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Old 12-10-2012, 12:30 PM   #1
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Garmin Blue Chart Mobile-From Active Captain

>>> Garmin BlueChart Mobile >>>
It has now been a week since Garmin's charting app for iPhone and iPad
was released - BlueChart Mobile (BCM). By now, many of you have
downloaded, purchased, and can see why it is such an advancement.
There have already been a couple of full reviews written about the app.
This first one from i-Marine apps goes over all the features of the
product with a variety of screen shots:
http://tinyurl.com/i-MarineApps-BCM
Ben Ellison from Panbo wrote another review which showed another set
of screen shots - the weather ones are especially good:
http://tinyurl.com/panbo-BCM
These first reviews give great general information about the product.
What we wanted to do was go a step further and answer some of the most
common questions we've received and seen. In keeping with the zen of
ActiveCaptain, we're not going to pull any punches - we're going to say
what we really think even though it might not please everyone.
(Q) Why is this any more significant a product than any of the other
chart apps?
(A) This product took guts to release. This is the first product from
a major manufacturer that gives you a real chartplotter using an
inexpensive tablet or phone. Yes, we know about Raymarine's apps but
they are streaming apps that just repeat the screen of other Raymarine
hardware. Once you take those apps off the boat, they go black. But BCM
is different. The charts are the real Garmin BlueChart data stored on
the iOS device and will work on the boat, in the dinghy, or in a
restaurant.
Garmin had to consider that releasing a complete charting app could
very well cause people to purchase fewer real chartplotters. But a
market leader doesn't act that way. They provide the best products in
each class of use. In the end, this usually results in actually
increasing the number of hardware devices sold. And we think this
will be Garmin's result. It's gutsy, it's what a market leader does,
and we love it.

(Q) What specifically is better about this app?
(A) There are a few things:
- It's the charts. Garmin didn't release a dumbed-down version of their
charts for iOS. The BlueChart data is the exact same data found on their
highest end $7,000 chartplotter (for a tiny percentage of the BlueChart
data cost). The quality of the data presentation is easy to see. It's
clear that there are more than just software developers writing the code.
There are also graphic artists at work here making the chart display
cleaner, easier to read, and in the end, better.
Most everyone with an iOS device on a boat has the Navionics apps. They've
been the standard for a few years now. So we put together a page showing
the exact same locations on BCM and Navionics. Look at them and decide
which one has more quality - we think it's obvious:
https://activecaptain.com/BCM-Navionics.php
Note that there is a black band at the top and bottom of the Navionics
screen shots. That's because they currently don't really support the
iPhone 5.
The first comparison is from Saint Simons Sound, Georgia. The second is
from Great Guana Cay in the Bahamas. The third is near Key Largo and
includes BCM shots with ActiveCaptain turned off and on.
- These BCM charts aren't scaled back. They aren't "gold" instead of
"platinum". The BCM charts are better than what you expect. The US region
includes the Bahamas and the charts are Explorer Charts. That's why the
second set of comparisons looks so different. The Navionics charts aren't
just graphically inferior. They're geographically inferior. Examples
abound.
- There is full support for all regions that Garmin has worldwide. It's
simple to add all of North America (Canada, Mexico, full Caribbean, and
more), Europe, Australia, and on and on.
- The integration of weather is elegant. There is a variety of free
weather overlay capabilities - wind, wave, period, etc. It's done quite
well. There's also a Premium one-time $4.99 weather option that provides
live, animated weather radar overlay with support for US, Canada, and
Europe. And the reason it's all so good? Garmin owns the weather data
company:
http://www.digitalcyclone.com/
- Route creation - BCM sets a new standard for a wonderful user interface
for creating routes on a touch device. It's brilliant, it's easy, and
it's a part of the standard product.

(Q) Is there an Android version coming?
(A) Garmin's official answer to that is something along the lines of,
"There are no current plans to produce an Android product." You can bet
that they're listening to the feedback and watching sales of BCM for iOS.
But don't count on an Android product in any near or medium term. I don't
believe it'll happen without some major change in the buying habits of
Android users.

(Q) How come it's not a real navigation product?
(A) We couldn't imagine driving our boat where the primary navigation
system was an iPad or iPhone. As a backup, it's a stellar solution. It's
not going to drive our autopilot or integrate with our radar. It's a
planning tool and a backup. When following a route, your job is to keep
the boat on the route line. There is no bearing-to-waypoint, cross-track
error, or other navigation displays. It's a backup in those uses.
It's possible that Garmin will add those minor parameter calculation values.
Quite honestly, it just doesn't matter and it's been a silly complaint.

(Q) How come it requires iOS 6 / Why won't it run on my iPad 1?
(A) We're partially to blame for that. We tested BCM on the original iPad
and found it to be unacceptable because of crashing. Restricting BCM to iOS 6
removes the ability for an iPad 1 owner to download the app from the iTunes
app store. OK, so how come it crashes?
The original iPad 1 had 500 MB of RAM for running software to use. That RAM
is different from the 16/32/64 GB storage memory of the device. It's used by
the operating system and apps. 500 MB is an incredible amount but it didn't
take long before developers started using all of it. Unfortunately, as that
RAM gets used up, there's no reliable warning. The running app just crashes
back to the app launcher.
Later iPads added significantly more RAM and the crashing goes away. You can
bet that in another 3 years, there will be new apps that won't run on the
latest iPad because they'll require even more RAM.
If you have an iPad 1 like us, it's time to upgrade it to a new model. Get
a cellular one with 32 GB of storage or more. You want the cellular model
even if you never enable the plan because only that model has a built-in
GPS. When you have your shiny new iPad, use the old iPad for video or in
the galley. It's fantastic for recipes, planning, groceries, and other
planning. That's where ours is now.
For what it's worth, our own ActiveCaptain Companion for iOS crashes on
an iPad 1 too. Any advanced navigation app with a lot of functionality is
going to have a hard time running on that original device.

(Q) If I also have an iPhone, do I need to purchase BCM twice?
(A) Absolutely not. Download the app for free and click on Restore Purchases
in the BlueChart Maps page. That'll make everything available on your iPhone too.
But that's not all. If your spouse has an iPhone or iPad, you can load the
single purchased copy on their devices too. Just have them log into your iTunes
account before launching BCM. Once they do that, Restore Purchases will allow
the charts to run for multiple people. That's how we use it ourselves.

(Q) When will feature XYZ be added?
(A) Part of BCM is a feedback section. When you tap on it, you can provide
feedback directly to Garmin engineers. Tell them what you want. They are
listening and recording your requests.


So that's a whole bunch of additional information about why this BCM app
is so fantastic. And notice that we never mentioned that it has ActiveCaptain
support. Needless to say, we like that too.
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Old 12-10-2012, 05:33 PM   #2
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I read the review from active captain. According to them it's a great product, one they can't do without. I have an android and have the Navionics product installed but rarely use it. The tablet chart plotters do make a good back up, but as the article by active captain suggests, a rotten primary nav device.

Just wondering, has anyone just out of the blue ever had their chart plotter fail and had to use a back up? I'll be the first to answer that; my GPS sensor on my Ray Marine plotter failed. I did not have a back up plotter or nav device but was in familiar waters so no big issue.

The Active Captain folks have some great articles that are easily retrieved from their web site. Articles are about everything boating especially electronics. They seemingly have an unlimited budget, so one must consider that when applying their advise.
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Old 12-10-2012, 05:51 PM   #3
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Yep, my Raymarine A-65 failed recently. Made me realize once again that it is important to know pilotage and navigation without the aid of magic lights and wires in a box. Anything made by the hand of man can fail, and will fail when you need it most (Murphy's law, first corolary.) Forgive the philosophhical ramblings of an old man who learned celestial before anybody every thought of GPS!
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Old 12-10-2012, 06:09 PM   #4
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Why is this better than something like Navionics, or a similar program for iWhatevers?
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Old 06-23-2014, 10:08 PM   #5
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I have the Garmin Bluechart app on my iPad Air. I got it in early 2014 so it should be a recent version. Active Captain is one of the major reasons I bought this app. It crashes constantly, however, usually within 5 minute of startup. This nearly always happens when trying to plan with it, when I zoom out after having scrolled up a possible route a ways. I now use the Navionics app, which I also have, to determine most things on my route, then start up Bluechart and zoom into my day's destination area to check on marinas or anchorages. It is still a bit useful for this.

I'd be crazy to depend in Bluechart in any way for information needed while running my boat.
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Old 06-24-2014, 07:38 AM   #6
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I have Plan2Nav by Jeppesen on my Android tablet. It has ActiveCaptain data. It works well but I don't plan routes on it.
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Old 06-24-2014, 09:00 AM   #7
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We have Garmin BlueChart on an iPad and wouldn't want to travel without it. We are doing the Great Loop now --over 2200 miles so far and over 100 days --and it has been invaluable. We do all route planning on it. Very easy. The Active Captain has saved us a number times going thru skinny water in GA. and the Carolina's.

I'd suggest that if anyone wants to use it, you get the current version and on a newer iPad. We haven't had any crashes in its daily use since March 1.

Since we have a Garmin 4210, we purchased the garmin wifi adapter and can transfer routes from the iPad/BlueChart wirelessly to the Garmin. When we cruise, we follow markers-- the GPS and routes we've created help us know which way to turn...and yes not to start another discussion, we have paper charts but haven't used them so far. We have pulled out the Charts for the Georgian Bay as we will be there in a few days.

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Old 06-24-2014, 09:36 AM   #8
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I go Seaclear II with a hand GPS connected to it if I have the need for a Backup. It has been tested and approved. Unfortunately not all jewelry that you see works around the world.
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Old 06-24-2014, 09:39 AM   #9
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We also have Harmon blue chart with AC. Wouldn't go anywhere with out it. From just making simple routes or to approximate how long a trip is. We have a wifi on our gramma which makes making transferring data (waypoints,routes) a breeze. Plus the approx fuel calculator is nice so you can get a rough idea what you're going burn. We have the app on both a iPad and IPhone. Works flawless.
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Old 06-24-2014, 09:53 AM   #10
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I use Plan2Nav and MX Mariner on Android. Haven't used Plan2Nav much, since so far I've found MX Mariner easy to use. Mostly I use it to view ActiveCaptain data, but I've tried navigating in to anchorages with it and it seems like a reasonable backup. Also great for roughly estimating distances and routes right on the phone.

Other apps I'm finding invaluable are MX Tides, Live Weather and one just called "AnchorWatch". Star chart / sky watch apps are pretty cool to have on board too.
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Old 06-25-2014, 01:40 PM   #11
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I have the Garmin BlueChart mobile on my ipad and used it everyday on a trip from the upper Mis river to the Detroit river, never a hiccup. Also had my standard horizon cp1000 plotter as primary set on a larger scale with AIS info which worked great on the lakes and rivers. The iPad was used to follow a track at a much smaller scale (no AP) and for daily planning it was invaluable with the AC overlay for anchorages and marina information, don't leave port without it.
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Old 06-25-2014, 03:40 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by River Cruiser View Post
I have the Garmin BlueChart mobile on my ipad and used it everyday on a trip from the upper Mis river to the Detroit river, never a hiccup. Also had my standard horizon cp1000 plotter as primary set on a larger scale with AIS info which worked great on the lakes and rivers. The iPad was used to follow a track at a much smaller scale (no AP) and for daily planning it was invaluable with the AC overlay for anchorages and marina information, don't leave port without it.
+1 I use it every time I go out. Nice nav overview while using the Garmin 740/GMR18HD radar in full screen mode. Good backup GPS too. Has never failed - iPad 4 OS 7.1.1 with BCM 1.4.2. AC data is very useful too.

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Old 06-26-2014, 01:24 AM   #13
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Nice product, nice review. As I don't do Apple, I won't be checking it out, however.
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Old 06-26-2014, 10:01 AM   #14
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Nice product, nice review. As I don't do Apple, I won't be checking it out, however.

I believe you can use both Garmin BlueChart mobile and the AC overlay on a android tablet if you dislike Apple products.
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Old 06-26-2014, 02:07 PM   #15
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I believe you can use both Garmin BlueChart mobile and the AC overlay on a android tablet if you dislike Apple products.
I don't believe it's available for anything but Apple, from what was stated above plus their web site.

We have plenty of software already but just thought this was nice and strange that they don't seem to have an urgency to do an Android version. Guess they don't realize by what a large amount Android is outselling Apple. In fact, Samsung, by themselves, outsell Apple. Not saying anything against Apple but the fact that many of us have systems at home and on our boats that are not geared in their direction.
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Old 06-26-2014, 02:17 PM   #16
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Yes, I was in the 4th day of an 8 day cruise and the GPS failed on my Raymarine C70 system. We had at least two backups on board- a Nexus 7 with MxMariner and my wife's iPad mini with Navimatics.

And we had no hard copy charts on board of the area. I am a convert and a true believer. Jeff's arguments convinced me.

The Nexus with MxMariner worked great. I like it better than Navimatics because it uses NOAA raster charts. Although the more nautical bouy representation and better cartography of BCM looks nice. I trust that it has a tide function (looked like it did from the screen shots) which is a small negative for MxMariner.

I guess the reference to Android buying habits means we don't like to pay (much) for apps. True, but for a real quality app, yes. But it is hard to know what is quality. Plan2Nav was a buggy bust for me.

David
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Old 06-26-2014, 02:33 PM   #17
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I guess the reference to Android buying habits means we don't like to pay (much) for apps. True, but for a real quality app, yes. But it is hard to know what is quality. Plan2Nav was a buggy bust for me.

David
I certainly pay for many Android and Windows apps. I agree with you on Plan2Nav. Development of apps normally happens initially where the developer's expertise and knowledge lies, then is duplicated for other platforms.
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Old 06-27-2014, 07:32 AM   #18
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I trust that it has a tide function (looked like it did from the screen shots) which is a small negative for MxMariner.
There is a companion app called MX Tides that's become my go-to for tide information. Very quick and easy to use, although I generally skip the first tab, "map", and go right to the other tabs.

I have yet to find any reason to regret going to an Android OS over Apple's iOS for personal use. I've used both, and there are good reasons to chose either platform. I suspect that it's often more of a fashion statement than a technology decision, especially when one option costs so much more.
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Old 08-20-2015, 08:28 PM   #19
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I suspect that it's often more of a fashion statement than a technology decision, especially when one option costs so much more.
Same reason why people clamoured for the Yeti brand.
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Old 08-21-2015, 01:56 AM   #20
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Well, that was a long pause in the conversation.
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