[attachment=23411:1.jpg]This is the interface that allows GMap to interact with with your Android or iPhone. It's simple to use, doesn't bog down your simulator, and just stays out of the way until you're ready to close it.Once in GMap you are going to see a selection of menu icons across the bottom of the screen. If you don't see them than turn the phone over because you're probably looking at the battery cover. These include options to modify your connection, automatic zoom, and folder settings, the map selection menu, and options to clear the flight plan, reload the map, connect and disconnect from FS, and zoom in or out at your leisure. Let's take a peek at each of these menu options, starting with the settings menu. This is where you will enter your simulator's IP address and port number, choose the location of your flight plan folder, register for GMap by entering your e-mail address, and be given an option for automatic zooming. The simulator's IP address and sim port number are probably self-explanatory, but if not, you can contact the friendly folks at FSWidgets and they will help you to get that figured out. This step is essential in order for FS to connect to your phone, and must be accomplished before first use. But after that, you shouldn't have to worry about messing around with it anymore. The automatic zoom feature, which can be checked on or off, will allow the aeronautical charts and shaded terrain data maps to zoom in or out as GMap feels is best suited for your location at any given point in time. This is especially useful with the terrain data map so that you know why you're waiving for help as your aircraft slides down the mountain side. You can try it on and off and see which way you like it, and modify this setting at any time you wish. For what very little it's worth, I prefer to zoom the map manually, but you might not. Moving down through our list of options we come to the flight plans folder. You will need to manually move your flight plans from FS to a folder on your phone, and this option is simply allowing you to identify that folder on your phone. Android users may wish to get the free AndExplorer app which will help you to create, modify, and rename files and folders to your liking. Just don't go playing around with it too much if you don't know what you're doing, otherwise you may end up accidently goofing something up. That's happened to me, um, I mean a friend of mine, more than once. My "friend" is unavailable for futher comment. And finally we get to the last option in this menu, which is where you will place your registered e-mail address. This tells GMap that you are a legit customer with permission to use the app. Enter it once and you're done. Or don't enter it and I'll enjoy GMap for both of us, it's up to you.Now we're going to back out of that menu and take a step to the right for our next one. This is the map menu, which is where you can select which map you want to use. This can be done at any point in time, even on the fly. By my count there are eleven maps available, which include the default map, pastel green, a neat night vision map, radar scope, shaded terrain, pale blue, a sectionals map, U.S. TAC and WAC maps, an Alaska WAC map, and a few more I think. Note that the sectionals, TACs and WACs are not available outside of the U.S. with the exception of Cuba and I'm pretty sure one more place, maybe Puerto Rico. However GMap does include world coverage by use of the default maps and it's color variations. So even if you prefer to fly in areas other than the U.S., Cuba, and Puerto Rico, you can still use GMap just fine, just by use of the default map and it's multiple variations. A full, very clear explanation for this is given in the GMap user guide. Also, there is no Google Map coverage, once again explained very reasonably in the user guide. I know a lot of Android users might be expecting Google Maps, especially since they are both powered driven by Google, but that's not likely to happen anytime soon. You can view this user guide on the FSWidgets website for more information on this, however I will tell you that the lack of world-wide coverage stems from availability, and Google Maps licensing is simply not feasible given the massive costs applied to a niche market company like this. But worry not, for FSWidgets does include plenty of maps perfectly suitable for the purposes of this app.If we back out of the map options menu, we see a few more waiting to be explored. The next four are simple and self-explanatory. You will use these to clear your flight plan, reload the map. and connect or disconnect GMap from FS, all being a one push process. Which brings us to the last option; the zoom feature. After depressing the magnifying glass icon you are given a plus and minus key icon. Here you can choose to zoom in or out to your liking. I believe you can also use the "pinch" zoom method, but it was not working on my Evo during testing. If that is an Android limitation at this time, than I am certain it will be addressed in the next update. If it is an oversight by FSWidgets, than I'm certain they will address it as soon as possible. Or if it is user error, than I'll have to find a way to address that, though that one may take some work. One thing is for sure, however, I know that the "pinch" zoom function works flawlessly on all of my other Android apps with this feature, so I'm sure that it does, or soon will function just fine with GMap as well. To the best of my knowlege, it should work fine in the iPhone version. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, you probably don't have an Android or iPhone, in which case this review is irrelevant to you right now. But with the holidays right around the corner, maybe it's time to warm up to Santa and see if he can trade in that coal for a shiny new Android or iPhone. And for those of you who don't know what I mean by getting coal, you must never have been around when I looked in my stocking on Christmas morning. In short, the "pinch" feature allows you to zoom in or out of various apps by moving two fingers towards or away from each other on your touchscreen, just like you're pinching the screen.
[attachment=23412:2.jpg]The icons you see across the bottom of the screen are all of the menu options I was talking about. Note that the magnifying glass icon on the right will expand or retract the plus and minus symbols allowing you to zoom in or out.It looks like we've covered all the menu options, so now it's time to go check this thing out. At this point we can either just connect GMap and start flying around, or we can load a flight plan. If you want to load a flight plan, you will need to transfer the flight plan manually from your computer to your phone. On most devices, this is as simple as either connecting your phone through a USB port and moving the flight plan into the folder you already designated on your phone, sticking the SD card into your computer and transferring the files, or you can simply e-mail the flight plan to your phone. If you choose the latter route, just stick the flight plan in a folder, e-mail it to your phone, and download it to your phone's flight plan folder. As a suggestion, given the fact that most smartphones now include, or can be fitted with a lot of memory, it might be a good idea to move a bunch of flight plans over at a time so that you don't have to keep doing this. I have about 100 flight plans loaded in my Evo, which are conveniently stored on my SD card taking up very little of my available 16GB. The process for the iPhone may vary from Android, and with the multitude of Android devices, they won't all be the same either. Just consult your phone's manual, ask FSWidgets for help, or just give Steve Jobs a call.Once you load your flight plan or just connect GMap without a flight plan, you will see an aircraft icon located on the middle of your screen. Assuming you have FS running and have started the network interface, this icon should match your FS aircraft location and heading. If you've loaded a flight plan, you should also see the magenta line following the highlighted waypoints. Android users are still waiting for this feature due to a limitation in Froyo and previous iterations of the OS, however, I am more than certain that this shortcoming is going to be addressed in the next Android update, or perhaps even sooner if FSWidgets finds a workaround. You will still see the waypoints highlighted, just not the magenta line connecting them. Go ahead and take off and fly around, that airplane icon will move right along with you. It will always stay in the center of your screen and change heading as you do so in FS. The map will move behind the icon showing you right where you're at, and all with fairly accurate precision.......that may have something to do with why they call them moving maps. You can zoom in or out to your liking, and change the map background anytime you wish, even on the fly without having to pause FS. And one of my favorite aspects, especially given how resource intensive FSX can be, is that there is no performance impact using GMap, at least none that I noticed.
[attachment=23413:3.jpg] [attachment=23414:4.jpg] [attachment=23415:5.jpg]Here's a few shots of GMap on my HTC Evo showing various map options with my phone positioned vertically. Please note that the images shown have been altered to meet the requirements of this forum, and are actually very crisp and high resolution on my phone.There's really not much more to say about the operation of GMap, how it works, or what it does. It is a moving map that you can use outside of FS, and that pretty much sums it up. That doesn't mean it's not a powerful application, because it most certainly is, it just means that it doesn't take long to explain what a moving map does. But this application is still fairly new, especially for Android users, and there is plenty of room to expand it, which I am certain is going to happen. My wish list for GMap could go on for days, so I've lessened it down to a few features that I would like to see implemented. It is my belief that all of this will be possible with another Android update in combination with the brilliance of the folks at FSWidgets. First, I'd like to be able to scroll the map. Right now the map only moves as you alter the position of your aircraft. I'm told that the iPhone version will scroll and then snap back when you release your finger from the touchscreen, but given the fact that my iPhone is being goofy, I'll take my sources at their word for it, and his word is good. I think it could be very beneficial, especially for en route flight plan modifications, to be able to move the map around with an option to not automatically snap back, however. I would also like to be able to make marks on the map, such as manually drawing my own waypoint lines by moving my finger across the screen just as I would in the Sprint Navigator DRAW (coming soon) addon for Android, circling areas of interest, or whatever I want. Put these first two ideas together, and you've pretty much got all you need to plan and annotate any route, especially if a measuring tool could somehow be incorporated. Not really much need for such sophisticated words, we can just call it a ruler.Next on my list would be the ability to call up approach charts and airport diagrams, perhaps even being able to use them as optional background map. This, also combined with the ability to mark on the map, would be fantastic for noting the taxi path or following an approach. I would also like to see distance and bearing to waypoint information included, as well as the ability to keep the airplane symbol permanently fixed on a north orientation instead of turning on the map. Actually, to be more clear, I would like to have both options, and not get rid of the current method where the airplane symbol moves, because I like that too. And finally, I would like to have voice interaction. Instead of having to ever touch the screen to make menu adjustments or change the map, I'd like to just talk to it, such as is done with many road navigation apps. This can keep my hands free for other things, like a scotch in one hand and the television remote in the other while the autopilot does all the work, and give me someone to talk to since none of my friends want to be around me when I'm in "sim mode". Yes, believe it or not, there are a few peole out there who call me a friend, probably because they don't know me well enough yet. Of course this is just my short list, and I'm sure there's plenty more. I don't know what can and can not be implemented now, or what the next Android update will permit. Plus I'm not exactly the brightest bulb on the tree. After all, most people can start a forest fire with one match, but it takes me a whole box just to light my grill. So those of you a little smarter than me can send your suggestions to FSWidgets and I'm sure they'd be happy to consider them.
[attachment=23416:6.jpg] [attachment=23417:7.jpg] [attachment=23418:8.jpg]Here's a few more options, also taken from my HTC Evo, this time from a horizontal position. Please note once again that the images do not reflect the quality graphics actually seen in the app due to JPEG compression and reducing image size.But as it stands I think that GMap is a fantastic addition to anyone's FS setup, at least anyone who has an Android, iPhone or iPad, even if they didn't add a thing. I'm aware that there is also a PC version of GMap, but the benefit of the mobile version is that it's one less thing on your screen to get in the way, very convenient to connect or disconnect as you wish, and it is a great platform to continue to build on. A few things to keep in mind is that users of the HTC Evo or Samsung Epic can have multiple apps run on top of GMap that you can call up whenever you wish without having to close GMap. So if you want to run GMap while looking at an airport diagram or approach chart, you can do this by using the voice activated DragApp addon for Vlingo. This may be possible with other phones as well, but I haven't discovered how just yet. I also like to listen to my Sirius/XM radio on my phone while I fly, and GMap doesn't prevent me from doing that, or running anything else that I want to run on my phone at the same time, nor does it drain my battery any faster than any other app I have. You should also be aware that all smartphones are different. Some are just faster than others, some have bigger screens, others have better resolution. For example, the Epic gives great detail zoomed out, whereas the iPhone is a bit better zoomed in, and the Evo is best at default levels, and all-around pretty darn good with a little zoom as well in my opinion. The Evo runs fast, very fast, whereas the Intercept is about as slow as molasses running uphill, and the iPhone moves along pretty good, but not quite as fast between the menus as the Epic or Evo. I've used so many smartphones that I can hardly remember them all, and a few that I can't even pronounce, and one thing I've learned is that there is no phone that is best in every regard. They all have their ups and downs, and because of that your mileage may vary. However, as long as you have a decent WiFi connection you shouldn't have any problems with the map keeping up with you. Thus far I have yet to experience any problems that didn't turn out to be the result of my own ignorance. My map may look a bit more crisp than yours, or you may be able to navigate the menus a bit smoother than me, but from my experience with countless Android phones and the iPhone, and from my experience with this app, I am sure that it will work for you, look good, and do exactly what it claims. If not, one thing that I will bet the bank on is that the folks over at FSWidgets won't rest until they resolve your issue. They are a quality team that provides great customer service with a smile. They also have a forum where other users can chime in with a little help should you need it, and I bet they'd love to hear any suggestions you may have for future updates.Do you need GMap? Probably not. Can you live without it? I would think so. Will GMap solve world hunger, cure cancer, or send a man to Mars? I have my doubts. But if you want to expand your simulator's capabilities, enjoy the convenience and clutter-free experience of having a moving map on your phone, and have a lot of fun doing it, than I think GMap is worth the small investment. Plus, I know that this app is just beginning it's life in the FS smartphone app world and will continue to expand and provide more features as they become possible. For a pinch under $10, you don't have a lot to lose, other than that 2D subpanel that keeps getting in your way while you're trying to fly. I don't know what, if any return policy FSWidgets offers, but I doubt you'd ever need to find out. It's a cheap and effective app that will continue to grow, is supported by some of the friendliest folks in the business, and shows a different side of FS development that's mixing smartphone technology and FS add-ons for an enjoyable experience that will truly enhance and expand whichever sim you use.