Friday, March 29, 2013

Garmin BlueChart Mobile Chart Updates

Garmin is charging for Chart Updates?

I downloaded and reviewed Garmin's BlueChart Mobile app several months ago.  It was impressed with the quality of the charts and features in the app. I wrote a full review and tutorial of the features in an earlier post. 

I like the fact that the app was free and the in app purchase of charts was expected.  The chart prices seemed reasonable for what I got for my money.  This is a similar model that other apps use to create revenue from their apps. I went ahead and purchased a chart set and was happy with the quality and clarity of the charts. Garmin does a good job with their charting products.

I opened the BlueChart mobile app the other day and I got a notice that said I had an update to the chart set that I had purchased.  I opened the settings and went to BlueChart Maps to download my updated charts.  The chart update was there but a price of $14.99 was listed next to the update.  I was a little taken back by this additional charge.  I assumed this meant I needed to fork out another $15 to get the update.  This is only a few months after I purchased the US Coastal charts. I think I originally paid $29.99 for the the charts. $15 bucks, or half the original price, seems like alot just for an update.

Easy as 1, 2, 3 $$$$$$$$.  I understand that Garmin needs to make a little money to keep their shareholders happy, but a normal person would think that once you bought the charts you would get free updates like most other app providers.  I have seen many emails and posts by people who are outraged by the fact that they are required to spend money for updates.  Are we getting too use to the inexpensive prices for apps?

Other marine charting apps like SEAiq, Transas iSailor, Plan2Nav and Navionics do the sensible thing and provide free chart updates.  SEAiq Free, Plan2Nav and iSailor apps are free with in app purchases for charts and added features much like Garmin BlueChart Mobile.

Many questions come to my mind. Are these annual updates?  Are these updates random so we have to spend $15 every time the base charts is updated?  How many updates am I going to have to buy in a typical year? The previous chart set was numbered V2012.5. Does that mean there were 5 updates in 2012? 

Well, I don't plan on updating every time Garmin updates their charts, that would put me in the poor house.  I might plan on updating once a year to keep my cost down.  So keep in mind that Garmin's yearly updates come out about the end of the first quarter of each year.  That is if they keep to this schedule.

Are you surprise by Gamin's in app purchases for updates?

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)


  1. Yes, I was surprised and extremely disappointed. While the app is OK, it is not the best Navigation app I use. I find the Navionics easier to operate more informative. We were promised compatibility with our Garmin Chartplotters and to date do not have a functional wifi interface. I have had so many crashes, that I consider the app unusable. No I am not updating at this time, and I am not sure when or if I will.

  2. I too am surprised by this update charge. I do appreciate updates incur cost to Garmin and also their content providers. I also understand that the content providers can at anytime no longer provide their content to Garmin for distribution. I've already come across this lack of long term expectation that some will continue for ever using the Apple iTunes method for keeping my purchases such as movies. Only the other day I found out from Apple that a movie can at any time be rescinded by the content provider thus making the movie unavailable for downloading. Because of this I've downloaded ALL my purchased items from the iTunes Cloud and have archived them on my local disks.

    Having said all the above, it must be understood that we all are subject to this sort of thing from other Vendors, and GARMIN is no exception if you read the License and Terms you have to agree with for using the BlueChart Mobile and its Charts.

    What I think GARMIN should have done is to allow purchasers of their BlueChart Mobile to have free updates for several years (maybe up to 3 years) before charging. Other companies do this such as NavTech for automobile navigation systems who provide DVDs for this purpose.

    My advice to BlueChart Mobile users is to ensure they backup their purchase Charts to avoid them going poof. The License & Terms say that these Charts are being licensed to you for a limited time, and you are NOT purchasing them outright... carefully read the Terms you all had to agree to before using the Application.

    I've used the BlueChart Mobile and quite honestly I've yet to have it crash on me. However, that's not to say it will never crash. I wonder if it crashes more easily on the iPhone vs. say the iPad... dunno. I've used it on both and so far I've seen no crashes. No matter, this is a distraction from what Mark has asked for.

    Coming back to updates costing a fee such as $14.99....

    First, I would want to know what the update includes. If the changes are inconsequential to me then I would not want to update. There's no telling about this as far as I can see using the App. GARMIN needs to state what the update changes are so that people know what they are 'licensing'.

    The other thing I see involved with this Chart update policy is that if the decision to update is made then all previous Chart tiles associated with the Chart update are DELETED. This then causes one to have to re-download the Chart tiles that previously were downloaded from the earlier update. This is not good at all.

    GARMIN should at least indicate as best they can how frequent updates will be offered. They of course are subject to their content provider's whims as well less we forget that.

    So, yes Mark, I was/am very disappointed by the way GARMIN has acted in this regard. It's almost as if they've been deceitful if they knew about applying this update fee policy when they first launched BlueChart Mobile.

    ...and as Herb Stark has indicated.... when will we see the 'Functional WiFi interface' from GARMIN.

    Boo hiss.

  3. Herb, Barry,

    Thanks for your comments. It is what it is, I don't think we are going to change Garmins marketing plan. At least we can vent our frustrations.

    In my previous post "Survey Says" I had a contest for two app provided by Electric Pocket. Since I did not have any comments on that post, you two are the winners. Please provide me your email addresses so I can send you a redeem code for Boat Beacon and Compass Eye apps. Email me at

    Look forward to hearing from you.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  7. I've been using different navigation apps iSailor, Plan2Nav, Navionics and now I'm looking to use Garmin Bluecharts. As for the ongoing discussion about upgrades (updates) I found that every company has its money making strategy. Every time I restart Plan2Nav it says that there is a chart available, even when I already bought the map for that region, it doesn't explain if it contains new info.
    I have the iPhone version of Navionics and need to buy the HD version for my iPad, and they now include in app purchases for updating your maps for a year.

    For my car is use TomTom for 3 years now and they ask for money when they update their charts. Why can't they use the same strategy

  8. I am also very disappointed, in fact stronger - shocked and infuriated.

    I originally bought Northwest Europe v2013 at £ 31.99. I agree that it would be excellent customer relations to give a number of free updates as Barry suggests above, but I wasn't actually expecting it. I was expecting to have to pay for updates, and in my mind I had a 'sensible' update cost hovering around £ 10 - £ 15 per region per year.

    Then BlueChart popped up a warning that there was a new version of Northwest Europe v2013.5, available at £ 74.99. Jaw dropping moment.

    It's unbelievable that they are charging more than double for the update than for the original chart. It's also unbelievable that this is for an intermediate update (note v2013.5, not v2014). At no point was I notified that updates would be charged at this rate, and it is disgraceful that they are treating their existing customers in this way.

    1. Austin,

      I feel your pain! I do not understand Garmin's prices either. I like you think that an update would cost considerably less than buying the original charts. I had originally purchased the US Coastal for $29.99. This update is priced the same at $29.99.

      It looks like we have the choice to purchase the updates or not. At these prices I personally do not plan on updating my charts every year, that's my choice. It is not that I am cheap but I don't see the need to pay Garmin every few months for minor changes. That is just my opinion. How many changes can there be that would affect my cruising? If I were running a commercial ship, of course I would update to maintain the safety of my passengers and cargo. For the limited cruising I do it is not worth it.

      I think we all have to weigh the price of updating against the risks of having out of date charts.


  9. You should search on internet... there is no cost for update. You don't use the interface the good way. It's not because you don't know how it works that the product is bad...

  10. If you go to this link you we'll see that as of Jan 2014 they no longer offer discounted updates to previous purchasers of the charts.{7934bc40-69c1-11e2-65d0-000000000000}&locale=en_US

    S/V Kintala

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