Monday, September 07, 2009

Navionics iPhone Charts 4 wish list

I've still not got round to mock-ups of how the Navionics iPhone App should look in an ideal work. Something to do with too much work I guess, but here's a few ideas.

1) The screen is getting a bit complex: it might be an idea to have separate views for different tasks

2) Example of different views:
a) Chart all screen
b) Chart half screen, other half four numbers (configurable)
c) Numbers eight numbers (configurable)
d) Route editor
e) Way point editor
f) General settings

3) Lower control area: at the bottom rather than lots of buttons have just a few, e.g.
a) arrow button to previous view
b) button to bring up configuration options (show / hide ruler, waypoints etc)
c) user configurable / multi-mode button
d) arrow button to next view

4) Numbers in views b) and c) should be selectable from:
a) latitude
b) longitude
c) predicted depth
d) predicted tide rate
e) predicted tide direction
f) course over ground
g) speed over ground
h) distance to next waypoint
i) velocity made good to next waypoint
j) predicted time to next waypoint
k) distance to end of route
l) predicted time to end of route (you will not believe how long people will spend looking at this particular entry, particularly at 3 in the morning)
m) current waypoint number

5) Route screen used to create, modify, select, delete a route, with action button to select next active waypoint and setting option to specify distance to waypoint that counts as reaching it

6) Waypoints screen should allow a database of waypoints to be managed i.e. added, modified, deleted, with configuration options including latitude, longitude, name

7) When entering latitude / longitude it could be ok to use the standard keyboard but it would be nice to pre-select that its in number mode not character.

8) Actually, do what most software developers do and "borrow". Go buy a yacht racing GPS unit, see what functionality it offers and how its interface works, then try to make it better.


O Docker said...

I use a small Garmin 'handheld' GPS unit on the boat and find it just fine when used along with a full chartplotter program on a laptop (which came 'free' with some MapTech digital charts).

I do the route planning on the laptop beforehand, then download waypoints and routes onto the small-screened GPS.

I wonder if they could do that with the iPhone app. A companion app could be run on a Mac or (horrors) PC. Actually, the more web 2.0 thing to do would be to do the chart planning on a website that could be accessed from either the iPhone or a large-screened machine.

It's very hard to read chart detail without much scrolling/zooming on the small screen, but, once underway, you can often get by with just waypoints and some kind of offcourse indication if you've done your chartwork on the larger screen.

JP said...

That's a good point, forgot to put in one of those track to course views.

Ability to upload routes using standard format like GPX would be a big plus too.

As to a web 2.0 mashup chart plotting web app linking into iPhone app! that is a very good idea.

aperissi said...

Captain JP, thanks for your very technical, accurate and interesting review, and for your suggestions and tips for improving our app. In the past months Navionics has constantly strived to implement the iPhone app with the most popular suggestions sent by customers around the world. Just as an example, one of the most requested features were Lat/Long search and the addition of Range & Bearing that were implemented respectively in versions 2.1, and in the recent 3.0.
We know that we still have a lot of work to do on the app, but our project isn’t to make a plotter out of the iPhone. The aim of the Navionics Mobile app is for boaters to be able to extend their boating experience beyond the boat and to give them the possibility to use the app any time and any place and have fun.
We will submit your observations to our developers' staff and send you a further answer treating some of the points of your review. Hoping you’ve appreciated the developments of version 3.0, we look forward to hearing from you soon again.

JP said...

Thanks for the comments.

I can see the iPhone / Navionics app as being very useful for a yacht navigator as it can be used on deck or at the chart table.

There's a significant market for yachts that want to race or navigate better but are put off by the price of a dedicated chart plotting unit.

Navionics would be a very cost effective alternative that many would find attractive.

It might have a bit less functionality (e.g. no connection to wind instruments) but the points above have been selected as they don't need them (i.e. remain self contained software), and yet still be useful.