My learning experience with Android tablets as EFB's, so far.

rframe

pǝʇɹǝʌuı
I was planning to buy an iPad, but just couldn't bring myself to do it, I'm just not an Apple guy and I didn't want to open that door. After looking into Android tablets for a while I decided I was looking for either an XYBoard, a Transformer, or a Galaxy.

I ended up finding a barely used Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 with a decent book cover case and a mobile charger for $350. This is a Verizon 4GLTE device with GPS, mag compass, gyro, and barometer.

I bought this 95% for use as an EFB. I was really unsure about the size. I wanted to use it as a kneeboard but wasn't sure if the 10" was going to feel too large/clunky in the cockpit. It turns out the 10" is perfect for this use. Even in the C150 it feels fine and is not in the way at all. The larger screen makes it easy to zoom in on docs and maps and see them without problem without picking up the tablet. If I were planning to mount a tablet on a yoke, I'd definitely go with a 7-8" format though.

I also picked up a Targus Stylus and it's given me pretty good control, I can hand write and sketch fairly well. If I were doing more sketching I'd spring for a higher quality stylus but the Targus is very functional at $12.

Here's what I've learned so far.

Verizon Activation

Verizon is helpful, if you get the right people on the phone. If you're buying used, call or online chat Verizon and have them run the MEID before you pay the person, to be sure it's not reported as stolen, or else you wont be able to activate it. I did this with no problems.

After I bought the device I stopped at the local Verizon store and they gave me a SIM card for free. I did not want to put this on my Verizon cell phone contract but wanted to just get a non-subscription monthly data plan. When I checked the MEID the technician said there is no restriction on tablets anymore and any can be added to a month-to-month plan. The guy in the store said to just pop the SIM card in and it would prompt me to activate on my own. Well I took it home and all it did was flash a message about "problem activating, contact customer support". So, I tried a Verizon online chat agent and he basically said, "you cannot activate a used tablet, you were lied to...good bye". Well I figured the guy was an idiot so I entered an hour of phone queue hell and got transferred 4 times. Finally a friendly woman said she'd get my SIM card activated, put me on hold for 5 minutes and then the system hung up on me. I called again and this time got to a very helpful man who was trying very hard to get it done but my Tab is international and has an IMEI number not an MEID number and he didn't know what to do. He also said there was no way to put this on a monthly $20 data plan and that was just reserved for iPads, at this point I didn't want to argue anymore and just wanted the stupid thing to work so I told him to just put it on the cheapest data plan that worked. He was sure it wasn't a Verizon device until I explained that Verizon was literally etched into the back of it... then he got another very helpful woman from international support on the line. She was like "no problem"...tap tap tap...done! And she clarified that yes ANY tablet can be put on a $20 (1GB) month-to-month data plan and that was done... So if you get push-back from an agent trying to do this you might just need to call back and talk to someone else, it doesn't seem they are all up-to-date on what's allowed or maybe aren't well trained on how to do it. 4G service works great on it and is very fast. I just turn it off unless needed, but I've found that the apps are very good about warning me if they feel a need to use data and there is no wifi, so I think it'd be pretty hard to unintentionally blow through a bunch of data. With the $20 plan I can grab weather, notams, bill/charge customers right from the ramp and will be totally fine with 1GB. In the winter when instructing slows down I could drop the data for a month or two if I dont want it and save a few pennies. There are no activation fees with the $20 plan currently.


EFB Apps

I first grabbed a copy of Naviator. The app is free and data subscriptions are $5/month... very reasonable. I liked the interface and performance just "OK". It was totally usable and it worked fine in flight as a moving map sectional but it felt a little clunky to me. I hit one major snag though. When I went to select approach plates, they were not pre-cached and it needed a data connection to grab them on demand. This was really stupid in my opinion. It might be that there is a simple setting to enable bulk downloads, but I was annoyed and wanted to test some other options. If you want geo-referenced approach plates and taxi diagrams those are $75 extra from Seattle Avionics, a nice option if you do a lot of work at larger airports.

I then grabbed Navilution AviationMaps. I love this program. It seems like the guy has put a lot of though into it and/or he just thinks the same way I do because the app works as expected and there is no documentation, you just "use it" and it works. One trick with this app is to install it from the Navilution web site, not from Google Play. What this does is also gives you the option for $5 monthly data subscriptions (sectional, terminal, low alt, high alt, and non-georeferenced approach plates), if you buy from Google Play you can only get a yearly subscription for $50 (not a huge deal, but I like the flexibility). Also, right now you can get a free 1 month data trial sponsored by AvWeb. This loaded up fine. The performance in flight was very good and the interface is very slick and clean with pull out options for flight plan and settings that do not clutter the screen. Touching an airport gives you a quick overlay METAR and you can launch a more detailed view optionally. This application has slick split screen options for map + AFD/weather or map + plates, or whatever. Pretty slick interface. I emailed support over the weekend to ask about saving GPS tracks and got an email reply back in a few hours explaining exactly how to do it. So far I'm really liking this.

Moving map looks very good. Optional layers include Nexrad, winds aloft, sigmets, airmets, metar symbology, TFR's, and XRX Traffic if you have the capabilities. Auto panning works well.

Cool features: The quick select menu that shows all recent charts, AFD entries, and approach plates, so it's easy to switch views back and forth quickly. Also he's created this "Flight Pad" option which is an intuitive airport-aware form that you can use to easily record ATIS weather, runways in use (from selection) and clearances with different screens for departure, en-route, and arrival. At first I was like "I'm not using that" but after playing with it a bit it actually looks like it'd be very intuitive and usable adding some nice standardization to recording this information. There's a DUATS briefing integration (you just save your duats credentials) so you can have the "official" data on file and at your fingers too. The flight pad does have a "scribble" screen for handwritten notes, but it's not very refined, it's a single page, and has no smoothing algorithms, so your hand writing looks pretty crappy.

Cons: I do not think there is an option yet for geo-referenced approach plates or taxi diagrams, but it might be coming... I'm not really willing to pay for that yet for the type of flying I am doing. Also, I have not done much with flight planning in this application so I do not know how easily/quickly changes are on the fly, like updating a plan with amended clearances. On the ground, it's simple to either insert waypoints via screen tap or via text entry, but I just haven't done it in flight... so, we'll see how that workflow is a bit later.

I am planning to test OpenFlightGPS but so far I'm enjoying AviationMaps so much I dont want to change... I'll get around to this eventually.


Other stuff

Fltplan.com - I like this app very well, quick weather and I like the ability to save frequent airports for easy METAR/TAF retrieval in one click. I also downloaded their FlightDeck option which is around 150MB for the "full data" and provides the FBO and airport business contact information, picking up where the AFD stops. Worth the download if you have the space.

NOAA Aviation Weather - not really impressed with this app.

I wanted a good hand written note taking application for scratching quick notes when flying with students. FreeNote has blown me away. This is a pretty rich little note taking application with multiple handwriting algorithms available that make it very easy to capture handwriting and format that into nice notebook style lines automatically, keeping things nice and organized. You can switch between handwriting, typing (Virtual keyboard), and drawings all in the same notepad... really great stuff. It has a simple pager so you can flip to multiple notebook pages quickly. I've actually started using this to prepare lesson plans, as it's easy to see and reference in flight and I can hand write notes right on the lesson plan.

For a good 'ol flight computer Flight Tools E6B seems to work great. Hard to say much about a flight computer... I mean, it converts stuff and does courses and such... what more is there to say?

Still to do...

I am waiting on my Square reader, I'll test that out when I get it but expect it to work without any problems. There are also reader options from PayPal (not yet released) and Intuit (if you use Quickbooks). All the rates are fairly close, but Square doesn't hit you with chargeback fees while Intuit has them set at something like $25-30. You shouldn't really be getting chargebacks as a CFI, but...

Office Applications - It seems if you want a good Office document editor you'll pay about $15-20. I have no problem with this on a tablet where I might actually do work but on a phone I think that's nuts and I'd just use a free reader. My main interest here is updating student record files, syllabus, and lesson plan templates. I plan to try Office Suite Pro as it seems to consistently get the best reviews. One issue is that on PC I use OpenOffice and save in their native format and I'm not sure there are any Android apps that will edit these (there is a free OO reader, but not editor), so I might just have to save them all in MS Office format... not a huge deal.

I have my CFI records all saving on Google Drive and will be testing the Android Application to make sure I can synchronize these files without issue... downloaded the app but no testing yet.

PDF Editor - I need to load up all the FAA handbooks and I'm still looking for a good quality FAR/AIM in PDF format. I'm hoping to find a great PDF app that with good search performance, good bookmarking, and editing/overlaying options for highlighting and marking up documents. I've haven't started looking at this yet.
 

ozziecat35

4 out of 5 great lakes prefer Michigan.
Great write up! I went the iPad route, but glad the Galaxy is working for you.
 

Shiftace

Low Time Private Pilot
Nice write up! Thanks.

The wife ordered the iPad that she wanted, now that she got her Financial Aid monies. I would probably be using it as a EFB once in a while.
 

rframe

pǝʇɹǝʌuı
Oh I also still need to try out Avilutions Weight and Balance app. This is $5 and looks excellent. You set up the airplanes you fly with their stations, including multiple fuel tanks and variable fuel arms, and can easily enter data in a graphical airplane display and it will give you go/no-go along with graphed envelopes charting CG movement from "as loaded" to "zero fuel" so you can immediately see where your CG is going to go throughout the flight. Looks like it should be well worth the $5 and given my experience with Avilution's other application, I expect this one should be well written too.
 

deadpixel

Well-Known Member
Good write up, I've been debating which android tablet to get so in the mean time I tried out naviator on my galaxy nexus (worked okay, seemed clunky like you said). Since the release of the nexus 7 though it's been making me wanna swig out and grab one of those just because of size and working gps, barometer, mag compass, gyro etc. Thanks for the write up on avilution, been curious about it but didn't want to drop money until I got something
 

KSCessnaDriver

Well-Known Member
I just bought a Lenovo A1107 tablet. Android 4.x and a 7 inch screen. I didn't want a super big screen, nor did I want to pay for a tablet that had 3G/4G when I had no intention of using it on the tablet. So, for 200 bucks, I got a decent little tablet, and then picked up the new Garmin GLO for aviation, which for $129 got me a GPS/GLONASS receiver that is Bluetooth, and 6 months worth of subscription for Garmin Pilot . Its a great setup, not too big, not to small and gave me great battery life. Medium screen brightness for a 7 hour flight got me to about 40% battery life remaining, with the screen running the entire time. Additionally, Garmin Pilot gives the option to interface to the GDL39 portable ADS-B

I really think Garmin Pilot is the first really developed android aviation navigation app that has a wide base of support behind it.
 

GX

Well-Known Member
Awesome write up! I bought the Xoom when it released, and LOVE it. A stylus would be a perfect addition.
 

Mike H

Well-Known Member
I'm a cheapskate too.

fltpln.com has a free android app that lets you flightplan, download approach charts & A/FD, check weather, and buy sectional & en-route charts. I don't know if it has a GPS feature like forefight for the iPad or Garmin Pilot for android, but, then it's free, which means it's for me
 

Fly_Unity

Well-Known Member
EFB Apps

I first grabbed a copy of Naviator. ....
...I then grabbed Navilution AviationMaps....
I am planning to test OpenFlightGPS but so far I'm enjoying AviationMaps so much I dont want to change... I'll get around to this eventually.
How come you have not tried Garmin Pilot? Its free for 30 days and I like it better than the above...
 

rframe

pǝʇɹǝʌuı
How come you have not tried Garmin Pilot?
Yeah I didn't have that one on my list, but I still intend to test it. The screen shots and feature list look good. It's lower on my list because it's got the highest subscription fees, so if one of the other applications meets my needs I'll save $60/year on basic data subscriptions.
 

rframe

pǝʇɹǝʌuı
FYI, I was having a hard time finding a quality PDF of the FAR's. ASA sells one for $20 with DRM, but they are slow to release them and supposedly they wont even have the 2012 version ready until October of this year.

You can get PDF's of everything else from the FAA (including AIM) but the FAR's are HTML only....

Then I found the GPO office has these, you can grab the entire current CFR Title 14 for Aeronautics and Space as one big PDF, or you just grab the parts of interest (23, 43, 61, 67, 91, 135, etc) as a individual PDF's via a handy browser structure: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2004-title14-vol1/content-detail.html

These do not have PDF bookmarks, but you can easily add bookmarks to the parts you most often reference using most PDF tools.

I have selected ezPDF Reader for Android, it's $3 and has rich annotation capabilities.
 

MidlifeFlyer

Well-Known Member
Yeah I didn't have that one on my list, but I still intend to test it. The screen shots and feature list look good. It's lower on my list because it's got the highest subscription fees, so if one of the other applications meets my needs I'll save $60/year on basic data subscriptions.
Don't wait too long. The Garmin app went down to $49 a year for AirVenture but it may be temporary.
 

RedBaron2000

Well-Known Member
FYI, I was having a hard time finding a quality PDF of the FAR's. ASA sells one for $20 with DRM, but they are slow to release them and supposedly they wont even have the 2012 version ready until October of this year.

You can get PDF's of everything else from the FAA (including AIM) but the FAR's are HTML only....

Then I found the GPO office has these, you can grab the entire current CFR Title 14 for Aeronautics and Space as one big PDF, or you just grab the parts of interest (23, 43, 61, 67, 91, 135, etc) as a individual PDF's via a handy browser structure: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2004-title14-vol1/content-detail.html

These do not have PDF bookmarks, but you can easily add bookmarks to the parts you most often reference using most PDF tools.

I have selected ezPDF Reader for Android, it's $3 and has rich annotation capabilities.
Why not just get a FAR app? I just bought one for $9 (for iPad), and it has lifetime updates, contains every FAR, and the best part is the search ability and UI. There are several different ones available for iOS; I assume Android is similar.
 

rframe

pǝʇɹǝʌuı
Why not just get a FAR app? I just bought one for $9 (for iPad), and it has lifetime updates, contains every FAR, and the best part is the search ability and UI. There are several different ones available for iOS; I assume Android is similar.
Because there is only 1 FAR/AIM app available for Android and it doesn't look very good. If someone makes a decent one I'd consider it. But, the PDF's will work just fine for me and definitely beats buying an outdated heavy paper copy once per year.
 

RedBaron2000

Well-Known Member
Is GoodReader available? It's kind of become the gold standard PDF reader for iOS. I have it and love it. And it does way more than PDF's. It reads almost everything you can throw at it. For PDF it highlights/annotates, searches. The more I use it the more I love it.

Edit: never mind. I didn't see you already have a PDF reader.
 

rframe

pǝʇɹǝʌuı
A bit more. If you're using Google Drive, Drop Box, etc, the Android apps tend to suck as they all want to store their files within an app database rather than as normal files out on the flash storage, making them difficult or impossible to edit with external applications.

I've started using an App called FolderSync that creates a normal file hierarchy and sync's those just like you'd expect, it works with most major services like DropBox, Google, SugarSync, etc.... this is working very good for me now.
 

Mike H

Well-Known Member
How come you have not tried Garmin Pilot? Its free for 30 days and I like it better than the above...
I actually downloaded the free trial on my android phone. Very impressive, but not $99/year for the subcsription & running it on a phone impressive.. Running it on a decent tablet would probably be worth it
 
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