Saturday, March 9, 2013

Android App Review: Avare

Although I've used a variety of aviation apps on my phone over the past couple years, I haven't reviewed one until now. I suppose the reason is two-fold. First, it honestly didn't really cross my mind. Second, and more accurately, I haven't used anything that so useful it made me say, "I need to tell people about this!" until now.

Avare (pronounced "Av-Air") is a free, feature-rich app on the Android platform. It offers moving map functionality with free downloads of Terminal Area, Sectional, IFR Low Level, and World Aeronautical charts plus Airport/Facility Directory information and more.

I first installed Avare a couple months ago and was immediately taken by just how much functionality was available in a free app. Fast-forward to last month and I finally was able to use the app extensively in-flight. That trip forms the basis for this review.

Avare in use on our trip to Evansville last month

Hardware
  • Motorola Droid 2 Global smartphone (Verizon)
  • OS: Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)

Features
  • Charts stored locally; no data connection required to use the app
  • Airport/Facility Directory information available for all airports
  • Charts available - Sectionals, Terminal Area, IFR Low Enroute, WAC, Terminal Procedures, and Airport Diagrams
  • GPS track line to destination, bearing, ground speed, time enroute, and altitude readout
  • GPS position overlay on Airport Diagrams when taxiing
  • Track or North Up, Landscape or Portrait
  • METAR/TAF information displayed over airports on charts (with a data connection)
  • TFRs displayed graphically and in text form
  • Press for quick distance/bearing/direction from any point on the map relative to your current position
  • Nearest airport list

Installation/Data Download

Since it's free, just go to the Google Play Store and install. That's it! Then, download whatever data/charts you will be using. I love that Avare allows you to specify exactly which content you want - down to individual charts. This saves storage space but also makes it easy to determine if you have the necessary coverage for a given trip. The flip side of that, and my only gripe, is that the download process can take a while since the files are large; you'll want to do this over Wi-Fi.

Personally, I install the Cincinnati/Detroit/St. Louis/Chicago Sectionals and the IFR Low Enroute charts covering the same region. Dayton is smack-dab at the corner where those meet up, so I can fly a good distance in any direction and remain covered. I should also note that everyone must download the primary database (which includes the A/FD data) in order to use the app.

Airport/Facility Directory information for EVV 

Usage

There are very few buttons on-screen; everything is accomplished within a few small menus or press-hold actions. This is a very good thing. Avare is not a distraction in the cockpit.

Getting started is very simple. Click the Menu button (bottom-left of the screen) and select Destination, enter your airport identifier, click on the airport name, and you're navigating direct-to. It really is that simple. Beyond that, all recently used airports pop up immediately when you go to the Destination screen. I found this exceedingly helpful on our trip; I entered EVV, IMS - our fuel stop, and 40I before takeoff. That meant no typing in flight; all the airports I needed were waiting for me whenever I went to the Destination screen.

Once you're flying, your current bearing, ground speed, distance to destination, and ground track to destination are all displayed at the top of the screen. At times, I wished the green font was slightly more legible (or there was an option to pick your own text color) but the data is presented in a clear, concise manner.

If you have extended runway centerlines turned on, they appear with runway numbers once your destination is on-screen. This proved very valuable on approach to EVV when I initially lined up with Runway 22 after being cleared to land on Runway 18. I knew something didn't look right and confirmed the error with the plane's compass. However, a quick cross-check with Avare was a helpful confirmation of our position.

Approaching EVV with extended runway centerlines enabled

Once on the ground, one of Avare's best features rivals that of its infinitely more expensive competitors - GPS position overlay on the Airport Diagram! This was handy at EVV and could be a godsend at an airport with a complicated maze of taxiways. Obviously you shouldn't count on it as your only source of data, but there's no denying it greatly enhances your situational awareness. Did I mention this is free yet?

Airport Diagram (GPS position overlay works on the ground!)

Note that the terminal procedures and approach charts are not geo-referenced in any way; your current position cannot be overlaid on them. I assume this is for legal/liability reasons but it's certainly not an issue for me as a VFR pilot. Regardless, it's worth noting.

There are some other handy features, including color-coded METAR/TAF overlays on the map screen when a data connection is available. Another favorite is what I'll call the "current position" cheat. Basically, press-hold on any object/point on the chart, and your current distance, bearing, and direction to that point are displayed at the top of the screen.

This is very helpful for radio calls. Instead of an educated guess when calling ATC, imagine a simple press-hold on the nearest airport and being able to say, "Cincinnati Approach, Skyhawk 2814L is 8 miles NE of Madison County Airport, two-thousand climbing five-thousand five-hundred..." Although I haven't really put it to use myself yet, I think this is a great function.

Final Thoughts

Beyond the existing functionality, I'd be remiss if I didn't note how responsive the developers are. There are frequent updates - more than once per week. Requested features are added on a regular basis and bugs are quickly fixed. Software development can be a thankless job but these guys deserve all the praise sent their way. I'm sure they'd appreciate your donations, too.

Normally I may have deducted a star for my minor gripes, but I also realize I'm using the app on a small phone screen. If I owned - and was using this on - a tablet, I think those minor annoyances would disappear. So when you factor in the price and functionality I really can't say Avare has any serious faults. Put simply, it's not perfect, but it's darn close.

For more information, check out the official website.

Rating: 5/5 Cubs

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for that review! I have the app downloaded, but haven't had a chance to fly with it yet. I really like the runway extensions even at private airports!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading! I'm probably already due for an update, less than six months later, with all the features they've added. You can now create flight plans and Avare even supports ADS-B input. Amazing functionality for a free app!

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  2. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)

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