and briefly installed it, but I couldn't find a way to download charts ahead of time (like the first three apps I listed above). Reading the help file on the device is difficult (very small print), and it crashed my tablet (spontaneous reboot). Finding ANY real information on the fltplan.com site is impossible.

So far, my preference is (in order):
  • Garmin Pilot
  • Avare
  • DroidEFB


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Airman data & and aviation biography

Edited by Dean Gibson [PAE] (08/21/15 01:50 PM)


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