Garmin Pilot Android versus iPad

There used to be a question about whether Android or Apple iOS based devices were the best to buy when looking for an Electronic Flight Bag or EFB. For the moment that debate seems to have been settled with the iPad clearly winning, but Android tablets are still a less expensive and attractive alternative to the increasingly expensive Apple devices. So the question then: if you go Android, are you missing anything?

There are a good number of aviation apps on the Google Play store but really the only one worthy of discussing is Garmin Pilot. The app, available both on iOS and Android, offers the full suite of tools that you would expect from an electronic flight bag and allows you to completely plan your flight from walk-around to tie down.

When I first started flying with Garmin Pilot there were some pretty big differences between the iOS and the Android application, with the Android app seeming to get an update long after the feature was made available for the iPad crowd. Recently it seems like the two versions have caught up

The following chart compares Android version 7.1.3 to iOS version 9.5.2, identifying the key features I use on a near constant basis and their status on both platforms as well as some other functions:

Worldwide Moving MapYesYes
Geo Referenced US VFR and IFR chartsYesYes
Geo Referenced US Instrument ProceduresYesYes
Worldwide Charts AvailableYesYes
Aircraft Weight and BalanceYesYes
Flight Planning with Fuel, Weather, and CGYesYes
Integration with GDL-39 and Other SourcesYesYes
Ability to file and manage FAA flight plansYesYes
Aircraft ChecklistsYesYes
Pilot Logbook and Automatic Track LogYesYes
Synthetic Vision functionalityYesYes
Jeppesen Account IntegrationNoYes IntegrationNoYes

The last two on the list are pretty much the only differences I can see at this point, and for a private pilot who doesn’t have a Jeppesen or account I don’t have any issues with that lack of functionality in Android.

The Android version of Garmin Pilot still feels like a second place option to Garmin, getting slower updates and not having all of the features. But the features you absolutely need to complete a flight, even the ones that just make like easier like the weight and balance calculation and the logbook functionality are present and capable in each.

Like I said at the beginning this is kind of a moot point, the iPad is the dominant EFB of the day. That might change, but the real reason that I like this parity between iOS and Android is this: the ability to have a backup option.

There’s no way I’ll switch it an iPhone, I’m too happy with my Google Pixel 3 XL. But with that phone I essentially have a smaller and just as powerful device that I could potentially use to assist in navigation in the very unlikely case that my iPad dies mid flight. Since I ditched my paper charts and went 100% electronic I appreciate knowing that if that worst case scenario happens I still have something I can use.

The nice thing is that Garmin makes that scenario very easy. One subscription can feed up to three devices no matter the operating system, and your important data (aircraft, logbook, etc) are synchronized between them and stored in the cloud for you.

So, is there a difference in the two versions? Right now, not one that most people will care about. And that’s a good thing for those of us who like our iPads but love our Pixels.


  1. I’d really like if Garmin Pilot would be the same on both devices…but it is not…and I’d really like to have foreflight on Android, basically only for the stratus receivers compatibility. But at the moment, even if I’ll NEVER go back to an iPhone and other Apple device, I’ll have to buy in iPad only for the aviation app I’d like to use (I’ve been happy with a cheap 200$ tablet with Android and Garmin Pilot in the last 3 years btw). Even if the iPad itsefls sucks for the stability, the apps are still better developed. A real shame, but I’m sure the developers think that the average pilot is so rich that will never care about quality compared to price and he will go for the more expensive option anyway (this is probably why I see baby students with A20 and iPad Pro at the first lesson…)

  2. Is there a particular model of Android tablet that is required? I am getting Garmin Pilot, but am still not fully confident that weather will update in the air, without an internet connection. This is a new addition for me, along with updating our SR22 with ADS-B.

    THE company is one of the WORST when it comes to having their JUNK made by kids getting paid peanuts in some foreign Asian city where workers are worked so hard that they typically commit suicide by jumping out of their work buildings. THEN there is the fact that iPads and iPhone accessories are proprietary, there fore they cost 10X what an ANDROID phone or tablet accessory would cost. Then the company pays LITTLE OR NOTHING in taxes where they are located.

  4. There is very much a battle going on between Apple & Google, for the context of this conversation while they are both mammoth corporations and each own many different technologies and products, we will confine it to IOS v Android. However, we cannot ignore the aforementioned point and we will revisit it in a few minutes because it is an important factor.

    The fact is that IOS is a superior operating system for the mobile market than Android. It is more stable and it is standard, whereas the Android OS is not. This is due to licensing agreements to the various hardware manufacturers who tweak the Android OS so that it may run on their device. Hence not all Android systems are equal and the code written for a given device is a system of patches and prone to failure. There is anyway a big enough market for both with devout disciples for each and a whole debate about the pros and cons of each OS which we will not debate here as it is irrelevant. Like any two major rivals constantly locking horns, eventually one starts to find itself in front, this is the case with IOS because of its inherent stability, thus the software programmers recognize this and start to favour one over the other, clearly in this case, IOS over Android. Whilst not wanting to completely alienate Android users they somewhat keep up but doing so under protest almost, as it is more of a chore to do so. For those around in the days of Video recorders, you would have witnessed the fight between VHS and Betamax with VHS eventually winning the war despite being of inferior quality and Betamax fading away into oblivion, never to be heard of again, except in articles such as this.

    This was a war between to formats with the public deciding the fate, because there were no other considerations the Betamax format just went away. No company had supporting product or technologies. Unlike Google and Apple, that do, the two OS’s continue to fight it out because of the companies that stand behind them. Were this to be a straightforward shootout based on their own merits, I am sure Android would long ago suffered the same fate of Betamax. Android is here to stay regardless, but, we will see software companies favour one IOS over another for their product and clearly in this case Foreflight is only available on IOS, and Garmin Pilot while giving a choice of OS, clearly choose Apples IOS over Android.

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