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The PocketNav Boating GPS Navigation App for iPhone

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Memory-Map PocketNav iPhone App

© Memory-Map

The Bottom Line

While no iPhone app should be a boater's only method of navigation on the water, given the fragility of delicate non-marine electronics and the harsh boating environment, dozens of inexpensive apps are now available that make navigation more convenient and enjoyable using a handheld device. Among all the options, I believe the PocketNav charting and navigation app from Memory Map is the best for boaters who like their chart views to match the full information shown on paper charts. PocketNav is an excellent, inexpensive system that includes free downloads of all U.S. charts so that you don't need to stay connected. Note that this review examines the PocketNav app for Apple devices only. A somewhat different version is available for Android devices: Memory-Map.


  • Inexpensive
  • Intuitive and simple to use
  • Includes basic chartplotter navigation functions
  • Free NOAA charts for all U.S. waters


  • Somewhat confusing suite of 3 different Memory Map navigation apps
  • Lacks information in some other apps (tides, currents, photos)


  • Navigation screen displays boat on the NOAA chart - with option to lock boat on moving chart
  • Easy zooming and scrolling over the chart in use, and finding new charts
  • Automatically displays the correct chart and transitions seamlessly to more detailed charts with zooming
  • Easy creation of marks, waypoints, and routes for navigation
  • Trip log screen displays current speed and heading, distance covered, position and course, average speed and course
  • Uses the iPhone's GPS or more accurate external GPS such as the Magellan ToughCase (which gives the iPod Touch a GPS)
  • Easily search for new charts when connected by 3G or wi-fi and download charts for offline use in the app
  • The Memory-Map app version has additional features and also syncs with your computer for trip planning and review

Guide Review - The PocketNav Boating GPS Navigation App for iPhone

As one who has been using Memory-Map software for over a decade, I was happy to see them release GPS navigation apps for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Memory-Map was among the first companies to develop charting software for home computers and early handheld devices like the iPAQ Pocket PC, and they've brought years of experience in user-friendly design to the iDevices.

While most marine chartplotters and other GPS boating navigation apps use a graphic chart display rather than the detailed raster charts produced by NOAA, Memory-Map continues to offer the many benefits of NOAA charts. The charts are free (not in the proprietary formats of other companies) and can be updated easily to new NOAA versions. They show all chart data, not just what a company's graphical interface thinks you need to see at a given location and zoom level. And most important, the chart you see in PocketNav matches exactly the paper chart you should have on your boat for the wider view and for planning. No one should depend exclusively on just the amount of chart shown on a 3.5-inch screen.

I tested the Memory-Map app ($16.99 at the iTunes Store) first on an iPhone 3GS. It took only moments to download charts for my area and get started. All operations worked flawlessly and as accurately as the "big" chartplotter system on my boat - and more easily and intuitively. I worried about damaging the iPhone, however, until the Magellan ToughCase came along, offering not only waterproof and shock protection but also additional battery power and a more accurate GPS. I then tested the PocketNav app from Memory-Map on a 3rd generation iPod Touch, which does not have its own GPS. Again the app worked flawlessly, giving me a nice handheld real-time chartplotter for only $9.99 (iTunes Store) beyond the hardware I already had. It's a great app that makes perfect use of the Apple touchscreen and operating system.

The Dual XGPS150 Universal Bluetooth GPS Receiver can also be used with an iPod Touch to provide a GPS location for navigation apps.

Note: It’s critical, especially when using a chartplotter app, to understand the accuracy of charts and be cautious around underwater hazards. Learn more about how to interpret chart accuracy when using electronic charts.

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