Navigation app showdown, round 2 – ForeFlight vs. WingX vs. Garmin
One year ago, we posted an article titled “Navigation App Showdown.” After ducking the issue for a long time, we finally faced up to the number one question we get here at iPad Pilot News: which aviation app is the best? We had been avoiding the question because it’s almost impossible to answer–what works for one pilot may not work for another. But we gave it our best shot, and compared the top three apps (ForeFlight Mobile, Garmin Pilot and WingX Pro 7) side-by-side. Our main suggestion was to try all three, since personal preference plays such a big role.
This article went on to become our most popular ever, and generated over 290 reader comments (they’re still coming in today). Some agreed with our conclusions, some disagreed, but we received hundreds of comments thanking us for at least addressing the subject.
A year is an eternity in the life of an app, so we thought it would be fair to check in on the apps and see what’s changed. In writing this article, we avoided the app developers and went straight to the pilots who use these apps day in and day out. We talked to hundreds of them about what they liked, didn’t like and what they would like to see added. We also combed through app reviews in the App Store. This feedback (pilots have strong opinions!), combined with our reporting on these apps over the past year, shows just how far these apps have come and where they might be headed in the future.
Read on for more.
Still the top 3?
A fair question to ask–even before starting the debate–is whether ForeFlight, Garmin and WingX are still the top three apps. There have been a number of new entrants in the past year, from Bendix/King’s myWingman to Fltplan.com to AOPA FlyQ. Have any of them displaced the traditional favorites?
In short, no.
Our most recent reader poll showed that ForeFlight retains a dominant position as the top app, with WingX second and Garmin third. There was a rise in the “other” category, but this included a wide variety of apps with no clear winner. Recent surveys at EAA Airventure seminars generally back up these statistics.
For a final check, we looked at the iTunes App Store’s Top Grossing ranks. This is the one place where all apps are shown together (not separated by category), and it measures how much revenue is generated from purchases within the app. It’s possible to buy these apps outside the App Store as well, so this doesn’t show a complete picture. But the majority of sales still come this way, making it a good indicator of trend at least.
Here are the average rankings for the last 30 days for ForeFlight, Garmin and WingX (no other apps regularly appeared in the top 300):
As the chart shows, ForeFlight seems to be in the top spot, with Garmin and WingX battling for second. All of these statistics seem to indicate that these are still the big three apps. With that in mind, let’s look at the features.
While sometimes forgotten in the hype about the latest moving map feature, all of these apps really excel at pre-flight planning. From choosing an airport to selecting a route and checking the weather, the iPad makes it easy to plan your next flight. It’s simply incredible how much information is available in these apps. Here’s a review of the recent changes.
- ForeFlight – This app began life as a pre-flight briefing tool, so it only makes sense that it has a strong list of features for this purpose. Most planning is done one one of three tabs:
- The Airports tab is the best place to start planning in ForeFlight, as it includes a wealth of information about facilities, runways, weather and procedures. Most of these features are unchanged since last year (there wasn’t much to add), although the FBOs feature recently got a major overhaul. There is more detailed information about FBOs, including pictures, which is a big help at larger airports with multiple FBOs. We expect to see more features added to the FBOs list in the future. There’s also a handy wind components feature that automatically calculates the headwind/tailwind and crosswind components for each runway (given current weather conditions). This is great for choosing the best runway and calculating performance numbers.
- After visiting the Airports tab, the Maps tab is a great place to go for a big picture look at the weather and route options. There are a large variety of weather overlay options, and you have the ability to view multiple at the same time (e.g., radar and TFRs and METARs). This is a small but important feature. Pilots’ favorite feature on the Maps tab seems to be the Route and Altitude Advisors, which automatically suggest the best route and altitude for your proposed flight. ForeFlight has recently added a Google Earth-style layer as a basemap option, which is useful for learning about unfamiliar airports. You can view a variety of weather graphics on the Imagery tab, but we prefer the Maps tab for the big items like radar and METARs.
- Finally, the File & Brief tab is the place to get an official weather briefing and file your flight plan. ForeFlight recently integrated these features directly with Lockheed Martin’s AFSS program, so there are some new features possible. One is called Flight Alerts. These pop-up messages alert you when your expected flight plan route has changed, and make it easy to insert that new route into the active flight plan.
- Strengths: Powerful Route and Altitude Advisors, lots of weather overlays, flight plan filing integration, best FBO information, all-in-one search box.
- Weaknesses: Needs more options for customizing performance profiles (especially for turbine aircraft). Limited icing forecasts on the Imagery tab (right now there is no ability to view the CIP/FIP product at individual altitudes, only the max).
- Garmin – Whereas ForeFlight started out as a pre-flight tool, Garmin Pilot is related to the industry-leading GPS navigators. That means the app has usually had an in-flight bias, but the essential features for good pre-flight briefing are definitely here. It’s set up much like ForeFlight, with an Airport Info page, Map page and File & Brief page.
- Garmin’s Airport page is very similar to ForeFlight’s presentation, just with a slightly different layout. Complete runway, frequency and weather information is available here, so it’s a good first stop for any planning session. Garmin also offers its exclusive SafeTaxi diagrams on this page, which consist of detailed airport diagrams for hundreds of airports. More than just a FAA diagram, these scalable charts include hold short lines, taxiway labels and much more–it’s great for situational awareness. Recently, Garmin added A/FD information as well which, while not essential, is still the only place to find some airport information. Another nice addition is the ability to draw on FAA approach plates and airport diagrams, something we use frequently to trace a complicated taxi route. These plates can be added to a binder right from the Airport page, something you can’t do in ForeFlight. Finally, we like Garmin’s fuel prices tab, which shows nearby airports with cheaper gas.
- The Map page in Garmin Pilot is mostly for in-flight use, so you won’t spend as much time here as you would in ForeFlight (there’s no route editor here, for example). But there are a number of good options for charts, maps and weather overlays. You can view your proposed route on a chart, then add weather radar, satellite, TFRs and METAR symbols. This combination of data is powerful. Garmin also offers the option to view Widgets in the lower panel of its split-screen setup. Widgets are good way to brief the weather or airspace for a flight, as you can scroll through your entire flight and check information at points along your route. There is also a Wx Imagery page, but like ForeFlight, we prefer to view weather on the moving map display.
- The final page for pre-flight planning is the File & Brief page, and it’s all new. This is the place to enter your proposed trip then see a detailed nav log with estimated time en route and fuel burn. Garmin recently added a Preferred Routes too, and it’s a major upgrade. Using their own database of flight plans, this shows frequently-used routes for your proposed departure and destination airports. It will even show how often these routes are cleared, so you get a good idea of which routes ATC prefers.
- Strengths: Exclusive SafeTaxi diagrams, solid fuel price information and the only app with widgets. The new preferred routes tool is also a major enhancement.
- Weaknesses: No user-generated comments, a feature we like in ForeFlight for checking on FBOs, and less detailed FBO information overall. No altitude advisor in the File & Brief page. No graphical turbulence forecast in WX Imagery.
- WingX – This app is known for its sophisticated in-flight features, but there’s plenty of good pre-flight data here as well. Information is broken up among several pages: A/FD and AOPA, Route Planning, Wx Text, Wx Images, DUATS and TFRs.
- Probably the most requested pre-flight feature on WingX was the ability to view internet weather overlaid on the Moving Map page. While radar has been available in the Wx Images page for a long time, it’s often helpful to see the radar on top of your route and with other weather data as well. With the release of version 7.0, this feature is now included, through a partnership with Baron. The Moving Map page also offers a side view of your route, complete with terrain.
- The A/FD and AOPA page is similar to ForeFlight’s and Garmin’s Airport pages, and is the place to find complete details about runways, facilities, navaids and FBOs. This includes the full Airport/Facility Directory information (not the scanned page) and the AOPA Airport Directory information. This AOPA Directory includes additional taxi diagrams and hotel information. Fuel prices are available here as well, although it’s worth noting that this requires an additional subscription.
- To plan a route and get estimated time en route, visit the Route Planning page. Here, you can enter your proposed route and see a nav log on the bottom portion of the screen. Tap download weather to get the latest winds aloft included, then tap Optimize Altitude to find the best altitude based on time or fuel burn. One minor limitation here is that fuel burn can only be entered in gallons per hour, so turbine pilots will have to make the conversion. While there is an option to use Seattle Avionics’ WebPlan tool, there is no built-in route optimizer or preferred routes feature like Garmin and ForeFlight offer.
- For pre-flight weather information, use the Wx Text and Wx Images pages. To get a full briefing or file a flight plan, the DUATS page can handle these requests.
- One final new feature is FlightShare, which allows pilots to share flight plan details between devices, even without an internet connections. This is especially helpful for multi-pilot cockpits.
- Strengths: Good radar imagery overlays, extensive airport data, updated fuel prices available in flight, E6B calculator built-in.
- Weaknesses: Route advisor lacks preferred routes, no graphical TFRs, no icing or turbulence forecasts, fewer weather overlay options.
Using an iPad in-flight once seemed like a pie-in-the-sky dream. But it’s a reality now, and app developers have been racing to make their products less of a static reference and more of an interactive co-pilot. This has driven some fairly significant changes recently, especially from ForeFlight and Garmin.
- ForeFlight – A year ago, we concluded that ForeFlight had the essential in-flight features, but lacked some high end navigation tricks of its competitors. Since then, this app has added a slew of new in-flight features, closing the gap or taking the lead in many cases.
- An all-new map engine was introduced with version 4.9, which unlocked a number of new capabilities. The app now offers a worldwide basemap with great circle routing, so you can plan a flight between any two airports in the world.
- The new map engine enabled track up navigation, probably the most-requested feature of the past year. While not everyone loves track up (see our poll), the feature has been well-received. ForeFlight does two things here that make it a particularly good feature. First, pilots have the option to view track up with the airplane centered or with the airplane at the bottom of the screen, looking ahead. Secondly, the app uses some smoothing techniques so the map doesn’t jump around with every 1 degree change in track–a welcome feature.
- Another major addition was the option for terrain and obstacle alerts. By turning on the Hazard Advisor, ForeFlight will color-code both terrain and obstacles yellow or red depending on their relative altitude. The map overlay is smooth and detailed (ForeFlight claims their terrain database is significantly better than most others). Note that the Hazard Advisor feature requires a Pro level subscription.
- Just this month, the option to overlay an approach plate or taxiway diagram on the chart was added. This is a nice enhancement for situational awareness, as you can view your plate, terrain map, weather overlay and flight plan route–all on the Maps tab.
- A variety of other map enhancements were added, including extended runway centerlines, scalable range rings around your aircraft, and a track vector that projects your aircraft’s position ahead. All of these make the Maps tab more of a navigation screen and less of a static chart.
- Canadian and Helicopter charts were added as well, expanding the number of pilots who can use the app. ForeFlight is the only one of these three apps with complete Canadian coverage.
- Another great feature, Runway Advisor, was added last Fall. This automatically warns you (via pop-up message and audio) every time you cross a runway on an airport. It’s a great tool to help avoid runway incursions. There’s also a new option to automatically display your airport’s taxiway diagram upon landing, which minimizes heads-down time.
- All of these new features are in addition to the popular tools like the rubber band flight planning tool, the ruler tool and the powerful routing options using the search box.
- Strengths: Smoothest track up display, best rubber band flight planning, handy ruler tool, detailed terrain maps.
- Weaknesses: No split screen options like Garmin and WingX offer, no synthetic vision display, no data-driven maps.
- Garmin – This app has always been at home in the air, with its strong similarity to Garmin portable GPSs and panel-mount MFDs. Accordingly, the majority of the updates over the past year have focused on making the app more powerful for navigation, and more similar to existing Garmin products.
- The most significant change may have gone unnoticed by many pilots–Garmin added data-driven maps in April. “Data-driven” means the chart is dynamically drawn as you zoom in and out, and all features appear right-side up. It’s a true moving map display, not just a scanned sectional. There’s nothing wrong with a sectional (many pilots still prefer it over the data-driven alternative), but Garmin now offers pilots the choice. In some situations, the actual chart is what you want, but we’ve found that in crowded airspace, the data-driven maps are great. Airspace redraws quickly, waypoints automatically declutter and text sizes up and down.
- Like WingX and ForeFlight, Garmin now offers a complete terrain and obstacles feature as well. This is modeled on Garmin panel-mount navigators, so it provides a crisp display and solid features. We like the pop-up obstacle alerts in particular. There’s also a dedicated terrain page so you can see an uncluttered view of nearby terrain threats. Like ForeFlight, this requires a higher subscription level.
- Garmin also added new overlay and opacity options, which makes it easy to customize the moving map to your liking. For example, you can select a basemap of sectional charts, then add weather layers like radar then add further data points like Pilot Reports. The overlay options let you adjust the opacity of these overlays. There’s even a night mode for the data-driven maps, which turns the screen mostly black to preserve night vision.
- Track up is now an option in Garmin Pilot, so all three major apps now offer this feature.
- While not new, Garmin Pilot still offers great split screen features, with the option to view widgets, flight plan route, approach plates or ADS-B traffic in the second window. This is also the only app with a full panel page, which uses GPS data to simulate a six pack of instruments. If you’ve flown with a Garmin portable GPS, you’re familiar with this view–it’s a great backup.
- Whereas ForeFlight provides route editing features on the Maps page, Garmin has a dedicated Active FPL page that’s very similar to a GTN 750 flight plan page. It’s not necessarily better or worse than the ForeFlight approach, but it is quite easy to enter and edit routes. We also like the dedicated Direct-to button that’s always present in the top left corner. This is a great tool for emergencies.
- Strengths: Pop-up terrain alerts, good split screen options, only app with panel page, only app with data-driven maps.
- Weaknesses: No synthetic vision, no aerial map, no Canadian or helicopter charts.
- WingX – Long the leader in these features, WingX was first to introduce track up, obstacles and split screen. As a result, there are fewer new features to talk about, but that doesn’t mean there’s been no progress.
- The first page in WingX is Moving Map, and that’s where the focus is for all in-flight functions. A variety of views can be turned on here, from sectionals and IFR en route charts to terrain and approach plates. Tap the View 1 or View 2 button at the bottom to select different options. Track up navigation is an option here as well, when connected to a GPS source. There’s also a handy night mode for turning white charts black, although this does not work on sectionals or IFR en route charts.
- WingX offers three complementary tools for terrain and obstacle alerting. The most recent addition is their GPWS feature that was added last Fall. This offers a familiar red and yellow overlay on the map to show nearby terrain, but the app also looks ahead to warn of potential threats–a nice feature. Below that is the profile view, which shows the terrain along your route from the side. Finally, there’s a Passive Radar Altimeter feature that continuously shows the approximate distance between your airplane and the terrain below, which is a nice safety enhancement in mountainous terrain or on an instrument approach.
- Synthetic vision is WingX’s signature feature, showing a pilot’s eye view of the terrain ahead of you with simulated glass cockpit tapes for speed, track and altitude. This works well with only a GPS source, but when paired to a portable AHRS, it will also show pitch and bank information for a more realistic backup view. Synthetic vision does require an additional annual subscription.
- WingX also enhanced their approach chart feature in version 7.0. Now, when viewing an approach chart, you’ll see three buttons on the bottom of the screen. Pencil allows you to draw on your chart, useful for highlighting a taxi route or obstacle. Route overlays your active route on top of the approach chart. Trail will show your previous track on the approach chart, which is a good feature for instrument instructors.
- It may not be a feature most pilots use, but WingX does offer some features for search and rescue pilots, including grids. Many of these features were upgraded recently.
- While it’s not new, one of the app’s defining features is a split screen view. WingX has always offered more split screen options than any other app (indeed, some pilots complained that the number of options was confusing), allowing you to view up to four different screens at once. Options include VFR charts, IFR charts, a notepad, terrain, route information, airport information and more. A popular setup is to have a moving map chart on the top right, synthetic vision on the bottom right, route information on the top left and airport information on the bottom left. It’s a busy screen, but it presents an incredible amount of information.
- Strengths: Most options for split screen, full synthetic vision, good terrain and obstacle features.
- Weaknesses: Track up isn’t as smooth as ForeFlight, no international charts, no data-driven maps, split screen can be confusing.
Ease of use, stability and support
If you plan to use an iPad as the primary source of charts, especially for IFR flight, these are critical factors. After all, great features don’t matter if the app is unusable due to bugs or if you don’t know how to operate it.
ForeFlight has a sterling reputation here. Pilots rave about how easy to use the app is, with thoughtfully-designed menus and automatic chart downloads that make updates simple. These downloads can be done with the screen off, a nice enhancement that was added this year. The app also boasts rock solid stability–in our experience, we’ve never seen the app crash. If there is a problem, ForeFlight prides itself on outstanding customer support, available 15 hours per day, 7 days per week. There are also a variety of training resources, from ForeFlight’s helpful blog to complete video training courses.
Garmin is no small start-up, and has a large team behind their app with a good reputation for support as well. They have also invested some serious effort into making their download process easier and more robust, and it copes well with intermittent WiFi connections. The app is also thoughtful about how it uses storage space. Garmin shows your iPad’s overall capacity at the bottom of the downloads page, which is handy for planning coverage areas, and it also offers three different terrain resolutions depending on how much space is free on your iPad. The only knock on Garmin is that lately we’ve heard some complaints about app crashes in the most recent version.
WingX has always taken a more aggressive approach to adding new features, which users clearly love. However, this rapid pace of innovation does seem to occasionally come at the expense of ease of use and stability. We heard some complaints about a steep learning curve for new users, although Hilton Software has released a series of training videos to help. Some pilots also mentioned seeing occasional app crashes, and we’ve experienced this too. When it comes to downloads, WingX does a number of things to make its file sizes smaller (and its downloads faster). Having evolved from an early Windows CE app, the company had to learn to deal with limited speed early on, and it shows here.
It’s worth pointing out that all three of these apps are pretty reliable, so these reports of app crashes wouldn’t affect our confidence in any of the apps. The decision should be based more on which one you think is easy to use and which one you have confidence in.
These apps usually don’t operate alone in the cockpit; a variety of accessories are used to get more out of them, from moving map navigation to terrain alerts to in-flight weather. GPS receivers are universal. Because it’s built into iOS in the form of location services, all the popular GPS units like the Bad Elf, Dual XGPS 150 and 160 and the Garmin GLO work with all three apps automatically. This is simple and easy, and these wireless GPSs are among the most popular iPad accessories (even pilots with 3G/4G iPads will often use one for reliability).
One recent change worth pointing out is that ForeFlight connects directly to Bad Elf and Dual GPSs. This has been added as a workaround to the iOS 6 location services bug–an Apple bug that has caused some serious headaches. If you’re using one of these GPSs, you’ll immediately appreciate this feature.
ADS-B receivers are a different story. Since there’s no built-in Apple standard for receiving datalink weather, each device must be integrated individually with each app–it’s not automatic. As a result, the app developers take different approaches. Garmin and ForeFlight integrate with a single ADS-B receiver that they helped to design (GDL 39 for Garmin and Stratus for ForeFlight). These companies argue that, by building the hardware and software as an integrated system, the end result is more features, more stability and more options for upgrades in the future. Some pilots disagree, and would like to see more options for ADS-B receivers on these apps.
WingX takes a different approach. By using a common standard, the app supports a number of ADS-B receivers, including the Dual XGPS 170 and the Sagetech Clarity. WingX emphasizes the flexibility of choosing among different receivers. The only downside to this approach is that the integration isn’t always seamless, as our initial flight test of the Dual XGPS 170 showed (many of these bugs have now been fixed).
The GDL 39 offers WAAS GPS, subscription-free ADS-B weather data and dual band ADS-B traffic. It plugs into a cigarette lighter, or is available with a 4-hour battery pack. Stratus 2 includes GPS, ADS-B weather, dual band traffic and a built-in AHRS. Stratus 1 includes GPS, ADS-B weather and single band traffic. Both Stratus units include and 8-hour battery. The Dual 170 includes GPS, weather and single band traffic, while the Clarity includes GPS, weather, dual band traffic and AHRS. For complete details on ADS-B receivers, see our Buyer’s Guide.
In the end, we wouldn’t choose an app based on the accessories it works with. You have to live with the app every day whether you’re using an ADS-B receiver or not. Pick the app first, then the hardware.
All of these apps are a great value, saving you hundreds of dollars per year over paper charts. We don’t consider this to be a reason to buy or not buy. With that said, here are the current prices:
- ForeFlight – $74.99/year for all charts (including moving map sectionals and IFR en route charts), pre-flight planning features and obstacles (but not obstacle alerts). $149.99/year for everything in the Basic package, plus geo-referenced approach charts (showing your position on the charts), Hazard Advisor and cloud document storage. Canadian subscriptions start at $224.99/year.
- Garmin – $74.99/year for all charts, pre-flight planning and obstacles (but not alerts). $124.99/year for everything in the Standard package, but adds geo-referenced SafeTaxi charts and terrain/obstacle alerts. $149.99 for everything in the Standard package, plus geo-referenced SafeTaxi and approach charts, and terrain/obstacle alerts.
- WingX – $99.95/year for all charts, pre-flight planning and moving map features. $99.95/year additional for synthetic vision. $74.99/year additional for geo-referenced approach charts. $29.95/year additional for fuel prices (through 100LL.com).
So which one to go with? We’ll dodge that answer just like we did last year–there’s no single right answer. The right app is the one that you like, the one that makes sense to you and the one you can use safely in the cockpit. The best advice is still to download all three and try them for yourself. ForeFlight and Garmin are free to download and use for 30 days; WingX is only 99 cents. It’s worth an afternoon on the couch and a trip around the pattern with each to see which one is best for you.
Download ForeFlight here. Download Garmin Pilot here. Download WingX here.
Overall, we would encourage you not to buy an app based on a feature list or a flashy ad. We believe these apps are becoming fairly similar in terms of features–they all offer great pre-flight and in-flight tools. There are still differences, for sure, but we see these becoming smaller and smaller as time goes on. It’s a sign that the app market is starting to mature. Future pilots will most likely decide based on “softer” issues like reliability, ease of chart updates and support. These issues are harder to judge than just features, but they matter much more over the long haul.
Let’s hear from you: what’s your favorite app? Why? Add a comment below.
You guys totally forgot Jeppesen Mobile FD. They far out perform the features from Foreflight, WingX and Garmin. This makes no sense why wouldnt include Mobile FD. Have you seen Jeppesen Mobile FD VDR? Its amazing to. Nothing else out there like it
In our research and surveys, very few general aviation pilots are using Jeppesen Mobile FD. That doesn’t make it a bad app, we just had to focus on the top 3 for brevity. We may evaluate Jepp in a future article.
I’m using ForeFlight and LOVING it. I appreciate the redundancy of having it on my iPad and iPhone 5 simultaneously so if it ever was to fail in flight on my iPad, I’ve got a (small) screen that will enable me to use the features I want to help me to get back on the ground safely. It is incredibly intuitive and easy to use in all situations. Fantastic = ForeFlight!
Will foreflight work on Android phones? I use MetroPCS phone service.
There is no android app for Foreflight. Comments from them on their Facebook page make it clear that they don’t intend to support it at this time.
On my Android phone, I use Avare. It’s completely free and is my backup to Foreflight on my iPad.
I have tried them all but use Foreflight. I work in the IT industry and I have to say it would be near impossible to beat FF for customer support. They have responded to every question and suggestion I have sent them and usually in a matter of hours or less. That kind of support is huge and very impressive. Also their constant improvements and schedule of rolling out MAJOR updates every few months is great. Though I’m still waiting for the adjustable font size option and an A/FD button on the airports tab like I have asked them for HINT HINT. One big minus for me though which almost caused me to switch to Wingx. Their closed approach to the stratus data for other apps. I like using CloudAhoy and I had to get a second GPS, a duel 150A, to provide GPS data to CloadAhoy. This really upset me after spending so much money on Stratus 2, to find out it wouldn’t feed GPS data to anything but FF was a huge let down for me. But the duel is a great small GPS that I Velcro to the Stratus and Apperero was very responsive in explaining where all the antennas were so I could attach it with out the possibility of interfering with the Stratus. Still, it’s a pain to make sure both GPSs are charged and connected.
One big plus for FF with Stratus that you missed, that is the Horizon app. This secondary app for the Stratus could save an IFR pilots life by providing what I have found to be a great backup AHARS.
Xample AirnavProp — not in list
Jeppesen Mobile VFR — not in list
This not a comparison, just some “blah-blah-blah” again
For some reasons the Yanks do not like Air Nav Pro. I suspect Sporty main market is the USA not the rest of the world
Yes, I have noticed that the European market is barely covered in this magazine.
Here’s a challenge to the editors (not only related to NAV apps).
Why was Air Nav Pro left out?
I recently saw a version of Duck Dynasty where a couple of the brothers absolutely did not agree on conclusions drawn from the same experiment. There reaction was the rolling of eyes and a verbal expression that sounds a little like “PFFFF.”
Thats my reaction to the weakness list on Wingx:
Track up in Wingx is smooth as butter and if you’re confused by the slpit screen options…you probably cut your teeth on Foreflight. I have never had the app fail and there are features you didn’t even mention that make Wingx a goto. I actually know a some guys on the Mywingman dev team – they would love to be Wingx when they grow up. This is fun though watching this technology develop.
Living and flying in Spain (Canary Islands), I understand that the 3 apps you comment do not provide with European charts? Which would be the option for us? Jeppessen?
CAUTION!! Please do not always rely on the sectional maps provided by Wing X Pro. I have found they are very slow at updating their VFR sectional maps.
Please do not spread this bad information. We have never missed an ‘effective date’ and if perhaps we did once by a few hours or came close, it was because our third party data provider was late, but our ‘sectional maps’ are always up to date.
Having said that, we now have a new data provider, us. That means no more relying on another company to provide the data, a LOT more instrument approach charts geo-referenced; i.e. ALL except one that is horribly not to scale, plus we just added WAC charts that include the Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti, and a lot of Canada – a great new free option for the folks that fly between Alaska and Seattle. We haven’t even announced this yet – you heard it here first!
Thanks to Sportys for putting this together – looks pretty comprehensive. Minor item: WingX Pro7 does have a data driven moving map, in fact they are all data driven on which the user can add fixes, Victor Airways, terrain, obstacles etc. It does not include roads, powerlines (my wife’s favorite form of navigation), but the user can select what items to see. BTW: Our ruler tool is better than their ruler tool. 😉
Good and useful comparison! As a CAP pilot I need two apps, since no single app has an HSI, which I need for enroute nav in my own small plane, and the CAP gridded chart option. I use Flight Guide IEFB for my CAP charts, and although it was not mentioned here, it is a very good program indeed. Flight Guide actually was the first out with the overlaid IAP charts and airport diagrams, which are quite useful once you get used to them. And their airport data is still the best, as you would expect from a company that started out in the AFD replacement business. For instance, they have many more large scale airport diagrams than the others, making IEFB a top shelf VFR type app, even if you leave out the great IFR stuff.
I do admit, though, that the ability of Wing X Pro to actually generate search patterns, along with the terrain and pseudo radar altimeter features, would probably make it my CAP go-to app if I did not already have the IEFB.
As for actual navigation, nothing beats Garmin and its’ HSI. I’ve been using HSI’s for over 40 years and am pretty well hooked on the darn things! An HSI with a moving map – well, that’s just pilot heaven!
I saw the Jepp VFR app at Oshkosh earlier in the month, and I am underwhelmed. Nowhere near the features, and no actual sectionals! Just their own proprietary VFR charts which may be OK if you are stooging along following a pink line but much less help if you actually need to be paying attention to where you are at the moment with visual references. Or perhaps tiptoeing around some high risk airspace trying to keep oriented by ground references in case the GPS gets spoofed by the occasional jamming! Yes, that is said to happen around here where I fly, in the shadow of the SFRA. Sectionals still serve a good purpose!
Hopefully we are at the very early stages of a process which will end up with the instrument panels of just about everything except jets being simply a sheet of metal with a lot of velcro on it! Our panels and avionics would all be iPads or something like it that we could slap on that velcro however we like! Even for IFR! I may even live to see it if I start eating right!!
Just made a trip to Alaska via Canada. ForeFlight just came out with Canadian coverage. it was great and saved me alot of money(Canadian charts are expensive). ForeFlight is a great app….made the trip alot easier. The support people are outstanding also.
Thorough reviews are useful even if they can’t be all things to all people. Let’s remember: turbine-powered and LSA pilots are both reading these. But I have two nominal gripes. The first relates to the fact that sometimes a set of competing products can give multiple great choices, and that’s when the ‘Which is best…?’ sloganeering is a disservice. It would be fairer to customer and app builder alike if the discussion was cast as a ‘comparison update’, which is what it was.
One serious omission, amidst references to the AHRS equipped ‘peripherals’ and synthetic vision, was the lack of a warning that the AI capability of these units is untested and shouldn’t be relied on. For those wondering about this, read the June, 2013 Aviation Consumer. Even manufacturers like Appareo adamantly state this. Need a back-up AI source for flying in the goo? Consider something like the inexpensive Dynon D-1, which is fully tested as an integral unit vs. the multiple software apps & external sensor units, untested, which differ from one device to the next.
Overall, I’d say this was well worth reading by those who haven’t yet landed on ‘their’ app.
I was an earlier adopter of ForeFlight and I have never been disappointed. The support, their updates, and the ease of the App are truly impressive. When the Stratus 1 was added, I didn’t like that traffic wasn’t included, so I purchased a GDL39 and moved to the Garmin Pilot App. In flight this App is terrific… with the track up “vector” maps, the overlays, and the split screen I believe this is the premier in-airplane App. My solution is that I still use ForeFlight for all my pre-flight planning and filing which it still does the better than any other App and “copy/paste” the flight plan into Garmin Pilot trip planner and upload the trip for use in the cockpit. It costs me an additional $79/year, but that’s nothing compared to the old cost of paper charts and books. One last thing, you forgot to mention ForeFlights export option to LogTenPro electronic flight log. This has really help me keep an accurate logbook.
Having subscribed to FF since the beginning, I have appreciated the immediate support I have always received. The support team has kept me with FF. Are there little things I would like to see them add, sure, but about the time I think it would be nice to have, they come out with a revision that includes the item I wanted. I think all three of these and some of the other newcomers have enhanced pilot awareness and safety! Competition is good! Just wish it would bring airplane prices down!
I think you are little biased toward FF. To me WingX is much easier to use and I have never had an issue with it. When I was using FF I did have some support issues as well and I have never needed support for WingX so I really can’t say about that.
I am inherently against any company that limits the user to one brand of add-on item,and in addition, requires that the add-on item be purchased from one supplier. Thus, my choice would be WingX. In reality, I am quite comfortable with FlightPlan as they have the best price. Can’t beat free.
Right on Rich. Consumers need to tell companies that we are not interested in proprietary products. Open systems give us more choices and better economics!
Better economics? Maybe. I bought a Stratus 2, in large part because it’s $500 less expensive than the Clarity.
I use Foreflight and love it. Just bought the Stratus 2 but have not had a chance to try it yet. One problem I can see already is this: I use my ipad mini with a suction cup to the DV window in a King Air. The mini sits in the portrait position. When the AHARS is selected it’s in the landscape mode so I’m instantly in a 90 degree back. Can’t find any setting that would reposition it to the portrait mode.
That’s because there is no setting that allows that, yet.
Just a thought about who to include in the survey. By more chance than planning, I am using Flight Guide’s iEFB. This is mainly because I have used the little books they used to publish.
I fly VFR/VMC using an iPAD mini and a standard iPAD. The mini is yoke mounted with course up and the flight plan the the standard iPAD is used to display WAC charts, weather, winds aloft, etc.
It seems every time I see a great new feature from one of the “Big Three”, the folks at Flight Guide have just included it.
When I need support humans always answer the phone and the support is great.
Its Just a thought, that including a list of all the vendors at least would be a service to your readers and expose them to apps that might suit their type of flying better than the “Big Three”. Even if Sport’s doesn’t sell the app.
I have both FF AND WingX –Used both on recent trip from Eastern Pa to FL in my -6A — I prefer WingX overall, but I always use my iFly 720 for dependable backup!
I have both Garmin Pilot and Foreflight. I generally prefer Foreflight for planning, and Garmin Pilot in the cockpit. I also like that Garmin pilot is available on both iPad/iPhone and Android. I like my Android phone much better than an iPhone, but that is a personal choice.
One thing I think is misleading – you can do your flight plan on the map page in Garmin Pilot, but you can only do it graphically, there is no ‘text’ option like the one in FF. Touch and hold your departure airport until the radial menu comes up, select the graphically edit route option, and then just keep touching additional waypoints until done. FF lets you do this similarly, but the article gave the impression there was no editing available in the map screen of GP at all.
The problem with ForeFlight’s Canadian chart coverage (for U.S. pilots anyway) is:
1) It is fairly expensive ($150/year last time I looked)
2) The only coverage option is the entire country. Canada is a big country, and there is generally even more of an East/West divide than in the U.S. For me, it would be nice if there was a Western Canada option at a reduced cost.
Since I normally only fly in southern B.C. or Alberta, I use US L-E charts for airways and fltplan.com for the approach plates (selectable by province and free).
I have narrowed my choices to FlyQefb, WingXPro and Flight Guide iEFB; my decision is based upon the fact that all three are compatible with a variety of ADS-B products. Limiting my choices to one brand and one supplier is a deal breaker for me.
After the last comparison article I downloaded and compared ForeFlight and WingX. To me it was an easy choice: I was able to figure out and use FF with almost no RTFM, WingX was much less intuitive, crashed a few times, was much less responsive to touch and more often than not failed to pick up my zoom gestures (granted on an iPhone 4 which is probably slower than their test systems). Sitting at my desk I could mostly figure out how WingX did most things (never did figure out how to get my plane’s perf data added) but inside a moving cockpit there’s only one interface I found usable enough to even try. The idea of trying to get WingX to zoom in and out, let alone figure out how the interface, all while aviating scared me honestly.
I do like WingX’s data driven maps as they’re calling them in this article (shame Sporty’s for saying WingX doesn’t have them!) and synthetic vision, but they’re not worth putting up with the interface and reliability issues. Both were a bit buggy interfacing with X-plane, but when I wrote to both of their support teams seeking help ForeFlight really shone with their support quality.
My strongest decision factor though is that FF has a freely available full PDF document. WingX seems to rely on a series of youtube videos for documentation unless I missed a link on their website. Go ahead and call me old-school but I prefer to read my documents than sit there watching a video.
My bad, I went and looked and even though the front page only has links to video tutorials, there is a PDF manual available for a different (older or just different platform?) WingX when you dig for it. Not sure how version 2.6 which the PDF is for compares to version 7 pro but I was inaccurate in saying there wasn’t any manual at all.
The 2.6 manual is for our old Window Mobile app, so you were more correct the first time when you said that WingX Pro7 does not have a PDF manual. Almost universally the feedback was that pilots didn’t want to read a 100 page manual and couldn’t keep up with updates to it with each software revision. The reaction to our ‘non-marketing bare-bones’ video style is overwhelmingly positive. No-one can satisfy everyone, but from the feedback we get, pilots far prefer the videos.
Also wanted to comment on the zooming problem on the iPhone. It wasn’t a zooming issue per se, the problem was that the target was preventing the map from seeing your touches so if you held your fingers outside the target, zooming worked fine – the problem was more pronounced on the iPhone because the (same size) target took up more screen space *relatively* than on an iPad. Anyway, this problem has been fixed and we further improved this in the next version due out soon.
BTW: Did you try our new ruler tool? It is extremely accurate, fingers don’t get in the way and you can zoom and pan while you’re measuring.
Recently switched from ForeFlight to the Android version of Garmin Pilot on the new Nexus 7. My original iPad was starting to experience crashes when running ForeFlight, and I thought this was an opportunity to try something else.
Also, my phone is Android, so this setup will give me a backup device that has the app loaded on it, and is always with me.
Really liking the screen of the Nexus 7.
I have used them all too, and Wing-X is what I use when doing real flying not sofa stuff. One advantage not mentioned is the compression used in wing-x is so good that I have all maps, all USA downloaded and on my ipad in less space then I use for western states enroute only in Foreflight. If I am in a hotel room with limited bandwidth Wing-X is all I can get updated in pinch and its so fast. Yes, I am aware Foreflight creates a seperate thread for the download, but with double the payload you have to do something 🙂
Living in South Africa we are limited by availability of charts. Jeppesen FD and Airnav Pro fill the gap as I believe they do for Europe and other places outside the USA. Weather is also not available here. Bad Elf, Ipad Jeppesen FD and Airnav pro do it all. The Jeppesen FD approach charts are however not Geo-synchronized and do not show own ship position which is a major shortcoming
I wouldn’t think about flying outside my local area without Foreflight. It has been one of the best purchases I have made in regards to safe flying. My co-pilot can easily navigate through the flight allowing me the freedom to simply enjoy the flight. Our next purchase will be to purchase a second iPad and use dual screens while flying (another privilege Foreflight allows – two downloads on the same account. Stratus 2 has also been very nice. A little pricey but worth the investment!
Other apps (WingX Pro7 for example) also give you this ‘privilege’, and our users don’t need two iPads for two moving map screens. 😉
BTW: Many of our users are running WingX Pro7 on their iPad and WingX for Android on their Android. Not all apps offer that. Our Android solution currently does not have a moving map though (Garmin does).
WHAT ABOUT XAVION VS GARMIN PILOT, FOREFLIGHT AND WINGX PRO?
XAVION SEEMS TO BE A GOOD APP
After several local test flights with iPad and Stratus2 running Foreflight I have the following comments;
1. GPS feature of Stratus was very spotty enroute from C77 to CYYB in Canada. When on line it worked fine.
2. Weather was good so I can’t comment on ADSB capability.
3.iPad readability stinks/non-existent in sunlight
I finally broke down and bought an iPad Mini, installed Foreflight Pro, and then sprung for a Status II, which came just before I was to take off for OSH. Wow! While I had paper charts as back-up, I never opened any of them. Learning how to use these was so darned easy, even an old fogey like I am could learn it in minutes.
I had weather all the way, both directions (different routing), and some traffic (didn’t rely on that, though). Granted that the weather is not current (at one point 16 minutes old), it’s still incredibly useful. Especially since without in-cockpit data-link weather, I was still doing it the old-fashioned way, with calls to FSS, maybe seeing it on an enroute FBO’s computer, and then calling Flight Watch.
Gawrsh, my 50 year old airplane has become amazingly up-to-date!
I have 6 of the apps (including the big three). I use Foreflight on the ground (like the weather depiction) and then I use wingX in the air (as well as the AOPA one) with my two ADSB receivers that are supported by wingX. Also WingX works on my iPhone (I could not get foreflight to download on that device for some reason.)
There is one important issue that I don’t see being addressed? Battery life, if you have a retina display and Foreflight the IPad wiil not maintain the battery either on 110 v or 12 v charging. Expect four to five hours continous use before the battery dies.
Apple is aware and they have no fix at this time. If you use the Foreflight pre flight you get a little more time but the screen is a bit dim. I don’t know how WingX and Garmin do I have not tested them yet. Apple will admit that the gamers have the same problem. Graphics are the cause and there has not been a fix.
The battery issue is why I utilize a cigarette lighter adapter with the 2 amp plug from my electrical items. I also have a usb battery pack in my flight bag incase the cigarette adapter does not work.
I have been a WingX user for the past year and love it. The customer service folks have been great. My only complaint is that I recently noticed that the VOR radio navigation Morris code identifiers have been omitted from the low IFR charts, along with the associated compass rose. This small thing is a really BIG deal while flying in IMC. I hope this will be corrected soon, otherwise i will seriously consider switching to FF after my subscription expires.
My guess is this occurred during the stitching of the IFR enroute charts – we certainly do not deliberately remove Morse code from the enroute charts – they are just images so it is not something we would even think of doing. Please email us and let us know specifically which VOR was affected etc and we’ll try improve it.
Will do! Thanks, Hilton.
The full sized, iPad 3 with the retina display does not have nearly the battery life of either the full sized iPad 2 or iPad Mini…regardless of the App being used. In addition the iPad 3 runs very hot as well. I switched to the iPad Mini and while I have a cigarette outlet charger (Sporty’s dual voltage) as a backup, I find the battery life is not an issue whatsoever. The iPad Mini is an outstanding platform for in cockpit use and I no longer use a full sized tablet at all.
My primary aviation Apps are ForeFlight (pre-flight and flight plan filing), Garmin Pilot (cockpit use with the GDL39), SkewTLogPro (pre-flight IFR Wx graphing), CoPilot (use the weight&balance calculator), and LogTenPro (flight log). All of these have really transformed the way I fly and are resident on both my iPhone5 and iPad Mini. For pilots who fly serious trips, these Apps provide so much more than what was available even a few years ago.
In terms of PREFLIGHT only, I don’t see what any of these programs substantively do that the free fltplan.com does not do. I get suggested plans of other pilots for the same route, weather options, fuel burn and time for each leg and comparisons at different altitudes, etc. please explain. Thank you
I’ve been using FltPlan for pre-flight planning and downloading charts, AF/D, instrument plates, etc. It’s all free and is a great resource. Per an email from FltPlan’s Dave Pollard on Aug. 31, a new iPad app release, “FltPlan Go” will be out next week. It will work with the Clarity ADS-B receiver. Support for the Dual XGPS 170 is pending. I like not being tied to a single add-on device as FF is with Stratus.
I started out with FF before GP came along. I bought GP’s $49.95 special last year, after trying it out on their 30 day free trial. During the past year they have enhanced the app significantly, to the point where I will renew with them.
I find it interesting to read where some folks are using FF for flight planning and GP in flight. As noted, GP flight plans can indeed be easily constructed or edited on the maps page via entering graphical editing mode. V-airways, T-routes, no problem entering on the Flt Plan page. The fuel price overlay makes fuel stop planning a breeze and saves the GP subscription cost on one long x/c trip. Radar and winds aloft overlays are great and diversions for weather are easy to check and plan.
On a recent trip from Des Moines, I stayed over in Dumas, TX and was greeted by a nasty looking radar image all along my normal route to Socorro, NM and direct to Tucson the next morning. I saw on GP that I could go south past Amarillo and Lubbock to El Paso and west to Tucson. I quickly graphically edited my FP to stay east of the weather and headed south in clear sunny skies, with black off to the West. I got a few radar updates passing Amarillo and Lubbock, so I knew I had a clear path to El Paso, which was great. I flew an extra 100 miles and was home by 11am, before monsoon activity started up in Tucson. Without having GP, I would have most likely been forced to stay another day in Dumas, hoping for better weather or would have headed south and hoped, which I tend to avoid doing. Having ADSB overlaid would definitely be nice, but is beyond my budget for the amount of Midwest trips I fly each year.
As noted, no other app has the wonderful GP panel with HSI and flight instruments in a split screen. Flight plans are easily filed with GP, so what else is missing that requires another app? I sure haven’t found a need for anything else, but I am a VFR only pilot, so there may be something that IFR pilots need, but all the info appears to be there.
I wish terrain was included in the basic VFR subscription, but it requires an upgrade, so I use TAWS mode on my AvMap EKP-IV, which is my back-up nav aid and TAWS is built in and free, so I haven’t upgraded to try it out on GP. TAWS is a great safety aid when flying around mountains, especially in unfamiliar areas or at night.
Each to their own, but GP will be with me in the cockpit, used both for flight planning and in-flight. The shortcut feature on the maps page is often overlooked and not understood, which must have been the case with the authors of this article that stated there was no flight plan editing capability from the map page. Try the free 30 day trial and fly with it next time you are coming due for renewal. There is a lot of function there, so if you need something you don’t see in menus or overlays, they have excellent help, which I needed a few times early on.
It’s great that we have these incredible apps, whichever one you choose. Fly safe!
MyWingman by Bendix is a nifty simple system , with a respectable 3D synthetic vision system. Fast downloads of maps and great weather overlays, track up, selectable runway feather to lead you in. easy navigating and EASY TO READ information, no squinting. Works up to 39898 ft. Worth a look. I’ve used all and Wing x , Bendix, foreflight, garmin is my sort on this. mainly due to readability and fast downloads. Some foreign stuff is way ahead of all of these, but more expensive.
I use wing X only need some kind of breadcrumbing for flying in mountains or British Columbia down the sounds but would never fly without it they are great people and make my flying great fun
I also like finding all the new info they keep coming up with
I have used Foreflight for several years. About a year ago I purchased a Garmin 796 and figured I should start using the Garmin iPad app as well. I switched back to Foreflight because it’s so much easier to use.
In case you’re wondering why I have a 796 and an iPad. I use the iPad mainly for flight planning and to view approach plates while flying. The 796 is hooked into my CNX 480, so any changes to my flight plan update the 796 immediately. Also navigating the menus on the 796 while flying is far easier than any of the iPad apps.
My experience with ForeFlight and WingX, although a while back, left me with the impression that WingX was much more intuitive. I think all or most of them leaf frog each other with capabilities so it is probably best to use what you are comfortable. But, saying that, if you haven’t compared you may be not getting the most for your buck. I have recently started using AOPA’s FlyQ. Having separate apps for iPad, iPhone and web is pretty nice I think.
The HSI foremost, then the backup instruments make GP 1st choice down here below 12,5.
The requirement to use a dedicated ADS-B receiver (Stratus for FF and GDL-39 for Garmin Pilot) is a downer. The Stratus 2 GPS will not work with any other GPS-driven app; no WX animation, and the AHRS app (Stratus Horizon) runs only is landscape mode. It is strange that the Dual 150 GPS works with FF and any other GPS-driven app but its sister product Dual XGPS 170 won’t work with FF. I think the developers of FF and Pilot apps have done a nice job in adding features but could be more customer focused by allowing more ADS-B choices. FF is my favorite app but will not pay the higher price for the FF-limited Stratus 2 until the market rationalizes a little more.
I use FF and WingX. Flight panning on WingX is vastly inferior to FF, even though it has a couple of nice features (like altitude optimize). In the air WingX works better for me especially with the split screen. I haven’t used ADS yet on either but like a lot of other folks, I don’t want to buy the Stratus if it only works with one app, way too expensive for that. My wishlist would be to just use WingX if they copied the FF flight planning paradigm, and also if they added the integration with Log10.
I have used WingX Pro from the beginning and still use it on an original IPAD. I love it plain and simple, so very user friendly. My employer recently supplied crews with Ipads using Foreflight in the U.S. and Air Nav Pro in europe or OZ Runways in Australia. I have slowly been able to make these work for me but they are no way as intuitive as WingX in my opinion. Having said all that, now I hate the thought of not having an Ipad with any App, when I go to work!
I have tried several apps over the past two years and ended up with WingX for VFR flying. There are several unique features that I love so much that I wouldn’t fly without them. However, additionally, for IFR (and VFR Terminal Charts), I am using the completely free app from fltplan.com (yes, free including geo referenced plates) for the following reasons: the image quality of the maps and plates is amazing and they support preferred IFR route planning and downloading the actually assigned route. You can also see what routes others have filed and gotten before. I also like how they have the applicable NOTAMs right on the airport page. After seeing fltplan, you really wonder why WingX omitted Terminal Charts compressed all maps and plates so much that they are fuzzy. I don’t see a difference in memory usage, in fact fltplan with my surrounding states data is only 2GB.
I have been using WingX, ForeFlight, and AOPA’s FlyQ EFB. I dropped the Garmin and the others. I still use ForeFlight on the ground to 2K feet to pick up the cell weather. I use the Dual and Skyradar for my ADS-B. One comment regarding switching between apps, sometimes one device (Levil) will lose connection when switching between apps and the applications need to be closed and reopened. To resolve this issue, I am using my Iphone for the Levil AHRS, the iPad Mini for Foreflight and the Ipad 3 for WingX or FlyQ EFB. The kicker for me is the lack of ability of the Status ADS-B to work with any app but Foreflight. Also this December, my Ipad overheated and turned off ten minutes out of my destination after an hour 15 min of flight. (reason for the mini). I still have the kindle DX for charts backup. One advantage of the WingX over FlyQ EFB is that FlyQ EFB does not have a cage or reset function for the Levil and with FlyQ EFB it has me in a shallow turn that might mess me up if I were to depend upon it after multiple instrument failures while IFR.