Sunday, December 13, 2015

aprs.fi iOS app for iPhone and iPad!

The new, official aprs.fi iOS application went live on the App Store a week back. It runs on the iPhone and iPad, and currently supports iOS 7 to iOS 9. Purchase once – run on up to 10 devices associated to the same iTunes accounts!

It provides immediate, near-real-time visibility to APRS traffic around you, and has quick search-as-you-type station and address search functions. Zoom around the world as easily as on aprs.fi, or look up stations by their callsign. Multiple stations can be tracked at the same time.

Telemetry, weather, and APRS station statistics can be viewed as graphs.

The new high-resolution symbol graphics look crisp on Retina displays. iOS 9 Split-Screen multitasking is supported on applicable devices (iPad Air 2, iPad Pro, iPad mini 4, and newer). Landscape and portrait modes work too, of course.

Position beaconing to aprs.fi works great, although, as usual, GPS use in the background reduces battery life noticeably. The minimum transmit interval slider can be used to reduce transmission rate, allowing the GPS to turn off for longer periods of time. The app does not require location information, but it can be helpful for automatic map centering and calculating distances.


A little expectation management needs to be done at this point: Some future features will only be available for a small additional yearly price, through an in-app purchase. That price will be lower than the purchase price of the app. The rationale behind this is simple: There's only a rather small number of APRS iOS users around the world, and once most of them have bought the app once, there will be no more income from the app, ever. Having a small, steady income nicely keeps up the motivation in maintaining and improving the application in the future. A few APRS apps have already been practically abandoned on the app store, with no updates in one, two or three years. The original app, simply named "APRS" recently got deleted and replaced with something completely unrelated.

Some new features, and all bug fixes of course, will be free updates. The current version does not even include any support for in-app purchasing yet – it'll maybe come up some time next year, after the base features are ready.

Purchase the app now, and you'll get a nice APRS web site for free!



Frequently Asked Questions


What about Android?

Yes, maybe later. It takes a lot of time to produce these things. I concentrated on iOS mostly because all my devices happen to be iOS, I have some previous experience on iOS development, and APRSDroid is already so good.

Filtering, I wish to hide AIS vessels and/or weather stations?

Yes, that's on the top of my list of things to do, I can't live without them either.

Can not beacon to APRS-IS?

Not yet! This is the aprs.fi app, not an APRS-IS app, so it talks primarily to the aprs.fi service, not other services. Beaconing to APRS-IS will come later, stay tuned.

Connecting to the aprs.fi database makes the immediate real-time view happen, so that there's no need to wait 30 minutes for everyone to transmit their position once after opening the app. On the downside, if aprs.fi happens to be down, the app doesn't do much either. Luckily aprs.fi has proven to be very stable during its operation since 2007.

Messaging?

Yes, of course, later.

8 comments:

Steinar Lote said...

This is really a nice app. Well spent money. Thank you! De LA5VX.

Heikki Hannikainen said...

Thank you, I'm glad you like it! If you're happy with the app, please click the 'stars' rating or write a line or two of review in the App Store, too.

Packet ham said...

This is a very high quality app. It is well worth the price. When messaging is added it will be nearly perfect.

Steinar Lote said...

Question/wish: would it be easy to let us cycle through the map with terrain as well? We like our mountains herre in the west part of Norway so much! Thank You.

Heinz Boehner said...

is it possible that another aprs application using aprs.fi produces doubles in aprs? I have that problem unfortunately. looing on aprs.fi I find two entries of the mycall (dl9ndg-10) with different age!
regards
Heinz DL9NDG

g0wfv said...

As for Android ...

- Goto apr.fi in Chrome browser
- Press to open the menu at the top right
- Press "Add to Home screen"

APRS.fi will now have an icon added to your home screen and will take you to a full screen version of the mobile page.

Works fine as-is :-) As stated, aprsdroid is already a good app for Tx into APRS-IS.

Scott said...

I can pretty much guess the answer, but I would like to know how this app acquires your location and then transmits to the website. Pure cellular, GPS, or what? Can you use it without cell service if you have a ham radio?

Heikki Hannikainen said...

Steinar: The app uses Apple Maps, which unfortunately do not provide a Terrain map layer like Google Maps does. I may look into supporting Google Maps too later on in the app, but Apple Maps alone is already using a lot of memory, having both may be way too much.

Heinz: The stations generated by the iOS app are in a different namespace; their data will not get mixed up with APRS data received from APRS-IS/radio. This is done so that users of the iOS app won't pollute APRS radio data, intentionally or accidentally. This also allows users of the iOS app to delete data sent from the app to the web site, which is not possible for APRS data.

Scott: The app acquires the location using the iPhone's or iPad's location services, i.e. GPS+cellular+wifi positioning in a combination - whichever is available. GPS is used to get the most precise location, but cellular/wifi gives a quicker rough position fix and works inside, too. That's all done by iOS, the aprs.fi app just gets coordinates from the operating system. The positions are transmitted over wifi/cellular, no radio connectivity yet. Maps are cached on the device, so if you zoom around a bit while connected to a network, you can then look at the map around that area afterwards even without cellular coverage.