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Apps for Sailors. Reviewed: MotionX-GPS

MotionX-GPS ($1.99 iPhone) or MotionX-GPS HD ($1.99 iPad) from MotionX hosts a rich set of GPS and map features to provide a customizable map display, an interactive navigation interface and a digital compass on your iPhone or iPad.

MotionX-GPS ($1.99 iPhone) or MotionX-GPS HD ($1.99 iPad) from MotionX (gps.motionx.com) hosts a rich set of GPS and map features to provide a customizable map display, an interactive navigation interface and a digital compass on your iPhone or iPad. What sets this app apart from other navigation apps is the “Live Update” feature, which broadcasts your track and position to popular social media sites and via email. This is a great way for coastal cruisers or weekend racers to record and publish their tracks, which can be useful in both racing and social debriefings.

The user interface is simple and easy to use. The screen shows your position, current track, speed and heading updated real-time on the selected map display. The rotating globe indicates your GPS signal and triangulation mode.

MotionX-GPS supports maps from 14 different sources, including road, terrain, satellite and NOAA marine charts (U.S. Coastal). You will need a cellular network or WiFi connection to download map tiles as you navigate, scroll or zoom, which will then be cached for use when you are outside of network coverage. Additionally, specific map regions or NOAA charts can be stored for use on the water or when outside cellular range.

Waypoints are easy to create—simply tap the position on the map or import it through iTunes or email. Select “Go To” and your waypoints can now be used to navigate. While navigating to a waypoint, the map display will show the track, distance and compass heading. Options include editing waypoints, managing folders and attaching photos.

While underway, “Track Recorder” records and saves your track. Tracks can be assigned a predefined activity mode, including sailing, power boating, hiking and biking. While recording, the app displays statistics such as speed, distance and time. Once complete, tracks can be shared via Facebook, Twitter and email. There are several features to manage tracks, store in folders, search and even provide voice notifications while underway. The “Auto Share” option allows you to automatically post to social media when your track is complete.

Live tracking is one of the best features of this app. Automatic position updates, set between 5 and 60 minutes, can be posted to Facebook, Twitter, sent via email or published to a public station on the MotionX website. By setting a “channel,” a group of friends each using MotionX-GPS can share their positions. Broadcasting your position works like the popular Spot PLBs without the annual subscription cost. It’s great for coastal cruising.

Other interesting features include a compass display with speed, direction, bearing and distance, and time and ETA to waypoint. “My Position” summarizes your current position longitude and latitude, allows you to share your position and track, and opens the camera for geotagging images. The app also integrates iPod music controls and a handy flashlight.

Like most GPS apps, battery life is an issue. Luckily, MotionX-GPS addresses this with settings that configure multitasking and background GPS use. The “Optimized” setting keeps the GPS receiver on when the Track Recorder or Auto Live Updates are running or when navigating. The “Always On” or “Always Off” option allows you to control the GPS receiver to conserve battery. Disabling WiFi and Bluetooth and dimming the screen will also conserve battery life.

MotionX-GPX is a very nice map and GPS application that crosses into the space held by popular navigation programs. I’m excited to use the Live Update feature to automatically post our position so friends and family can keep track of our travels or for post-race debriefings. I give this app 5 stars for ease of use, completeness and overall usability.

Name: MotionX-GPS (gps.motionx.com)

Available on: Apple iOS

Price: $1.99

Score: 5 stars

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