Charting Apps – An Informal Review, iSailor (5)

The last post covered the Navionics USA & Canada HD app from Navionics. In this post I will provide a concise review and opinion on the iSailor app for the iPad as applied to the Georgian Bay area. I am using this app with a 3rd Generation (Wifi+Cellular) iPad. To allow for a better comparison with the iNavX and Navionics apps I discussed in the last two posts I have included a short video demonstration of how the app looks and operates.

Publisher: Transas Marine International (
Price: Free for app, $4.99 for Lake Huron & Lake Superior charts (together). In looking at other charts I’m finding that the prices for the other Great Lakes areas, i.e., Canadian Lakes Ontario and Erie as a package, and all the Canadian Great Lakes, are on the order of $24.99 to $39.99, more on the order of Navionics. The USA charts though are much less.

I really want to like this app. It has a very nice interface and uses vector graphics. It’s reasonably fast and how can you beat the price. But the charts for the Georgian Bay area are missing some critical market buoys that are on the small chart route. These buoys are in areas that we regularly boat and their absence is obvious. I worry then that there will be missing buoys in areas which I’m not familiar with which means I’ll need to double check with another app or paper charts. Not good. There is also a strange rendering issue where two adjacent parts of the displayed chart don’t match. I’m not sure what this is and suspect it’s probably only an issue when I’m working at my desk and scouting out a trip. I really like it, but ….

The video below provides a ‘slice of life’ regarding this app. The video covers many of the same topics that were discussed in the videos of the other two apps and highlights the pros and the cons of the Navionics app.

1. Smooth vector graphics make the chart easy to see and understand at my desk and on the boat. The response time is very good in terms of pinching to zoom and scrolling. (Note: we are required to carry, and do carry, paper charts with us.)
2. It does a very good job of identifying the boat’s location and recording a traveled track.
3. It allows for the simple plotting of a course.
4. Permits the setting of markers for depth areas.
5. The separate charts are priced on the order of $5.00 each which is a real bargain considering the app is ‘free’. I could easily purchase the necessary charts for the Great Lakes for $25.00 or less, but I really only need the Lake Huron charts which includes Lake Superior and cost $4.99 (plus tax). This pricing makes it a ‘no brainer’ to buy updated charts annually. (Note: I’m not sure if prices have gone up but it seems other Canadian Great Lakes charts are on the order of $25 to $40, perhaps not so much of a no-brainer.)
6. The iSailor app takes about 57.6 MB of space on the iPad versus 180 MB for iNavX and  115 MB for Navionics. Note that our iNavX installation only covers Georgian Bay, and our iSailor installation Lakes Huron and Superior, while Navionics covers all of the USA and Canada.

1. There are missing buoys in our area (Snug Harbour / Franklin Island).
2. The chart display misalignment is very annoying.
3. There is little else to knock them for but of course we really don’t use all of the features of the app. There may be issues specific to the east and west coasts (tides, etc.) that aren’t apparent to us.

Here’s a video that shows the iSailor  app in action (in the office).  I’m not equipped to do an on-board demo. It performs similarly when used on the boat. There is an HD icon in the top right area of the video, click on it to see a better resolution version.

Note: electronic charts are not a substitute for up-to-date paper charts. You should carry paper charts in addition to electronic charts. Stuff happens and devices can fail when you need them most. Always have a backup.

Post #1 (Introduction)
Post #2 (Overview)
Post #3 (iNavX Review)
Post #4 (Navionics Review)

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