There are an ever-increasing variety of marine navigation apps obtainable for iPad and Android units. Ben Meakins takes 14 for a sail…

Pill computer systems have change into more and more common in all walks of life, so it’s maybe inevitable that sailors would discover a use for them on board their boats. Some great benefits of are apparent. For considerably lower than the price of one of many finest chartplotters you should utilize your pill pc as a fully-functioned plotter and navigation device. Since we final took a have a look at boating apps in February 2012 the variety of them has elevated tenfold, helped partly by the latest launch of UKHO information in Vector chart format.

When wanting to make use of navigation apps, don’t take the marketed value as learn: some crusing apps are free to obtain, however then require in-app purchases of the related charting. Others are all-inclusive, whereas some assist you to use charts of your selection downloaded from elsewhere – so examine you recognize what you’re getting.

Customers of iPad and Android appear to divide into two camps. There are extra apps obtainable for iPad, however Android tablets can be found extra cheaply – a consideration when you’ll be utilizing it close to water. In any case, most tablets aren’t designed for the rough-and-tumble of life on board a ship. For one factor, most should not waterproof (the exception being the Sony Xperia Z vary, which is waterproof and ruggedised), and their screens aren’t optimised for viewing in daylight. However given an excellent waterproof case – and a fall-back system if the pill fails – they’re extraordinarily helpful to have on board.

There’s a bewildering array of merchandise on the market. When you’re utilizing an iPad you’ll have to get one with  3G functionality – WiFi-only fashions come with out the inner GPS. Non-GPS iPads may be transformed with a plug-in GPS antenna, however this makes it tough to suit inside a water-resistant case.
There are much more choices in terms of Android tablets. We used a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, purchased from Tesco for £139. Older fashions can be found from round £80, reconditioned. You will get easy, low cost tablets like Tesco’s own-brand Hudl from round £100 new, all the way in which as much as the waterproof Xperia vary at round £400. iPads value from round £349 for an older- era iPad 2 with GPS.

Chart choices
Raster charts are merely scanned variations of paper charts, overlaying place, routes and waypoints. Vector charts are made up from a variety of layers and are far more adaptable, with adjustable ranges of element and interactive options like tidal info.
Charging on board
Most tablets may be charged from a 12V cigarette socket, though for the iPad particularly you’ll want a socket able to outputting 2.1A.

An enormous vary of circumstances can be found – most of them for the iPad, it appears. You’ll have
to look a bit more durable to discover a appropriate waterproof case on your Android – however they’re on the market.

How we examined them

We loaded the apps onto their related tablets – an iPad 2 for the Apple apps and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 for the Android apps, how simple and intuitive set up was, in addition to contemplating the convenience and price concerned in downloading and putting in the cartography for every app.

This performed, we deliberate a route from the PBO Mission Boat’s mooring off East Dorset Crusing Membership in Poole Harbour round to the Higher Wych channel and Shipstal Level. This takes within the transport channel in addition to a slim, marked swatchway with frequent modifications of course and quite a few marks, which might give every app an excellent trial.

With the route deliberate we solid Hantu Biru off the mooring and sailed slowly to observe our route on every of the apps. We had vibrant daylight, which diminished the screens’ visibility however proved helpful to indicate up how effectively the differing cartography and colors might be seen within the sunshine.
We checked out how helpful every was as a plotter, how intuitive it was to make use of and the way effectively it adopted routes and waypoints, handled positions and element ranges. As we nosed up the slim channel to Shipstal Level we evaluated the tidal information obtainable, earlier than dropping the hook and evaluating every app’s usefulness on board.

AquaMap UK
For iPad solely
Worth: £11.99

AquaMap UK may be downloaded straight from the app retailer, and with charts masking the entire of the UK and Eire for £11.99 is among the many least expensive of all we examined. To view the charts offline it’s essential to choose a ‘tile’ that covers the realm you want to obtain, which was fast and simple.
AquaMaps’ Vector charts are brightly colored with outsized icons and enormous depth figures. These are high-quality when zoomed in, however at low ranges of zoom make the chart virtually undecipherable.
Routes are simple so as to add through an extended press in your desired location and deciding on ‘add to route’. Below method, there was a helpful heading vector. GPS information – COG, SOG distance and time – is displayed on a gray panel on the backside of the display screen, with route info on an identical panel on the prime of the display screen, and you may cycle by means of the route by tapping the following mark within the panel.
Place information may be accessed by tapping the boat’s location icon. Buoyage info and lightweight traits are accessed by a single faucet on the mark of your selection. Within the vibrant daylight, the app’s gaudy color scheme was considerably arduous to learn, though the options actually stood out.

Garmin BlueChart Cellular
iPad solely
Worth: Free, NW Europe charts £74.99

Garmin’s providing is a smart-looking app that replicates the look of their stand-alone plotters.
The interface seems to be restricted at first however is simple to make use of as soon as you understand how. Set up was simple, with charts obtainable through an in-app buy: they’re costlier than most, though the bundle does cowl the British Isles and the mainland from Amsterdam to Monaco, in addition to the north-west coast of Africa and the Azores. Inputting a route was easy, with few faucets on the display screen. A helpful route overview seems on the prime of the display screen. Tapping on a chart function – a lightweight, as an illustration – prompts a round menu wheel to seem which helps you to view the obtainable information and traits of the merchandise, in addition to another information obtainable, and the choice so as to add the mark as waypoint or as a part of a route. Tidal information is offered through ‘t’ and ‘c’ icons, which provide you with tidal heights and stream graphs for a given time and date. GRIB information may be overlaid over the chart through an energetic information connection. The charts weren’t as detailed because the iSailor or Navionics at excessive zooms, and generally took some time to reload when panning and zooming, however had been clear. The colors had been muted in direct daylight, however had been nonetheless readable.

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GPS Nautical Charts
Android solely
Worth: £17.99

The GPS Nautical Chart app makes use of UKHO raster charts, overlaid on an Open StreetMap basemap.
Downloading the charts was simple as they got here within the preliminary obtain. Different packages can be found for some European nations, though this doesn’t embrace France. The raster charts suffered a bit when it got here to zooming, mechanically deciding on a small-scale chart till at very
excessive ranges of zoom when the large-scale chart appeared, however this was pixellated. That apart, inputting a route was easy: a matter of choosing ‘create route’ after which tapping on the chart to create the route. A variety and bearing line helps you place the route factors on the chart. Choosing ‘autofollow’ let the app observe the route, which – to our preliminary shock – included a computerised voice which instructed us to ‘get back on route’! Passage info may be usefully displayed on every leg of the deliberate route.Primary tidal info is offered, displaying tide instances and heights in native time for 2 days for normal ports, which you’ll choose from an inventory or an interactive map. You possibly can view your vessel’s place within the prime bar, and SOG and COG information is displayed when below method and following routes.

iPad solely
Worth: £4.99 (Navionics Charts £41.50)

iNavX accepts a wide range of charts – for the UK this is similar Navionics cartography because the Navionics HD app. Set up is a bit more long-winded than others – the app requires a separate registration to to get the charts. Whereas the charts would be the similar as Navionics’ App, iNavX provides far more performance than the Navionics app as a chart plotter. It could overlay GRIB information and show NMEA and AIS information. The waypoint and route capabilities are extra akin to these on a correct plotter, with lists of waypoints, however this does imply that placing in a route includes inserting your waypoints, naming them after which including it to a route, which is extra time-consuming than another apps. Nonetheless, when following a route the app was very efficient, with a helpful and clear instrument panel. Charts had been quick to redraw when zooming and panning. Tidal information is available and effectively introduced. This app has numerous potential, and is helpful as a part of a fully-featured onboard system, but it surely’s not as easy and intuitive as a number of the others on check.

Purchase it now on the App Retailer

Marine Navigator
Android solely
Worth: app £5.42, charts £14.99

The Marine Navigator app can be utilized with charts of your selection. We used Admiralty raster charts from the Isle of Wight-based firm Set up is simple, the best method being through a DVD and PC, from which you’ll load the charts you require.
Inputting a route was easy: it’s performed through a menu which provided the selection to make a brand new route, after which ‘append’ or ‘prepend’ a mark to the route through an extended press on the specified place.
When the route is being adopted, information seems in a panel on the prime left of the display screen. One helpful function is a hand-bearing compass show throughout the highest of the display screen. This was the one app that doesn’t use the ‘pinch to zoom’ movement throughout the display screen – there are zoom-in and zoom-out buttons to faucet as a substitute. It’s additionally the one one to have a Man Overboard operate, accessible through an extended press on the display screen. The app was efficient at switching mechanically between charts as you zoom out and in, or you’ll be able to choose the related chart from an inventory. It’s an excellent, primary app at a low value, and the pliability provided by the chart choices means you’ve got a variety of choices.

MX Mariner
Android solely
Worth: App £8.99, charts S Coast £4.24

MX Mariner is a low-cost app for Android units, with UK charts obtainable in 4 areas –
NE Coast to Shetland, SE Coast and Channel Islands, NW Coast and W Coast of Eire, and SW Coast UK and E Coast Eire. Every of those prices between £3.50 and £4.10. No European charts are at present obtainable. Zooming between the completely different raster charts was seamless. It took some time to work out what every of the buttons did – waypoints, routes, monitoring mode and measuring distance – however as soon as this hurdle was cleared inputting a route was simple, with the app displaying a bearing line from the earlier route level to the following one, which helped when plotting the route across the slim bend of the Wych channel. Below method, COG, vary, bearing and SOG information was displayed on a top-line panel. By tapping ‘activate’ on the route’s begin level, we might
observe it as we beat alongside the slim channel. There isn’t any interactive tidal information, however there are icons on the chart with info on anchorages, slipways and marinas. A ‘measure’ device is offered, ranging from the centre of the chart. It took us some time to get used to this app, but it surely was our favorite Android raster app as soon as we had.

NavLink UK/SeaNav UK
iPad solely
Worth: £19.99

Digital Yacht’s Navlink UK app is made by the identical developer as SeaNav UK, however it’s optimised to be used with the previous’s devices and electronics. We tried each apps, which provide the brand new Admiralty vector charts overlaid onto Apple maps as a basemap. The brilliant colors labored effectively in direct daylight, and putting in charts was easy by scrolling to the specified space when linked to WiFi and ready for the charts to load. In use, the charts had been efficient, with a fast redraw fee. Including a route was simple and quick. You possibly can enter a waypoint by tapping on its place on the chart or by getting into its Lat/Lengthy. A ruler measures bearing and distance from the boat’s place by default, or may be moved round to behave as a pair of dividers elsewhere. Below method, a vector line exhibits the course over floor, and a helpful route panel exhibits the related information. A single faucet on a function corresponding to a channel marker offers its description, and an additional faucet offers you its mild traits. You possibly can shortly get your latitude and longitude through a press of the crusing boat icon. You possibly can arrange a fast ‘goto’ by tapping the chart and deciding on ‘sail to here’. Tidal info may be chosen for any space, however must be downloaded first. Stay climate buoy info may be seen through an energetic web connection.

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MaxSea TimeZero
iPad solely
Worth: app free, charts £34.99

MaxSea’s TimeZero app is free to obtain, however the charts have to be bought in-app. They’re Admiralty raster charts, however the app itself makes dealing with them a delight – it’s by far the nicest raster chart app that we tried. A number of the different apps we had been testing struggled to decide on the proper chart for the extent of zoom, however this app chosen the proper stage seamlessly. Inputting a route was easy, with the web page centring on every new waypoint as you enter it, which made plotting a course alongside our slim buoyed channel simple and quick. The consumer interface could be very user-friendly and intuitive, with a customisable information show on the left-hand aspect which shows SOG, COG and another helpful information. The app was one of many higher ones when it got here to following the route. Tidal information was simply accessible by tapping ‘data’ on the data panel, the place it shows a tide peak graph and climate forecast on your chosen location. Tidal peak indicators are overlaid on the chart – a visible ‘battery’- kind information to the present peak. Tidal stream can be displayed, though you’ll be able to’t view future tidal stream information. A faucet on every waypoint reveals its place and permits for enhancing and a ‘goto’ operate, whereupon the related info seems within the display screen.

Reminiscence Map
iPad & Android
Worth: 69p/Free, charts £29.99

Obtainable on each iPad and Android, the Reminiscence Map app is designed to just accept cartography from each marine and onshore suppliers like Ordnance Survey. As soon as downloaded, you’ll be able to load the charts through the ‘Digital Map Shop’.  As soon as put in, the charts had been simple to entry and alter by urgent the ‘folder’ image and deciding on a chart from the textual content listing. The charts mechanically modified because the zoom stage altered, though not as seamlessly because the MaxSea or Imray apps we examined. Plotting a route was as simple as tapping every level on the chart. As soon as enabled, and below method, the app adopted the route efficiently, displaying an arrow to get us again on track.
Waypoints had been equally simple to position, edit and transfer on the chart through a drop-down menu. A helpful vector displayed our heading on the chart. A fast swipe down the web page displayed the data panel, with all the information you could possibly need in a customisable interface. A half-swipe gave you a restricted view of the information. Velocity was displayed on the display screen always. There isn’t any interactive tidal information obtainable by means of this app.

Navionics HD
iPad and Android
Worth: £39.99 (UK/Holland)

Navionics’ HD UK&Holland charts can be found for iPad and Android. It’s basically a pared-down chart plotter, however the iPad model may be upgraded with a £2.99 ‘Nav Module’. That is effectively price doing because it provides vital performance to routes and waypoints. Downloading charts is as simple as deciding on the required space and hitting ‘download’ – and the UK & Holland chart pack additionally consists of the Channel Islands and adjoining coast of France. The app could be very effectively thought out. Inputting a route is straightforward, requiring easy faucets on a chart, and with the Nav Module put in, your route data is displayed on a panel to the left of the display screen. When following the route, the place icon shows an extended COG vector, whereas distance and time to go is displayed
on the backside of the display screen. Tidal information is usefully displayed through ‘battery’-type icons which present the rise of tide. An extra faucet offers you a tidal graph. Tidal stream arrows are additionally displayed, and a faucet on them lets you see predicted course and power for the longer term. Waypoints may be enter by tapping the query mark that seems whenever you faucet the display screen, and you may usefully ‘fine-tune’ the place with a set of cross-hairs. The Nav Module needs to be obtainable on Android quickly. (UPDATE: The Nav Module is now obtainable on Android as of October 2014)

iPad solely
Worth: £9.99, charts £16.99

SailTimer’s App is designed to be used with Admiralty charts, obtainable through an in-app buy. They’re designed for use with SailTimer’s wi-fi windvane and anemometer, which feeds wind information to the app. That is then used to calculate upwind tacking angles and ‘TTD’ or ‘Tacking Time to Destination’ – a function all the opposite plotters we examined ignored. We didn’t have a vane to attach as much as, so we entered the wind info through the ‘input’ button as a substitute. Waypoints are enter by tapping ‘drop pin’ after which shifting this to your required location and tapping ‘set waypoint’. As soon as set, a faucet on the pin offers tacking distance and time if obtainable. A inexperienced vector line offers the optimum tack on your vacation spot, whereas a crimson vector exhibits your present course over floor. Getting into the wind information manually wasn’t as efficient because the amenometer would have been, however gave a sign of the potential of the app. Place is offered by tapping ‘waypoint’ and viewing ‘current’. Tacking angles apart, the app’s performance could be very restricted. It gained’t observe a route, and goto capabilities when not beating are sparse. Nevertheless, the upwind calculations might prevent a while in your subsequent lengthy beat.

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Marine Imray Charts
iPad solely
Worth: app free, charts £29.99

Imray’s marine raster charts seem simply as their common paper charts do, with the identical acquainted color scheme. This confirmed up higher in direct daylight than the UKHO equal raster charts.
The charts have to be chosen through the globe image on the backside of the display screen, the place you’ll be able to scroll by means of thumbnails  to pick the chart you want. Alternatively you’ll be able to carry up an inventory of overlapping charts with a single lengthy press on the display screen. They gained’t mechanically choose, not like
most different raster apps examined. Inputting a route was easy and efficient, as was following the route. We particularly favored the arrows on the route, helpful at a look and the one app to do that.
Your vessel’s place is displayed within the prime bar, though the information – introduced together with waypoint bearing and vary in orange textual content on a black background – was arduous to see in direct daylight. AIS and NMEA information may be overlaid when you’ve got a wi-fi feed out of your boat’s devices. Interactive tidal curves can be found by tapping a ‘wave’ button, though these are by default for right now solely – it’s essential to buy the Imray Tides Planner app to realize this operate. Two distance rulers can be found.

Jeppesen Plan2Nav
iPad & Android
Worth: free, charts £31.99

Jeppesen, the corporate behind C-Map, produces its app for each iPad and Android. The app was free, and the charts might be bought in-app. These vector charts are completely different in look to the opposite vector charts, and we discovered the colors more durable to see on the tablets’ non-sunlight-optimised screens. Including a route was easy sufficient, though we discovered that the zoom ranges had been irritating on each iPad and Android. The extent of element was solely helpful when zoomed effectively in – at a route-planning stage there have been no marks or soundings, which means that you just both needed to plan the route at excessive zoom or zoom out and guess, amending the waypoints at a better zoom in a while. Below method, the app was efficient, with a helpful compass rose and information panel on the backside of the display screen. You possibly can arrange a fast ‘goto’ by tapping the display screen and deciding on ‘map info’ after which ‘goto’. You might simply discover your place by clicking ‘compass’. Tide peak stations had been obtainable by tapping on the ‘T’ symbols, whereas tidal stream arrows are displayed all around the map. Nevertheless, not like the Navionics app these solely show what the tide is doing these days – it doesn’t assist you to have a look at future tidal flows.

Transas iSailor
iPad solely
Worth: App Free, charts £17.49

Transas iSailor has a transparent and intuitive interface. Its charts can be found in smaller areas than others on check, and are subsequently costlier when you plan to sail out of your ordinary space. Nevertheless, when you are inclined to sail solely in a single space then £17.49 for a full folio isn’t in any respect dangerous. The charts themselves use customary Admiralty colors, which had been a bit pale in direct daylight, however stood out effectively nonetheless. The app is simplicity itself to make use of. A pull-out panel on the right- hand aspect of the show offers choices – an information display screen, route module, compass rose, discover ship and settings can be found. Inputting a route is simple, with a faucet on the chart and a ‘+’ to just accept the waypoint, earlier than providing you with a spread/bearing line from the final to the following route level, which is helpful. You additionally get the choice to reverse the route, and may see the route in overview. A easy ‘goto’ may be arrange by tapping on the chart and deciding on the crosshair image, and below method passage information may be seen on the panel to the suitable. Gentle traits and different info may be seen by tapping the ‘i’ that seems whenever you faucet on the landmark in query. A measure operate is offered. There isn’t any stay tidal information, which is a disgrace – if it was included the app can be fairly close to excellent.

PBO verdict

All of those apps will permit you  to make use of your pill for navigation to some extent, however some had been a lot better thought out than others. The selection between raster and vector charts is as much as you, however we discovered vector charts to be our most popular selection on each Apple and Android tablets because of the charts’ element and customisable and intuitive consumer interfaces.

Our two favourites on iPad had been Navionics HD for its ease of use, glorious cartography and easy, pared-down interface, and, shut behind, Transas iSailor, which had extra navigation options than Navionics and was extra user- pleasant, though it lacked tidal information. Digital Yacht’s NavLink UK (additionally bought as SeaNav UK) deserves an honourable point out because of its interface and well-presented charts.

Maxsea’s TimeZero was our selection of the iPad raster chart apps, with an excellent interface.
There are fewer choices obtainable for Android pill customers, however Navionics would nonetheless be our first selection, particularly now that the additional Nav Module is offered on Android. Reminiscence Map was additionally an excellent performer, intuitive to make use of, and was our most popular raster chart app on Android, though MX Mariner deserves a point out because of its low value.

So, would we use these apps for real navigation? The reply is a powerful ‘yes’. The battery life and non-marinised nature of a pill means you’d be mad to not have a correct marine GPS on board too however, with a failsafe, a pill is an effective way to get a plotter in your cockpit on a funds.

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