3 reasons the new iPhone 5 is good for pilots

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iPhone 5
The new iPhone 5 features a larger, 4″ Retina screen.

Unless you are living under a rock, you probably heard that Apple announced the latest version of their best-selling iPhone today–the iPhone 5. Why should pilots care?

Actually, there are some new features here that are helpful for pilots.

  1. Bigger screen makes charts more readable. The iPhone 4 and 4S were fantastic phones, but many people found their screens to be simply too small–especially for aviation use. While the iPhone 5’s screen isn’t anywhere near as large as the iPad, it is a nice step up at 4″ diagonal and should make it more useful in the cockpit. It retains the high resolution “Retina display” of the new iPad, and should make approach charts much more readable because it’s taller. All this comes without a weight or size penalty, as the iPhone 5 is 18% thinner and 20% lighter than the iPhone 4S.
  2. LTE makes database updates possible on the go. Current chart databases are a critical part of navigation apps like ForeFlight, Garmin Pilot and WingX. But updating these databases takes a good WiFi connection and some time, since these are large files. The new iPhone features 4G LTE, a major upgrade over the previous 3G cell service. This much faster speed data connection will allow you to update chart databases anywhere you have service, even when you don’t have WiFi. Just watch your data usage, since most data plans have a monthly limit on the amount of data you can stream via 3G/4G.
  3. Better battery life. This isn’t as exciting as some other features, but it’s absolutely essential for pilots, and it’s the one area where the iPhone really excels. There are other 4G LTE phones on the market, but many of these are plagued by poor battery life–the high speed data comes at a cost. But Apple claims their new phone (using it’s A6 processor) will allow for 8 hours of 4G LTE browsing time, so you can fly with your iPhone all day and still have juice left to call home. That’s impressive.

Is there anything not to like about the iPhone 5 (other than you have to spend $200 on yet another new phone)? For one, the phone uses a new dock connector–the port on the bottom that is used for charging and syncing–now called Lightning. It’s smaller and faster than the old 30-pin connector, but it effectively renders obsolete any accessory that depends on this port (think Bad Elf GPS or a charging cord). To use any of these products, you’ll need to buy a Lightning to 30-pin adapter, which Apple will sell separately.

Also, apps made for the iPhone 4 or 4S won’t automatically stretch to fit the larger screen–you’ll see some black bars at the top and bottom. So app developers will have to update their apps to take full advantage of the larger screen.

One last piece of good news–in addition to the iPhone 5, Apple also introduced new versions of the iPod Touch. While this is designed as a portable music player, it’s effectively an iPhone 5 without cell service. A 32GB iPod Touch is only $299, and does not require a phone contract like the iPhone, so it could be an inexpensive alternative to the iPad. So could the iPhone 4S, which is still available and will be priced at just $99. That’s quite a deal.

The new iPhone goes on sale September 21 in the US, Canada, Japan, the UK, Germany and other countries. Full details are available from Apple’s website.

20 COMMENTS

  1. I’m pretty unimpressed by the iPhone 5. I was going to upgrade my iPhone 4, but after today I think I’m going to get a Samsung. Those phones’ screens are so much bigger.

  2. Ok, the Iphone 5 is just nice. But Apple should be ashamed asking 29 EUR for the lightning adapter ! What a manner to thank the faithful customers supporting the brand since its very begining ! The top one wallstreet company is not generous any more. it’s a pitty ! Shame on you greedy finance analysts, you forget that people have a heart and we feel bad about this money rapting…

  3. I have a 3Gs iPhone and no desire or need to upgrade.

    As far as the absurd price for an adapter from Apple, the industry will be out with much cheaper version very quickly just like the camera adapters now. I would expect them to be 1/4 the price Apple wants.

  4. There are a couple other new features that are of interest to pilots.

    The internal GPS now supports GLONASS satellite system which should greatly improve initial location response as well as overall accuracy.

    The touch sensitive layer is now physically built into the LCD screen. The screen also has 18% more pixels and 44% more color saturation. This supposedly reduces screen glare and increases high light readability.

    The new A6 processor is up to twice as fast as the previous A5 so map drawing in your preferred navigation apps should be much quicker.

  5. I don’t think Apple cares at all about pilots. The iPad and iPhone screens are basically useless in the cockpit….totally unreadable in any sort of sunlight. Certainly they have heard of sunlight readable technology so how come they don’t offer it? I’d even be willing to pay a premium for it.

    • Garry, a $10 anti-glare screen protector makes a world of difference. I actually don’t have my protector on at the moment, but I still find my First Gen iPad very usable in direct sunlight and in the cockpit while up in the flight levels.

  6. Apple is all hype with little substance, not to mention the ripoff charges for adaptor. They havent managed to catch up to Samsung yet. Galaxy S3 is way better phone – 20% bigger screen, better rear facing camera are just a couple of examples.

    • When it comes to pilot apps, aren’t there more on IOS for now than on Android? I see Foreflight isn’t on Android yet… Jeppesen seems to be there

      • That’s the real issue, Thomas. Regardless of the hardware, software is what you live with in the cockpit and iOS simply offers more options for aviation. That’s not to say there aren’t great Android apps out there, just not as many.

  7. I bought the iphone 5 the day it came out. Because I didn’t want to sign a new AT&T contract it cost $903.00 and worth it. Its much faster than the 4s.

    I do think apple screwed up the release with the lightning and also with the snow leopard mandatory update. if your running older than OSX 10.6.8 you have to update to use the iphone 5 in itunes. That means you can’t transfer your info from one phone to the other.

    The biggest problem with this is the apple store doesn’t carry the disc, not only that they didn’t even know where to buy it. My rep told me to get it from Amazon. He even looked it up for me. $90.00

    I finally found out that apple does sell the program Via phone call for $21.00 but I still don’t have it more than a week after I bought the phone.

    As far as the usefulness in my airplane I haven’t tried it while flying yet.

    The weather apps I use are much faster on this phone. The maps are much faster and easier to see. Battery life is less but I may have figured that out.

    As for the guy still using the 3Gs Its a great phone But the 4s and 5 are so much more enjoyable without having to learn anything new. The beauty of the iphone system is that they’re all basically the same, You don’t have to re-learn anything.

    I bought the samsung and got so pissed at it I gave it to my daughter who used it for a few months before going back to the iphone 4. It does have a nicer screen than the iphone 5 I don’t think the camera is as good as the iphone 5 no matter what the specs are.

    But the best part about the Droid OS is FREE MUSIC DOWNLOADS Its why 2 of my employees use the samsung instead of iphone 4s or 5. Because I buy their phones and pay their bills they pick based on what they like instead of cost.

    I’m on this forum because I’m still trying to decide which App to buy for my ipad, I’ve been favoring the Garmin app but will probably use the free month long trial for each of them before I decide which to buy.

    Any comments on which app is best would be helpful

  8. I have an iPhone 3GS – was going to run out and upgrade to the new 5 until I say how bad the Apple maps are compared to Google – almost like they commissioned a kindergarten class to draw maps. My biggest issue with all the hype surrounding iPads and smart phones in the cockpit is that I simply can’t see the screen. I fly a Sport Cruiser light sport with a big full blown bubble canopy. My partner brings his iPad along on flights but the screen is close to invisible, even on an overcast day. Garmin can make GPS screens that are crystal clear in bright sun – why is this so difficult for smart phones and tablets. Is it the battery life?

  9. I’ve tried several anti-glare screen protectors on both my iPhone and iPad. None of them make enough difference to make the devices useable in the cockpit.

  10. Are you guys turning the brightness all the way up? Are polarized sunglasses darkening the screen?

    It can be high noon out on the ramp without a screen protector sitting on a glaringly white airplane and I can see my screen perfectly fine.

  11. Brett, you must be one incredibly lucky person. The number one complaint of pilots is that the iPad and iPhone screens are unreadable in sunlight. There isn’t a single person I’ve spoken with who is able to read the screens in the sunlight. And no, we do use screen protectors, turn the brightness all the way to max, and don’t use polarized sunglasses.

    • Garry, I think it’s overboard to say the screens are “unreadable in sunlight.” I have hundreds of hours flying with iPads (and Android tablets and iPhones) and they work great. Sure, there’s glare, but tilting the screen about 20 degrees fixes it. It’s a minor nuisance, nothing more, for me.

      • John – any suggestion on the the new Ipad 32 or 64GB for use in the cockpit? Ipad over Samsung Galaxy?

  12. I would go with the iPad. I have flown with the Galaxy as well, and am a long-time Android user. But the facts are, there are far more aviation apps for iPad. This isn’t an Apple vs. Google thin–it’s just realistic. The iPad gives you more options, and has great battery life.

    As for model, 32GB is plenty for aviation use. I would only do 64 if you planned to do lots of video or audio storage.

  13. The iPad is the greatest advancement for cockpit usage since the GPS based FMS! I am a Chief Pilot and responsible for the operation of two large business jets. We threw away paper a long time ago, and use the iPad with the Jeppesen application. I see no reason at all to spend corporate money for EFB installations; we have them on one of our jets and the pilots don’t use them – preferring the iPad. I don’t see the sunlight problem that pilots are complaining about – but we do not have bubble canopy cockpits on our bus jets. We started using electronic before the iPad, and the earlier JeppView applications on our tablets were cumbersome and a pain to use in the sunlight, but we have no problems with the iPad and would not go back to paper for anything! I am not in love with Wall Street either, but thanks to iPad for making our lives simpler, affordable, more efficient, and safer. The electronic age is here, and paper is antiquated and now obsolete.

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