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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.