Saturday, April 12, 2014

NavPlay

Application: iPad iOS 4.3 or later
Function: Marine charting, instruments, log book
Rating:*****
Cost: $4.99 for app, $39.99 for charts, 45.99 for yearly subscription

NavPlay is one of the latest marine charting apps to hit the App Store.  It is touted as a marine app that includes all the features and functions needed while at sea.  The app will help the user plan routes and check weather forecast to start. It can integrate with your on board ships depth, temp, speed instruments, AIS and autopilot.

Features:
  • Chart Table with Jeppesen vector charts or satellite images, and where user can manage detailed weather forecast. 
  • 

Routing - create routes easily and quickly
  • Real Time Autopilot
  • Draw Route 
  • 

Safety Line - SMS and Mail 
  • 
Log Book 
  • Subscription options, 15 day one time free trail, 15 days at $14.99 all features, 365 days at $44.99 all features. 
  • 
Experience Maker - geo-referenced navigation data.
  • Alarm Manager 
  • 
Navigation Bridge - Digital and analog gauges. Pages are customizable in gauges dimensions, measurement units and position.
  • WiFi connection, TCP/IP or UDP, NMEA0183
  • Instruments - Check of on board instruments functionalities, with real time alarms. 
  • Cloud support
  • Weather 
NavPlay has developed what they call their Penta environment. It covers five main areas creating the total marine navigating experience.

The five main areas include Chart Table, Instruments, Experience Maker, Alarms and Navigation.

Icons in the upper right of the screen let you enter information about the user and your yacht.

The app can be connected to your onboard WiFi network through the connections icon.


The Chart Table Selection is used for planning purposes. Charts can be viewed and routes can be
quickly loaded or developed. Waypoints and Markers can be added with at tap on the screen. A handy Range and Bearing tool is also available. Tide and currents can also be viewed from the chart table menu.

Weather can be downloaded and overlayed on the charts. Waves, wind barbs and conditions can be viewed. The weather data appears to be from GRIB type data files.

NavPlay has another unique feature that I have not seen on any other iOS charting app.  It allow the user to draw a route with your finger on the chart. It then creates waypoints along that route from start to finish.  This is an awesome amazing feature. It is the easiest way that I have ever seen to create a route in a marine app. The route can then be edited by either deleting or adding waypoints. Just tap on a waypoint in the route to move it exactly where you want it. I am very impressed with the routing functionality.

The Chart Table is also where you purchase the Jeppesen Charts. Jeppensen has an extensive selection of charts with worldwide coverage.

In the Navigation screen you can select between Route and Pilot mode. NMEA 0183 instrument data is displayed at the top of the display. You will need an on board WiFi and a connection to your on board instruments to be able to display them in the app.

The chart display is in the center panel and allows following your position in real time. Routes can be loaded by tapping the menu selection at the bottom center of the screen. Tap the first waypoint in a route to start following.

The Route display only shows up when a route is selected for navigation.

The AutoPilot feature is provided for controlling your on board autopilot wirelessly with the NavPlay app. You must first be in the follow route mode to activate the autopilot.  The autopilot will have to be on the same WiFi network along with the rest on your instruments.

NavPlay has a very extensive Instrument Display. Instruments can be displayed in analog or digital formats. Just tap on an analog gauge to convert it to a digital readout. Tap again to change it back.

The cool thing about NavPlay instruments is that you can build additional custom instrument displays yourself.

Click the Menu icon on the bottom center of the screen. Select New Custom Page and design the number and size of the gauges you want.  The gauge color and background color can be customized for day or night visions options.

This extensive design versatility for custom gauges is not found in many apps. This is definitely the best instrument and gauge package I have seen in an iOS app.

The Experience Maker is a clever way to record and document your travels with notes, pictures, navigation data and movies.

Navigational data can be easily added to show your location, speed and any other instrument data you might want to save to tell the story of your voyage. This is a blank canvas for you to be creative and document all your activities and travels with a multimedia show.

The Experience Maker data can be easily uploaded to the NavigationBook.com website and shared with all your friends.

The Alarms Page is the 5th section of the Penta design. The app has an interactive alarm manager. Alarms can be set to monitor a variety of instruments including depth, anchor position and wind speed. Alarm messages can also be sent from the NavPlay app via text or email.
The logbook feature is a great place to keep track of all your log entries.  It is nice that is it is incorporated right within the app. No need to open a separate app to record important information about your trip.

The logbook has a calendar of activities that are automatically recorded by the app. Routes, Position, SOG, COG and Bearing are recorded and easily reviewed at a later date. Recorded data can also include any alarms that occur.


The Services icon allows a quick review of all the services that are available with your present subscriptions.

The Security Cloud icon is a very useful backup option to the navigationbook.com website.

The Synch Now feature backs ups all of your logs, routes, markers and graph data easily with the website

The Diagnostics Icon shows real time GPS and instrument data being streamed over the WiFi Network. This section can help troubleshoot connection problems.

NavPlay has a lot of features but is on the high end when it comes to pricing. The app costs $4.99 plus another $45.99 for a yearly subscription to enable all the features. That is all before you have to buy charts for another $40.00.  That is a lot to invest in an app compared to some other high end apps that offer many similar features.

The purchase price of the app does not even give you access to the iPad's GPS, SOG and COG instrument data. You must set up a WiFi connection to provide any instrument data.

I am very impressed with this app! The app has a slick and cool appearance and some very novel and one of a kind features. The Jeppensen charts are rock solid. The price and yearly subscription model however leaves me a little cold. I am not sure I want to keep shelling out money year after year to keep using the app. I think the authors might find some resistance in getting boaters to keep subscribing year after year.  Although with all the cool features it may not be a problem. What do you think?

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
Mark





2 comments:

  1. I have used one for the last 4 months coming down the inside passage from Alaska and am less than impressed.
    when it looses its gps input there is no warning whatsoever except the little icon in the upper right corner turns red and is hardly noticeable. Tthe screen does not change during the outage leaving you to run blissfully along until you run aground on a shoal, ( as I did). The screen toolbar is too large in relation to the screen and the boat indicator is always in the middle of the screen and no way to change it to another configuration. I want to see where I am going, not where I've been. In addition the programer doesn't know how to spell Bearing, as in Range and Bearing. Oh, and a week before my subscription was due for renewal, the screen demanded a new subscription right in the middle of a coastal cruise and refused to restart until I renewed for 15 days. Never again.

    John Schroeder, Hoku Iki, Bellingham WA.

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    Replies
    1. John,

      Thanks for the feedback on NavPlay! Many of these apps look good at first but when you actually put them to use that is when you find out whether they live up to all the hype. Sorry you had such a bad experience. The multiple subscriptions for all the separate modules is confusing and costly as I noted in my review. The expiring issue you mentioned is just not practical and could put boaters in danger if they are relying on the app for navigation.

      There are many other options as I am sure you are aware. Checkout my top 10 Marine charting apps here. http://i-marineapps.blogspot.com/p/best-marine-charting-apps.html.

      I will have to rethink the #6 position of NavPlay. If there are that many issues with it I may drop it further down the list. iNavX and Navionics are the most widely used and supported. SEAiq was written by a sailor who developed it on his circumnavigation so it is very reliable also.

      The cool thing about apps it that you can have more than one Marine charting app on your device and they are fairly inexpensive compared to a full blown chart plotting system. If one does not suite you simply purchase another and move on. I have four or five different charting apps on my iPad. Mine are iNavX, Navionics, SEAiq and iSailor, Garmin Blue Chart Mobile and Nobeltec.

      Let me know which app you try next. It is great to hear what is working and what is not.

      Mark

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