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ContinuousWave: Small Boat Electrical
iPad with Navionics
|Author||Topic: iPad with Navionics|
posted 08-14-2011 11:35 AM ET (US)
I'm very, very pleased with the inexpensive Navionics chartplotting app for my iPhone. While somewhat limited, it provides a super back-up for my console chartplotter, and its screen and graphics are actually clearer, brighter and easier to view than my Garmin handheld, though without many of the Garmin's secondary functions (which I rarely use).
I'm thinking about buying an iPad, and wondering if any of you are using yours with the Navionics app, and if so, how's it working out? Also, what (other than a big ziplock bag) are you using to waterproof your iPad on the water?
posted 08-14-2011 11:27 PM ET (US)
The price of digital chart cartography for these Apple iOS devices seems very attractive. These Navionic chart deals are almost enough incentive to go buy an iPod just to get the less expensive charts.
posted 08-15-2011 10:46 AM ET (US)
Exactly my thinking, Jim. I grudgingly paid ~$200 last year for the chip to update my eight year old Standard Horizon west coast charts (black & white!); the iPhone Navionics app was something like ten or fifteen bucks and the iPad Navionics app costs around $30.00. I've lusted after some of those chartplotters with 8-10 inch color screens one sees in the catalogs, but we're talking well into five figures for those and there's no way I can justify that kind of expense. I can only imagine how nice it would be to view the Navionics charts on a large iPad screen.
The beauty of the Navionics app for the iPhone is that it's 'local' to the phone itself, which I understand to mean that the chart is downloaded and stored on the phone as a sort of overlay (perhaps 'underlay' is better) to the GPS cursor, thus enabling the app to work, much like a marine chartplotter, without the necessity of having either WiFi or 3G operating. There are many detailed discussions about this on the web, mainly from folks interested in buying lower end iPads--those without 3- or 4G connectivity--and using them with land navigation apps. This ability is obviously important for sea-going uses, because one is often out of range of either WiFi or cell phone connections. Also, it means that one doesn't have to buy a higher-end iPad with a monthly cell phone contract, which is very nice indeed. You do lose the use of the Google Earth overlays which are only provided via the internet, but so what?
Sure would like to hear from some CW members who are already using their iPads on the water.
posted 08-15-2011 10:48 AM ET (US)
Make that 'well into four figures' for the larger marine chartplotters.
posted 08-15-2011 12:17 PM ET (US)
In order to use the Navionics app as a chartplotter you need to purchase the higher end 3G iPad because only the 3G iPads have a GPS receiver.
I have a first generation iPad with the Navionics app. I have taken it out on my boat twice to test for use as a chartplotter. Both times the test only lasted a few minutes. I was not thrilled with the results, but I can't recall at this time what the problems were. I do seem to recall that the screen was not particularly bright in direct sunlight. If I take my boat out this weekend, I will give it another try and report back here.
posted 08-15-2011 01:10 PM ET (US)
Hmmm...I'm not so sure. Some of the research I've done on line seems to indicate that all iPad2's have a GPS receiver; just that without 3G connectivity Google Maps and many other applications (the ones that are lodged on the internet and not 'local' to the device itself) won't work outside WiFi hotspot locations. I'm certainly going to make sure about this before I buy one, because I'm not interested in yet another monthly cell phone bill, and I can't really see any reason for 3G capability on an iPad for my uses anyway.
Thanks for your response. I'd be very bummed if I bought a low-end iPad and it didn't work with the Navionics app.
posted 08-15-2011 01:39 PM ET (US)
This page on the Apple website indicates that only the 3G iPads have GPS capability: http://www.apple.com/ipad/specs/ (Look under "Location"). The non-3G models use WiFi hotspots to figure out their location. The 3G models use "Assisted GPS", which to my understanding is a combination of information from WiFi hotspots and the GPS receiver.
My iPad is a first generation iPad. I bought the 3G model because I wanted the GPS receiver. I did not have to sign up for the $25 per month 3G service at the time I bought my iPad. The GPS receiver works without the 3G service. If you get the 3G model, there is no annual contract for the 3G service. You can essentially switch it on and off by the month, for $25 per month, which is nice if you plan to travel with your iPad. I switched my 3G service on for the first time (after approximately a year of ownership) late last month for my trip to Georgian Bay. The 3G service came in handy at a couple of marinas which did not offer free WiFi. I will have the 3G service switched off in late September, after another trip I have scheduled.
posted 08-15-2011 02:25 PM ET (US)
Again, thanks for the very interesting, and for me very important, information. I'll confirm with the Apple Store in person and report here.
posted 08-15-2011 04:50 PM ET (US)
Googling "Does the iPad have GPS without 3G?", I've just spent half a very boring, confusing hour with this link from the Apple Support Group:
Many folks there assert opinions many, many miles apart. Many of them, I think, aren't regular users of marine GPS, which has been around for the past decade. As usual with most things electronic and computerized, I'm more than confused; I'm totally bewildered.
GPS receivers are so very simple and so ubiquitous in today's world--I mean, they're found in every cell phone, in new automobiles, and probably in new refrigerators, popcorn makers and candy bar wrappers. Why the hell wouldn't an iPad have one? "Assisted" GPS, which apparently means normal GPS linked to cell phone towers, has never been necessary in marine GPS units, so why would it be in an iPad, if not only as some sort of sales incentive to encourage folks who want GPS to buy the more expensive 3G iPads?
I don't get it, but until I have an answer I can understand I'm gonna hold off on buying one. Or maybe, much as I love my iPhone, I'll see if an Android pad is GPS ready without all the nonsense and accepts a Navionics app.
posted 08-15-2011 08:19 PM ET (US)
The 3G iPad needs a GPS receiver for the same reason a cell phone needs a GPS receiver - to help coordinate moving the device from one cell phone tower to the next (see the article linked by Dave Pendleton in the LightSquared/GPS thread currently near the top of the General forum). The non-3G iPad does not need a GPS receiver because it does not use cell phone technology.
The Navionics app will work on a non-3G iPad as long as you are near a WiFi signal. It's unlikely that you'll find a WiFi signal out in the Pacific. The Navionics app will work out there on a non-3G iPad - it just won't tell you where you are.
By the way, I believe "Assisted GPS" is generally considered to be better than just plain old GPS. Assisted GPS uses information in addition to the GPS signal to help narrow down your position more quickly and more accurately.
posted 08-16-2011 08:22 AM ET (US)
Tony, you need the 3G-capable model but you do not need to activate the 3G service.
I own the iPad 2 and owned the original iPad before that. The Navionics application works great on both.
posted 08-16-2011 09:09 AM ET (US)
I know were talking about Ipads here, but to add, I have an Ipod touch and loaded the Navionics Marine Charts, it's a nice little addition, although it doesn't have GPS, I have used it in conjunction with a garmin handheld that doesn't have charts.
I also used the Ipod Touch a bit on our Isle Royale trip last summer, when for some reason the Navionics chip for my Raymarine A57D Chartplotter covered all the Great Lakes with the exception of the immediate area of Isle Royal, but the download on my Ipod Touch did....still haven't figured that one out.
And it was cheap @ $9.00
posted 08-16-2011 09:17 AM ET (US)
I don't think that Assisted-GPS (A-GPS)is more accurate than GPS. Assisted-GPS helps mobile devices with a GPS receiver get a faster initial satellite fix or helps maintain their position finding in poor signal areas.
When at sea there usually is not a problem in having a clear view of the sky and signals from GPS satellites will not tend to be affected by multi-path and reflections.
posted 08-16-2011 10:32 AM ET (US)
The Wikipedia article linked above makes it pretty clear that Assisted GPS will help to provide a more accurate location fix under various circumstances.
One benefit of Assisted GPS cited in the Wikipedia article is the following:
posted 08-16-2011 10:40 AM ET (US)
In the "yea, but" category--the A-GPS won't help at sea. No cell towers and no buildings causing multi-path.
posted 08-16-2011 10:57 AM ET (US)
I agree. But in near-coastal fishing, which I believe Tony does on a regular basis, Assisted GPS may be helpful.
posted 08-16-2011 03:16 PM ET (US)
Actually at least half of my fishing is done outside WiFi and cell phone connectivity, and I've discovered that unless I shut down my iPhone's 3G system, the phone's battery is swiftly drained as the phone searches endlessly in a fruitless attempt to connect. But the Navionics app and the phone's GPS cursor work just fine, wherever I use them, whether in or out of range of a cell phone tower.
I just returned from the local Apple Store, and while the folks there were, as usual, helpful and courteous, I still didn't get a straight answer. The first guy I talked with, a seemingly knowledgeable salesman, told me that the WiFi-only, lower end iPads do not have GPS at all. I pushed a little, and he passed me on to a 'tech specialist' who said that in fact they do have a GPS, but that he thought it wouldn't work for my needs. I tried to exchange thoughts with him about marine GPS/chartplotters with their 'resident' or 'local', built-in cartography that a GPS cursor travelled across (or over), and explained that the Navionics chart apps are downloaded and stored in the iPhone or iPad in a similar fashion, so all that was needed was a functioning GPS cursor; but, perhaps because of my own lack of computer savvy and lingo, the tech fellow was unable to tell me anything conclusive.
The original salesman suggested that I buy the low-end iPad and then return it within the 14-day return policy period if it didn't work to my satisfaction, but that would involve buying the Navionics app as a gamble plus all kinds of hassles, I suspect, about the return.
Maybe I'll end up with the 3G model after all (or maybe an Android pad with better GPS compatibility), but I'm going to wait a while and do some more research. Just doesn't make sense...
posted 08-16-2011 03:44 PM ET (US)
What really makes a GPS receiver have better position accuracy is precision fix augmentation. Typically there are two methods:
--differential GPS (DGPS) precision augmentation via low-frequency, ground-based, regional broadcasts from stations run by the USCG, and
--wide-area augmentation system (WAAS) via geo-synchronous satellite-based broadcasts from a system run by the FAA.
Since the WAAS system sends the signal on the same L-band frequency as the other GPS satellites, an additional antenna and additional receiver is not needed. Also, the 300-kHz band used by DGPS is not easily received without a good external antenna. Many DGPS stations are needed for coverage, and since the system was run by the Coast Guard, coverage was mainly in coastal areas. Each DGPS broadcast station had a range of about 100-miles.
In contrast, WAAS--a satellite-based augmentation system or SBAS--covers the entire Northern Hemisphere and half the Pacific Ocean with two satellite transponders, does not need a separate receiver or antenna, and has generally taken over as the precision augmentation system of choice these days. I don't think you can even buy a DGPS receiver for recreational GPS receivers any more; they are just not practical or cost effective. A modern GPS receiver with WAAS augmentation is only $35--that would be less than the antenna mount for a DGPS antenna, let alone the antenna and DGPS receiver
posted 08-16-2011 08:31 PM ET (US)
I can tell you without a doubt the WiFi only iPads DO NOT have a GPS. The GPS hardware is part of the 3g chipset which is why it is not a separate feature.
You can physically see the chip layout here if you need more proof: http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/iPad-2-3G-GSM-CDMA-Teardown/5127/1
The Qualcomm MDM6600 chip provides GPS fo rthe Verizon iPad, the Broadcom BCM4751 provides GPS for the ATT version. The entire 3g board is not installed in the WiFi version.
Bottom line if you want GPS navigation of any kind buy the 3g version.
I love my Apple hardware, but the biggest problem with using them on the boat(next to water proofing) is the screen, it is nearly unusable in bright sunlight. This is a big part of what you pay for in a dedicated marine display, they use different, more expensive screen types that can be viewed in direct sunlight.
posted 08-16-2011 08:49 PM ET (US)
I think I should also clarify that the WiFi only iPad does have location services, but it is based on WiFi hotspots only, this will obviously not work out on a boat most of the time, it is also much less accurate than GPS.
You can read more about WiFi location tracking here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skyhook_Wireless
Apple used to use Skyhook but now uses their own implementation.
posted 08-16-2011 10:04 PM ET (US)
Without a doubt, buy the 3G version. If you want to save money buy a second-hand original iPad. But make sure you get a 3G model if you want to use the Navionics application. You do not have to activate the 3G service to use the GPS receiver. Having owned two iPads and having been around lots and lots of iPads I can guarantee you that you want the 3G model to use Navionics and other applications that rely on the GPS receiver.
posted 08-17-2011 06:38 AM ET (US)
jharrell writes " it is nearly unusable in bright sunlight"
Most of my handhelds seem to have the same quality; that I have to shade them in order to read the screen in both my B & W and color models. Is the IPad screen in sunlight comparable to the Garmin handhelds or worse? I would hate to spend the money and be unable to read the screen. I use my IPhone with the Navionics ap and I assume that the IPad screen would be superior due to the size.
posted 08-17-2011 09:21 AM ET (US)
Tony, if you get the iPad and take it on the boat you probably want to look in to a dry bag. There is a company that makes one with full functionality (supposedly) while remaining in the case.
One other thing I have found with the iPad that when wearing Polaroid lenses you have to be looking at the screen dead on otherwise, at any angle the screen looks black like it is turned off. I had mine sitting on my passenger seat one time (car was stopped) and couldn't figure out why it wouldn't turn on until I took off my sunglasses.
posted 08-17-2011 11:46 AM ET (US)
IMO the iPhone and iPad screen have similar performance in sunlight which is nearly complete washout.
I use my iPhone on the boat for Navionics, Radar, Bouy data, and as a phone of course. I can get away with using it because the screen can be shielded by hand or some other object relatively easily, in order to read it, but this is not ideal at all.
The iPad because of it's screen size would be much harder to ad-hoc shield from the sun in order to use.
Also be aware the iPhone/iPad have temp sensors that will shut down the device if it gets too hot. I have had this happen with the iPhone on the boat when in a waterproof case and left in the sun for any period of time. They are just not designed for marine use, unless you have a enclosed pilot house.
My Humminbird on the other hand is bright and fully readable in full sun, along with being splash proof and has the proper cooling. There is just no comparison.
posted 08-17-2011 12:07 PM ET (US)
Thanks for the reminder. I left my iPhone in the car by mistake in direct sunlight and it did shut down. I recall that it took a while to come back to life. Well, that is enough to convince me that an iPad is not the chartplotter device for me. As always for me, another "do-it-all" device fails the test. I need to purchase a dedicated unit.
posted 08-18-2011 09:57 AM ET (US)
Many thanks, guys, especially jharrell, for providing the definitive, marine-based, hands on information that the Apple Store tech was unable to provide. Despite the iPad's screen's drawbacks in direct sunlight, I might just go ahead and buy a 3G version. I will be using it in my sailboat, where it will stay below out of the sun, so even if it doesn't work too well in my Whaler, I can justify the purchase. Sure hate to spend the extra $130, however, since I'll most likely never use the 3G function.
Thanks again, everyone. This website is great.
posted 08-18-2011 01:17 PM ET (US)
I recall (dimly) reading about external GPS receivers that were built specifically for the Apple iPad. Let me see if I can find something on that...
OK--here is one option:
The Bad Elf device include precision fix augmentation using WAAS.
This cable extender accessory might be useful for orienting the GPS receiver to optimum independently of the display
It should also be possible utilize any number of external GPS receivers which have BLUETOOTH connectivity. Some software configuration may be needed with this approach. See
for an explanation.
Another article (on an Apple support site) goes into this topic, as well:
In that thread, there is a strong endorsement for a specific GPS receiver with BLUETOOTH, the XGPS150 Universal Bluetooth GPS Receiver:
These are some other options to consider. Personally, I like the notion of WAAS precision and universal functionality.
posted 08-22-2011 10:05 PM ET (US)
Another good article on navigation applications with the iPad is
posted 08-24-2011 12:49 PM ET (US)
The iPad has become a mainstay in many aircraft, especially smaller ones. The "Assisted GPS" is NOT as accurate as a normal GPS reciever, and, when the iPad is used in aircraft, a small separate reciever is used and is uaually connected via Bluetooth although some are wired. I believe such units are available for around $100. This does start to negate the savings, but I really hate getting price gouged on map cards when the same data is sold for $30.
posted 08-25-2011 03:32 PM ET (US)
You can find these much cheaper even.
I would go with an Android device myself. Much more freedom to tweak the heck out of it.
I know a guy that has an Ipad mounted underneath the hardtop on his sport trolling rig. Uses it for the navionics app and we get to see all kinds of cool fish catching videos.
I am trying to decide whether to go with a tablet or a dedicated plotter myself.
I have the navionics on my Android phone and love it.
posted 08-26-2011 12:08 PM ET (US)
I would like a tablet also but if you cannot see the screen in sunlight, have to hide it in the shade to keep it from shutting down and are fearful of a water splash, what is the value in an open cockpit? I have the Navionics on my iPhone and love the device, but really use the ap for backup only.
posted 08-30-2011 06:43 PM ET (US)
Yeah, litnin, like you I'm using my iPhone/Navionics GPS chart as a secondary back-up to my Garmin handheld primary back-up, with my ancient console Standard Horizon chartplotter carrying the main load on my Whaler. On the other hand, the Navionics chart is clearer, quicker to load, easier to read than my Garmin handheld; and a couple of days ago I tested it against an expensive Garmin chartplotter in a 6-Pak in which I deckhand, and the skipper (a true Luddite when it comes to new marine technology) and I were amazed at its clarity, ease of use, and accuracy.
I've held off on my iPad purchase, since apparently an iPad3 is in the works for spring 2012, but in the mean time I've checked out an apparently-substantial Otter iPad case, which might provide the protection the thing would need for my uses.
Thanks again for the helpful feedback, guys.
posted 09-06-2011 12:40 PM ET (US)
I have used the Navionics app on my I-phone and while I think it works well am worried about beating up the phone or getting it wet especially while boating in salt water. While the phone is a problem while bouncing around on a small boat, I would be even more concerned about trying to use our Ipad in that environment so never installed the app on that device. Not that it can justify all of the cost but I suspect a big reason for the marine units costing so much is they are made to operate in that environment and to [presumably] last longer under those conditions.
posted 12-06-2011 10:28 AM ET (US)
Sorry to bring up a thread from the past but I figured it might be helpful to provide an update based on my own experience.
I recently bought an iPad 2 (3G model, with GPS), a RAM mount, and a few of the navigation apps (iNavX, Navimatics...I already have an old iPhone specific version of Navionics).
Overall I am very impressed. The GPS seems very accurate, if a bit slower to respond to changes in speed than my Raymarine C80. The screen is bright and I have no problems seeing it while underway. Keep in mind that I am using it inside a pilothouse, so that shields the unit from water, salt, and sun. So far, the controls seem fairly easy to manipulate when underway, but I still prefer real buttons to touch screens when underway.
Here's a link to a blog post about my experience with the iPad on the boat:
And here's info from Panbo about waterproof iPad cases which might make the use of an iPad more appealing on an open boat:
posted 12-07-2011 09:00 AM ET (US)
Thanks for posting that great info Sam. Beautiful rig!
posted 12-07-2011 11:46 AM ET (US)
K Albus: Cell phones don't need a GPS to find the cell phone
towers. They can find them all by themselves. They have a
A. It's mandated by law some places.
B. The cell phone frequencies are close enough to the GPS
Also, there are add-on GPSs for the non G3 iPads.
Me, I'm waiting for an iPad with the Retina display that's
Also, I'd see if Pelican has a iPad case. Their cases are
posted 12-07-2011 11:11 PM ET (US)
Sam--Good information on your blog. Thanks for the link.
ASIDE--Sam, your photography is very very good. Perhaps you could author a short article in THE GAM about your camera and technique.
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