Panbo

Navionics Mobile 5.0/1.0, sorting it out

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Dec 10, 2010
Navionics_Mobile_early_Dec_2010.jpg

This is going to confuse people!  Navionics has refreshed all its mobile apps, but in two different ways, and they're not done yet. The iPhone versions seen in the top panel are marked NEW! because they are in fact the completely new app that I wrote about in February and that let's you download and cache whatever charts (and lake maps, in the US) you want from a much larger region than the original Mobile apps. Which is why there are so many more regions of the old HD app seen in the lower panel, except they're newish too, just having become 5.0 versions, which includes the BIG addition of UGC...

The new download-the-freshest-charts iPhone app has UGC, too, but what about all the folks who already own the original version? Well here's the story on that: "The old bundles (30) will be re-uploaded at version 5.0 with UGC....with a message on top that says this is for install base only to update, not to buy. After 90% of install base has updated...we will then remove them again and they will go to the retirement home for a good long rest. So those that have the old app can continue to enjoy them at the last and final version of 5.0 with UGC....and at some point we hope that they will consider a new investment in the new one which will eventually have a lot more features that will lure them in. They of course also get the coverage of lakes or marine....before they had to buy multiple apps. Confusing...a bit...but necessary since we couldn't migrate over current install base."
Got that? And then there's the new PC app, a clone of the mobile one, with UGC of course. It can already be bought with European chart regions, will purportedly be available for the US in January, and apparently will be free for people who purchase new Navionics chart cards. So Navionics Anytime, Anywhere is definitely happening, which is great I think. But I'm also reminded of a zany band I used to follow whose motto is ""Forward in all directions!"

Navionics_PC_App.JPG


Comments

Thanks - another great article.

Is v5.0 available as an update for Android?

Posted by: Mark at December 10, 2010 7:04 AM | Reply

And what about Palm (Pre/Pixi, etc.?) Left to die in the wilderness?

Posted by: Oceanplanet at December 10, 2010 8:31 AM | Reply

I love the Navionics apps and actually used the iPhone charts for real world navigating in the Med while day sailing last summer.

The logic of introducing current customers to the new s/w with a free update is certainly sound. The rest of this marketing scheme is not quite as sound.

Customers usually prefer the carrot over the stick. In this case current customers only get the stick: stay with the product you bought, and that we implicitly committed to support, and you'll no longer get updated charts or software. Open your wallet again and we'll give you access to chart updates; and this time we won't abandon you - we promise.

This is not smart because it makes the customer pause and consider their alternatives. Navionics is way out in front on this, but there is no reason to think the other vendors will just give them the mobile market forever. This is a real gift to any other vendor considering entering this market (Garmin, Jeppessen?).

In fairness to Navionics, there are only 3 models for s/w companies to stay in business: a) subscriptions, b) charge for updates (and issue them regularly), and c) a constant infow of new customers (aka Ponzi).

Let's be honest, we want current charts and we want updated s/w; we should pay for them. Apple has a subscription model for content providers like the WSJ and NYT on the iPad; why not take advantage of it? How about a hybrid model where you can subscribe for $x / year, or buy updates on request for $2x? The customer cost might not be much different, but it would feel better than buying the new product and waiting to get dumped again.

Posted by: Russ at December 10, 2010 9:45 AM | Reply

As Russ points out, there has to be some way for them to make enough money to keep the charts and software up to date, although this may be a bit distressing to early adopters like me. However, to be fair, the apps were cheap enough, and I have gotten my money's worth out of them already. I have found their app (Android version) to be quite usable, and at least in my area (Texas lakes and Gulf Coast) accurate. In fact, when we had a generator failure causing us to lose main navigation electronics, we were able to navigate quite well for an entire day using my Evo - even in a few places in narrow channels where precise navigation is essential (87' vessel with 5' draft). So these apps are good enough for real navigation. I find the usability to be pretty good but would be happy to pay a bit more for it to be even better, and the ability to download charts would be a win. Meanwhile I will be watching for the Android 5.0 update.

Posted by: Tw at December 10, 2010 10:15 AM | Reply

I think Android is at version 4.3. I imagine Navionics will update it to 5.0, and also start selling an Android version of the new app, but I don't know when or which first.

Incidentally I'm in Florida, getting a first taste of Geonav. More soon.

Posted by: Ben at December 10, 2010 11:43 AM | Reply

Ben, thanks for the updates re Navionics terrific mobile apps. Question: as a current owner of V4.4, how do I go and get V5.0 and download without paying (again) as you describe above? (" "The old bundles (30) will be re-uploaded at version 5.0 with UGC....with a message on top that says this is for install base only to update, not to buy.")

I may be missing something here but as I look in the AppStore I don't see this offer, nor do I see "5.0" - I do see "1.0" though...

Drew

Posted by: Drew Clark at December 10, 2010 11:57 AM | Reply

Drew, Apparently Navionics took all the old iPhone apps down so people wouldn't buy them by mistake. As their note says, once they are updated to 5.0 they'll go back on iTunes with Do Not Buy signs. It could be argued that there should be signs like that now over the 5.0 HD versions, because I believe that all 30 of those will be replaced by 7 new apps soon. It could also be argued that they're worth what they cost right now, without future updates.

Posted by: Ben at December 10, 2010 12:55 PM | Reply

I agree that it could be argued that the 'old apps' are worth what they cost right now, without future updates.

I bought 4.3 of the Android App two weeks ago, not expecting to be able to get future upgrades. So, I'm delighted that (most likely) I'll be getting the upgrade, and even if I wasn't, that would be fair enough in my view - I don't expect a free new car every time cars are upgraded. I don't expect free paper charts when new versions come out. I don't see software as being different.

When this app first came out I thought Navionics were mad - selling valuable cartography for a pittance. Turns out they were right, it's raised their profile through the roof and they'll have made plenty of cash out of it.

Posted by: Mark in reply to Ben at December 10, 2010 1:07 PM | Reply

Drew,

Navionics has updated just the "HD" applications for the iPad to 5.0. They removed the older iPhone/iPod application.

Your older iPhone/iPod applications will automatically update if Navionics puts them back.

It seems they promised Ben that updated old apps will be back, someday. What they have now is the new applications for the iPhone/iPod that are not HD. They updated the old HD application while they work on an HD version of the new software. Without Ben's post, I'd normally assume it was time for non-HD customers to buy the new stuff.

Craig

Posted by: Craig at December 11, 2010 4:25 PM | Reply

Ben,
I did not find any updates for the old apps so I bought the new HD version (iPhone). They have kind of ruined it haven't they?

The big problem with the new version is you HAVE to download charts of the areas, and you can only do it with a very slow, very clunky, very time consuming process. Try to load any area very large and it will say "Area is Too Large". You are only allowed to pick rectangular areas. To do the upper East Coast for example, will require a large number of downloads, each of which take a long time. It is also buggy, many times leaving out tiles that were supposed to be downloaded. You may not notice this, because it attempts to download them live from the web, so while you have a web connection they may appear to be downloaded, but aren't. Then there is the problem of updating: since there is no visibility into the database of downloaded charts, there is no way to know how recent they are except to download them all anew - again with the same time consuming, error prone process.

In contrast with the "old" app you just updated it when a new version was available, the whole thing got loaded on, and you were good to go.

I used this app extensively last summer for route planning and exploration of harbors that I might want to visit. I could easily look at all of Atlantic Canada and the US East coast at will. To do that with the new app will require - literally - HOURS of tweaky box selections and downloads, waiting for each small segment to complete before picking the next one.

I'll take the old app any day.

Jon
S/V 'Anomaly'

Posted by: Jon Fitch at December 13, 2010 1:56 AM | Reply

Hi Jon, I think what you bought was version 1.0 of Marine&Lakes:USA for $10 (The HD apps are iPad only, and the new very-large-area ones aren't out yet). At any rate, I have the same new Marine&Lakes:USA on my iPhone 3G and am pretty happy with the trades-off from the original apps.

I agree it would be tedious to download the whole East Coast, but I don't have any particular reason to do that, especially all in one session, and doubt many other users do either. And downloading pretty big chunks of coast isn't hard in my experience. Using WiFi I just measured 5 minutes for all of the NH, MA, & RI coasts, a total of 48MB of data with a lot of lakes included. Another 30MB -- the coast from RI to NJ -- took 3 minutes.

I did have a little trouble downloading smaller areas with 3G instead of WiFi. 3.6MB of South Florida only took 3 minutes, but some tiles were missing. 6MB of Seattle area failed the first time, but came down fine in about 5 minutes the second.

But then again, I would have had to buy the whole West Coast app to get Seattle before, and would have used 210MB of iPhone or iPad memory to carry it around. As it was I had 540MB of Northeast Lakes just to get the few I use, and 260MB of East Coast charts. Navionics chart bundles are or were taking up significant memory slices on all my devices, space I could use to take other content aboard.

Plus the updates took a while (and were impossible to do directly to the device), and the chart bundles weren't as fresh as what we're downloading directly from Navionics servers. Data freshness is a big deal, I think, as that's what these connected screens are especially good at.

Posted by: Ben at December 13, 2010 7:53 AM | Reply

I agree with Jon. I bought the old app with large coverage areas (three of them) so that I could have a handy quick reference. When a discussion with a fellow cruiser gets around to a specific location I pull out my phone and we are immediately looking at the area in question.

I went through this problem with MotionX for topo and road maps. The select and download process, over and over is very tediuous. I eventually gave up, can't recommend that app to anyone.

This is particularly true with a slow internet connection. With the old Navionics apps I would just start the update and leave it; if it took an hour and a half, I didn't care because I didn't have to interact with it.

Clearly the smaller areas offer an advantage to customers who want to optimize their storage utilization and there is certainly pricing flexibility for Navionics.

I ask that Navionics consider offering the old areas as a single download.

s/v New Morning
Panama

Posted by: Russ at December 13, 2010 8:26 AM | Reply

Ben,
What I bought was the $15 app Marine & Lakes USA & Canada. I was trying to use it as a reference while sorting photos of last summer's cruise, Toronto to Maine. On a fast WiFi connection to download this route would take hours - I gave up. This area was covered by two previous apps (Great Lakes and US East) all of which was instantly available once the apps were loaded (which occured unattended).

I understand there is a tradeoff of memory usage for some. I would like to see Navionics allow much larger areas (MA, RI, and NH are barely the size of one county in some states..), and I would like to see them change the selection box to at least a quadrangle. That way the selection area would be much more efficient. I agree with Russ on the uselessness of MotionX, for the same reasons - and it allows oval selection areas which are more efficient.

I believe most people are going to use this app for reference, not for serious navigation except under unusual circumstances. In either case the large area coverage is critical: you don't know what you are looking for if you can't see it (for planning) and you don't know in advance to download the charts for the specific area in which your expensive Raymarine system is going quit.

I am kicking myself for not purchasing the Bahamas when they were still for sale.

While it may be true that the latest download is fresher, how do you know what you have? They used to update the old ones every 2-3 months, now am I expected to go through the whole painstaking download process every 2 months?

I'll still take the old ones any day, and I think many users will agree. This could all be fixed by changing the way chart downloads work.

Jon
S/V 'Anomaly'

Posted by: Jon Fitch at December 14, 2010 12:20 AM | Reply

I agree. In addition to the ability to select by a selected area it would be excellent to be able to download all the charts the user has bought in one. Then all the problems go away.

In the post above, Ben came dangerously close to saying that difficult downloads are a good idea because they save disk space! :-)

Posted by: Mark in reply to Jon Fitch at December 14, 2010 8:50 AM | Reply

Jon and Russ, I doubt that Navionics will keep developing chart/app bundles, if only because they'd end up managing some 37 marine apps each for the iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, and Mobile 7. (I've heard rumor that they're working on the latter two, but don't know it for sure.)

But it does seem possible that they can make it easier and more hands-off to download large chart areas. Free form areas, a "no lakes" (or "no ocean") switch...and I'm sure there are other ways. Meanwhile, isn't it amazing that they're offering all of U.S. and Canada, even their hi res lake mapping, for $15? Most of Europe for $12?

Posted by: Ben at December 14, 2010 9:00 AM | Reply

The seven new 1.0 Navionics HD editions are now on iTunes, and the 5.0 versions are pulled. Also the Android version went to 5.0, so I think all have user generated data now. Anybody trying it?

Also, Transas now has a universal iThing charting app called iSailor:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/transas-isailor/id398456162?mt=8

Posted by: Ben at January 11, 2011 10:18 AM | Reply

Ben,

I have downloaded the latest version of Navionics USA & Canada on my iPhone 3GS. I can't see much difference from the first release, still annoyingly slow to download any charts, and unreliable too (many tiles don't load the first time). It is also noticeably slower scrolling and zooming than the original Navionics apps, even with all the overlay turned off.

In addition, my original Navionics app for the East Coast no longer works (iPhone 4.2.1 OS). It will not refresh the screen after a scroll or zoom. The West Coast and Great Lakes apps still seem to work.

I used to recommend the Navionics iPhone apps to everyone who would listen. I thought they were the greatest thing since sliced bread. But I don't any more, and don't use then myself much. I will be looking for an alternative. Its too bad that Navionics managed to ruin these so thoroughly. Please bring back the old ones!!!!

Jon
S/V 'Anomaly'

Posted by: Jon Fitch at January 13, 2011 12:52 PM | Reply

Can someone tell me if the new 1.0 has the same Bahamas coverage as the old 5.0.2 version? Can't tell from Navionics coverage map on it's website.

Posted by: marc at February 2, 2011 8:56 AM | Reply

Navionics Mobile Version 1.2 adds user registration to UGC (user generated data), which was necessary to discourage spam. It also adds automatic syncing of personal data like routes and tracks between mobile devices. Incidentally, Navionics just won "Most Innovative Company in the Marine Industry" at the China International Boat Show: http://goo.gl/pP5Y0

Posted by: Ben at April 17, 2011 11:32 AM | Reply

Ben, I'm a little confused about this Navionics PC app, and their website is less than helpful, wanting me to load up Adobe air each time, which I already have. Will this PC app allow you to read the charts resident on the Android on you PC as a viewer via USB tether or wireless?
All ours were updated free to version 5.2 over a month ago now, maybe Ive got it wrong, but it's confusing.

Steve

Posted by: steverow at April 18, 2011 3:08 AM | Reply

I agree that it's confusing, Steve. The Web Store link on Navionics main page goes right to the Air and App download, but I found a FAQ that answers many questions:

http://store.navionics.com/faqs

At any rate, the app does not read charts off a mobile device. It downloads its own chart set, either bought by you or received as a bonus if you have a current Navionics chart card

I don't have the app myself right now, because my old desktop computer died on April 1 and I haven't yet figured out how to reload the chart regions I'd gotten vouchers for. I also had a little trouble with Air download on this new Windows 7 machine. I had to go get the install file at Adobe and "install as administrator" though I'm logged in as one. This is not a peculiar Navionics problem; My one complaint about Win7 is installation difficulties.

Posted by: Ben in reply to steverow at April 18, 2011 9:13 AM | Reply

Must be something in tha air Ben, both my XP lappie and the current one a 2.4GHz 4MB both recently died for no apparent reason. I'm using my samsung netbook at the moment, which is less than ideal for my eyes.

Steve

Posted by: steverow at April 18, 2011 6:15 PM | Reply

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