The introduction of Apple's iPad has pilots everywhere excited about the possibilities that a really big, sharp and bright touchscreen computer with a fabulous battery life might bring to the cockpit.
While there aren't that many aviation apps just for the iPad yet, most iPhone apps will work, sort of. But even a few short months after the iPad's introduction, there is a growing number of interesting and useful aviation apps for the device, and more are sure to follow.
An app, for those of you without teenagers, is simply a little program that you can install on your iPad and do something with it. There are non-aviation apps of every imaginable kind, from racing games to tax preparation programs. You can expect the aviation app universe to expand rapidly over the next few years until there are thousands of iPad apps.
In terms of hardware, you're probably aware that there are two kinds of iPad, the Wi-Fi model (which is what it sounds like) and the 3G version (which uses cell phone reception or Wi-Fi for Internet). Let me make it simple for you: If you're a pilot, buy the more expensive 3G model. It has a built-in GPS. Apple refers to what's in the Wi-Fi model as A-GPS, which is like calling a paper map P-GPS. It's not GPS and never will be. Buy the 3G.
If you've used an iPhone before, the iPad is like that only without the phone part. If you've never used an iPhone or other smart device, it might take you a while to figure out how to find apps and load them and synchronize them with your iTunes account on your computer. It took me a couple of hours to figure it all out, but I did.
Click on the "view gallery" link above or click here to see a handful of aviation-specific apps optimized for the iPad. Some are big and some are little; some are cheap and some are … well, they're all pretty cheap. That's a big part of the appeal, right?