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State of tablet navigation in 2021


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Having just sold our boat and bought another, am going through a few electronics upgrades.

Last boat was a small (23’) racer. I set it all up in 2013, and at the time bought a DMK Box (GPS to WiFi) and used it with an iPad running INavX. That worked well until 2018 or so.

Now we have a new (to us) boat, A 32’ cruiser with a pretty recent Raymarine plotter, pilot and instruments.

No AIS, and I like to have the option of using a tablet so am fitting a em-trak 924b transceiver. That will get AIS onto the plotter but also send AIS / GPS over WiFi / Bluetooth.

So far so good. However when I went to check out the state of tablet navigation apps I had a bit of a shock.

iNavX was last updated in 2019 and their website is showing a database error.

Navionics has changed to a “Boating Marine & Lakes” version which seems to have bad reviews.

C-Maps has good reviews but limited features.

Last time I looked at this iNavX and Navionics were competing and the market looked healthy.

Has something changed? Is there other apps I should be checking out?

Any up to date info would be greatly appreciated. 

 

 

 

 

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We use Navionics most of the time. If iNavX is indeed dead, would be a bummer as Navionics doesn't have mag heading, only true. TZ iBoat is getting a lot of positive reviews, but we haven't tried it yet.

 

 

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I wish navionics would write the 15 or so lines of code it would take to run Mag. I use it on an Android tablet with no issues other than that. 

i also use a laptop or netbook with OpenCPN installed. I picked up a usb connected AIS receiver that also connects to a small VHF antenna. it integrates pretty seamlessly with the nav software but it is only a receiver.. it was also only $50. At some point I'll get the full transponder but am presently draggin this rig back and forth between a trawler and the j35. 

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Thanks both. @penumbra TZ iBoat looks good - have downloaded and will give it a test run. Scuppers my plan slightly as I had planned to switch from the iPad to a Samsung Galaxy Active 2 for the daylight viewable screen. However it might now be worth sticking with the iPad as TZ iBoat is iOS only.

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On 3/30/2021 at 11:37 AM, penumbra said:

We use Navionics most of the time. If iNavX is indeed dead, would be a bummer as Navionics doesn't have mag heading, only true. TZ iBoat is getting a lot of positive reviews, but we haven't tried it yet.

 

 

iNavX is not dead. The web site worked fine two minutes ago. 

There is a new version in the works, and some changes coming. I do know things like the phasing out of raster charts at NOAA and a few other things are being dealt with. I do not have specifics about dates or new features, though I will inquire.

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On 3/30/2021 at 1:49 AM, Bump-n-Grind said:

I wish navionics would write the 15 or so lines of code it would take to run Mag. I use it on an Android tablet with no issues other than that. 

i also use a laptop or netbook with OpenCPN installed. I picked up a usb connected AIS receiver that also connects to a small VHF antenna. it integrates pretty seamlessly with the nav software but it is only a receiver.. it was also only $50. At some point I'll get the full transponder but am presently draggin this rig back and forth between a trawler and the j35. 

could you supply the source or brand for the USB ais ? I've been looking for a cheap one to play with, havent found anything at that price point

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6 hours ago, iNavX said:

iNavX is not dead. The web site worked fine two minutes ago. 

There is a new version in the works, and some changes coming. I do know things like the phasing out of raster charts at NOAA and a few other things are being dealt with. I do not have specifics about dates or new features, though I will inquire.

The single thing that would be nice is support for NOAA ENC's.  Currently using NOAA RNC's is a bit painful at chart boundaries.

I have a hard time paying Navionics when my taxes have already paid NOAA to make the same ENC data available for free.  

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It comes down to the level of integration you want. Do you want to use and Apple/Android tablet or a Windows based tablet? Do you want an app like iNavX vs Expedition. Yes the costs between the two, soup to nuts is about $2-$3k however the level of functions are miles apart. If you want basic navigation then go app based however if you want to integrate weather, routing, instrument data (import and export), racing functions then program based is the way to go. 

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2 hours ago, willsailforfood said:

The single thing that would be nice is support for NOAA ENC's.  Currently using NOAA RNC's is a bit painful at chart boundaries.

I have a hard time paying Navionics when my taxes have already paid NOAA to make the same ENC data available for free.  

OpenCPN supports NOAA ENC's and RNC's and they are free.  The RNC's look great on OpenCPN with no issues at boundaries.

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On 4/1/2021 at 1:04 AM, willsailforfood said:

The single thing that would be nice is support for NOAA ENC's.  Currently using NOAA RNC's is a bit painful at chart boundaries.

I have a hard time paying Navionics when my taxes have already paid NOAA to make the same ENC data available for free.  

That's in an upcoming release, somewhere in the next few months. I've not gotten specific dates from the development team, but they are expecting to roll out a minor update in the next few weeks, though I do not have the details of what it will include.

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On 3/30/2021 at 12:32 AM, mrming said:

pretty recent Raymarine plotter

How recent is it? I know Raymarine are now offering a "wifi" feature that lets you mirror the plotter on a tablet or smartphone with their app. Maybe it has this feature, or maybe this is something that could be retrofitted to a recent plotter?

I'm just guessing here, not sure if that's a viable option or if you'd rather have something "standalone" on your mobile device.

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41 minutes ago, Tylo said:

How recent is it? I know Raymarine are now offering a "wifi" feature that lets you mirror the plotter on a tablet or smartphone with their app. Maybe it has this feature, or maybe this is something that could be retrofitted to a recent plotter?

That feature is on the a/c/e-series (originally released in 2012) and newer.  It works pretty well.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Reporting back as I’ve now got things up and running.

The aim was:

Passage planning on a tablet at home, get the routes onto the plotter when I arrive at the boat.

When onboard, transmit AIS and show received data on the plotter and a tablet.

The plotter is a Raymarine e7 and I’ve updated it to the latest version of Lighthouse II.

For AIS I got the Em-trak B924 transponder (AIS class B, GPS, built in splitter, WiFi and Bluetooth).

For the tablet, I ended up trying TZ iBoat and Navionics on my old iPad Mini 4, planning an upcoming 170ish Nm passage on each.

TZ iBoat almost won me over. I was particularly impressed by the wind overlay, and the tidal streams feature is great too. Unfortunately it’s too slow to redraw the map, the AIS overlay is very basic, and there’s no way to wirelessly transfer routes or waypoints to the plotter. If they can improve the performance and polish some of the features, this could be the best nav app.

In the end though Navionics Boating & Lakes was the best for my needs. It can sync wirelessly with the Raymarine MFD to transfer routes, and the zoom / pan / redraw on the chart is pretty much instant. AIS info is also displayed clearly and reliably. Unf it doesn’t have a decent weather or tidal stream overlay, but otherwise does everything I need well.

 

 

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Was gonna say: Navionics is fine, the problem is the tablet. Tablet screens are rarely particularly good in sunlight.

But since you're using the Raymarine thing, I doubt it's a problem.

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On 3/29/2021 at 10:49 PM, Bump-n-Grind said:

I wish navionics would write the 15 or so lines of code it would take to run Mag. I use it on an Android tablet with no issues other than that. 

i also use a laptop or netbook with OpenCPN installed. I picked up a usb connected AIS receiver that also connects to a small VHF antenna. it integrates pretty seamlessly with the nav software but it is only a receiver.. it was also only $50. At some point I'll get the full transponder but am presently draggin this rig back and forth between a trawler and the j35. 

Er, it isn't just 15 lines of code.  It involves importing a library of code written by someone else, then writing 15 lines of code.  

Code is here, somewhere:  https://github.com/search?q=magnetic+declination

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7 hours ago, Rain Man said:

Er, it isn't just 15 lines of code.  It involves importing a library of code written by someone else, then writing 15 lines of code.  

Code is here, somewhere:  https://github.com/search?q=magnetic+declination

my point is/was, that it's been done before and really wouldn't be that hard to include in that package. Almost every other gps/chartplotter system has the ability to chose T vs M

 

I have the same sorta beef with Garmin Auto-vs-Marine nav devices... the gps in my car has the same gps positioning capabilites as most marine device, probably more storage capabilities for charts etc... how hard would it be include those marine capabilities in that box? I think not very. just less profitable than selling another overpriced box. 

 

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1 hour ago, Bump-n-Grind said:

my point is/was, that it's been done before and really wouldn't be that hard to include in that package. Almost every other gps/chartplotter system has the ability to chose T vs M

 

I have the same sorta beef with Garmin Auto-vs-Marine nav devices... the gps in my car has the same gps positioning capabilites as most marine device, probably more storage capabilities for charts etc... how hard would it be include those marine capabilities in that box? I think not very. just less profitable than selling another overpriced box. 

 

I would like it if Navionics would just give more accurate speed information.  I find it jumps by around 1/3 to 1/2 a kt which makes it useless for racing.

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1 minute ago, Rain Man said:

I would like it if Navionics would just give more accurate speed information.  I find it jumps by around 1/3 to 1/2 a kt which makes it useless for racing.

Tablets with GPS also tend to have compasses and accelerometers. GPS itself is relatively useless for accurate boat speed even if is was miraculously accurate to the centimeter because what the sailor wants is speed in the direction of the course (velocity). Imagine a GPS antenna on a stern arch as it rolls side to side and pitches up and down. Could show a knot or two of speed becalmed in a seaway...speed in random useless directions. Software could be much smarter in calculating the desired velocity along (some) course. Certainly should ignore the vertical component. Also accelerometers tend to be more accurate than GPS from moment to moment.

That is why we use the knotmeter for instant speed info while racing.

 

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22 minutes ago, Borracho said:

Tablets with GPS also tend to have compasses and accelerometers. GPS itself is relatively useless for accurate boat speed even if is was miraculously accurate to the centimeter because what the sailor wants is speed in the direction of the course (velocity). Imagine a GPS antenna on a stern arch as it rolls side to side and pitches up and down. Could show a knot or two of speed becalmed in a seaway...speed in random useless directions. Software could be much smarter in calculating the desired velocity along (some) course. Certainly should ignore the vertical component. Also accelerometers tend to be more accurate than GPS from moment to moment.

That is why we use the knotmeter for instant speed info while racing.

 

Actually, while your analysis is correct the problem is that the speed only has specific values at low speed eg. 5.3->5.8->5.3 and it never shows intermediate values like 5.6.  I don't know if this is a specific problem with my phone or if everyone has this problem.

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49 minutes ago, Rain Man said:

Actually, while your analysis is correct the problem is that the speed only has specific values at low speed eg. 5.3->5.8->5.3 and it never shows intermediate values like 5.6.  I don't know if this is a specific problem with my phone or if everyone has this problem.

That is sad. Maybe they round to feet per second (or whatever) because they know the accuracy is inherently so poor. Lazy programming. Quick monotonic displays are so much more easier to use even if inaccurate. More like a old-timey speedo needle. The brain can interpret a blur of numbers as a fast changing speed.

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On 4/26/2021 at 6:41 PM, Rain Man said:

Actually, while your analysis is correct the problem is that the speed only has specific values at low speed eg. 5.3->5.8->5.3 and it never shows intermediate values like 5.6.  I don't know if this is a specific problem with my phone or if everyone has this problem.

Hmm, strange. 
I generally find my Ipad Air 2 running Navionics is within .1 of a knot of my B&G Vulcans display. I don't link the two or share GPS source.  
Certainly not noticed the speed jumping between preset values. 

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On 3/30/2021 at 11:37 AM, penumbra said:

We use Navionics most of the time. If iNavX is indeed dead, would be a bummer as Navionics doesn't have mag heading, only true. TZ iBoat is getting a lot of positive reviews, but we haven't tried it yet.

 

 

 

On 4/8/2021 at 6:43 PM, mrming said:

Thanks for confirming iNavX is still in development. 

If you iNavX users haven't checked, there's a new release out as of a few  days ago. It's bug fixes and compliance with IOS 14.5, mostly. There will likely be a few small patches in the next few weeks.

I don't have dates on chart updates to the new NOAA Encs yet, but it is on a shorter horizon now.

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