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FlightRadar24 Pro for iOS - Extensive review + Feature suggestions

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  • FlightRadar24 Pro for iOS - Extensive review + Feature suggestions

    Introduction
    The following is an extensive review + suggestions for FlightRadar24 Pro on iOS, which originate from intensive usage and examination. Thus I posted into a dedicated thread, rather than my singular comments, deeply nested in the general feature request thread I hope that you will find something to your liking!

    The headline formatting has this meaning:
    + Praising this feature
    I like the feature + Some feedback for improvement
    * New feature request


    + "Realtime update". Great!
    A very cool feature, which now luckily has arrived to FlightRadar24 via its iPhone version! On the computer web browser I had used http://casper.frontier.nl/ which uses Adobe Flash, but which is 15 minutes delayed and not (almost) live as FR24. I guess for the web version of FR24 "realtime update" is not possible, as Javascript/CSS live updating might kill overwhelm the web browser. But luckily now on the iPhone (with I guess closer machine code) this feature is available! Funny situation, to see that my smartphone beats my laptop in at least a certain application...

    "Center selected plane". Great tracking function, but jittering visuals.
    A very cool accompanying feature to "Realtime update", but it needs some visual improvement. The aircraft icon is heavily jittering, occasionally also the map. The reason behind, very likely is a mathematical rounding error, causing the map center to continuously switch between certain screen pixels. Thus it hectically jumps around. The craft should steadily stay in the center, and the map should pass by. I can't say too much about the technical implementation as I don't know the whereabouts. But an easy trick considering concerning graphics rendering: Be sure that the aircraft sprite and map have odd pixel dimensions, so that it can have a central pixel, around which it can be rotated / positioned. Video game developers are likely the experts to consult for this question.

    + Augmented reality mode. Wow!
    Great idea! Very hyper real! As my iPhone has no compass I could not test this feature.

    * "Show airport positions"
    Symbols for airports on the map, already shown as "X" on the maps of the FR24 web version, should also be shown in the iOS version!

    * "Map type" Terrain
    "Terrain" map view in the FR24 iApp. Already requested by others

    * Add filter "No airlines" for temporary map navigation with little workload
    Please add a bogus filter, which has a value which certainly brings no results, with the label "No airlines". Purpose for the user: Activate the filter, then no aircrafts are shown on the map. Now you can navigate to your desired location with little workload! If you have found it, and zoomed/panned to your desire, re-activate your desired airline filter "All" or "Particular airline".

    "Basic info" on selected aircraft on the map.
    A selected aircraft on the map currently shows its data like this:
    Code:
    AIR1234 (in a larger font)
    Alt:12345 ft Speed:321 knots (in a smaller font)
    I suggest these improvements/additions:
    1. Continously refresh variable data of your selected plane, such as speed/height. Currently they DO NOT refresh! I tried it over the course of 5 minutes of landing/starting planes and no data changes appeared. Only if you de- and re-select the plane you get the fresh data!
    2. Show speed/height in the user preferred unit: knots/mph/kph respectively feet/meter.
    3. See the selected plain's origin and destination! (Not only in the full detail view)
    4. In addition I'd like to remove as much redundant information as possible, and use the screen space as economically as possible.


    I propose the following basic info format:
    Code:
    AIR1234 OGN VIA DST
    12425 m 321 kt USR
    Remarks:
    • VIA = Stopover airport: Show stopover airport code, if available.
    • Height and Speed: Show no units at all or only very abbreviated units. "m" for meter or "f" for feet. "K" or "kt" for knots, "k" or "kph" or "k/h" for kilometers per hour, "m" or "mph" or "m/h" for miles per hour.
    • USR = User chosen aircraft attribute: Can be anything of the available variables: Registration, Model (abbreviation "Axxx" for airbus models, "Bxxx" for Boing, etc), Track (makes not much sense, as you anyhow see this visually), Radar. By default use "model" as this likely interest most people.
    • Layout and Font: Make sure that the alignment of the variable values stays steadily aligned on screen! Most easily by using a fixed-width font and using leading zeros or whitespace placeholders, if the digits reduce/increase or change to more/less wide digit-characters, i.e from 1111 to 1000, where the zeros might be fatter than the ones, or from 10100 to 9950, which is then one digit place less.


    Inform user if feature enabling does not work on current device/OS
    In general, if you offer a feature on/off setting, which only works on certain iPhone models/OSes, inform the user of non-complying devices/OSes that their choice will have no effect.

    Otherwise it can be confusing, as the examples below show:

    On the Augmented Reality Mode a user writes:
    Is it "point to sky and view airplane info" is functional? I put on in Setting "view airplane info", but how invoke camera while using program?
    On Trails I now report:
    On my iPhone 3G with iOS 3.1.3 no trails are shown, even if I set so in the preferences. On the forum it is noted somewhere, that this only works on iOS 4.x. Please at least state this in the user manual in the app, and better, also give a hint when enabling this setting on a device OS which does not support it.
    * "Places" - Your quick map navigator
    I suggest a "Places" button. If you click it you get a display which looks like this:

    Code:
    NEW LOCATION: [SETTINGS] [SEARCH]
    Loc: New______________ Dim: 400km
     New York City, New York, USA
     New Orleans, Lousiana, USA
     New South Wales, Australia
    
    FAVORITES:    [Order] [Del] [Add]
     Vienna supra regional
     Benelux
     Adriatic sea and coasts
    Explanations:

    The screen is split into two regions, Up/down region if iPhone held in portrait mode, left/right when in landscape mode.

    The region "New Locations" offers a search form to search new locations.
    Into the field "Loc" you enter your location, which depending on your "Settings", auto completes or not, and searches within certain databases.
    "Dim" (Dimensions): Your search result will be centered within a map being XXX kilometers/miles wide on the largest screen-side. Thus this setting works for both portrait/landscape mode. I don't know what's the optimal label. "Width" indicates that its the largest map side. I also though of "Radius", which is semantically incorrect for non-square maps, or maybe "Maximum", or "Scale". Take what you think is best.
    Clicking any of your search results opens it with the dimensions entered in "Dim" as your new active map view.

    The region "Favorites" offers your previously saved locations.
    A single click on a location, changes your current map acordingly.
    Clicking "Add" adds your current map view (in the exact same dimensioning). You are prompted for a name. "Cancel", "Save".
    Clicking "Del" makes its button red. The buttons "Order" and "Add" disappear, instead a "Done" button appears. From now on every successive single click on a location deletes it. Pressing "Done" ends the deletion mode.
    Clicking "Order" shows up handles in the front of your favorites. Simply drag'n'drop to rearrange.

    Clicking "Settings" takes you to this:
    Search within: IATA (4 letter code) | ICAO (3 letter code) | full airport names | all locations
    The first 3 types use the database of data.flight24.com (at best cached in local storage for faster access), "all" uses the Google Maps search.
    Autocompletion: ON | OFF


    Btw, nice if location search would also appear in the FR24 web version as already requested:
    Possibility for ordinary (Google Maps) location searches

    * "Current location" button

    Add the "target symbol" button as known from the default iPhone Maps App, which if clicked changes the map view to your "current location" (GPS determined) with the map dimensions (in kilometers or miles) as set in your "Places settings". If you do not have space for a dedicated target button on the main screen, you may put it into the "search location" section of the "Places" menu.

    * Visual hint for plan altitude
    You may more easily implement my old suggestion on the iOS:
    http://forum.flightradar24.com/threads/?p=1184#post1184

    * Free/pro versions use different terminology for same setting
    The same setting is named once "Center selected plane" and once "Center selected craft". Maybe unify this.

    * Differentiation of preference pane names for "FlightRadar24" and "FlightRadar24 Pro"
    If you have both versions installed, nevertheless both preference panes have the same label, a name difference would help!
    Last edited by porg; 2010-11-01, 14:39. Reason: Continously refresh "variable info" of selected plane + "Current location" button

  • #2
    Thanks for your post and for your suggestions. It's a very long post, and my answer will not be so long, but I hope it will answer as much as possible.

    Flightradar24.com - There is a completely new version of the page in production. The new page will be faster and have more features. For now the feature list for first release is closed. After the first release of the new version we will look at further improvements.

    Flightradar24.com and the apps - Data that comes from the plane doesn't contain airplane model, airline or route, so it's not included in the feed that's loaded by the webpage and/or mobile phone. To get the airplane/airline/route info you need to look up this data in our databases. Today this is only done on click. If we want to include this extra info into the feed that means a huge load on or servers to look up thousands of planes every second, and would also make the feed bigger to download. So building features/filters on airplane model/airline/route is not possible for now. We will work on this so it will be possible in the future.

    Flightradar24 apps on iOS and Android - Today there are differences in the features between the platforms. We are working on synchronizing the 2 developers (iOS and Android) to get the same features and the same terminology in all apps. The first step has been to get the apps out. Next step will be to clean them up. Terrain map is not available on mobile platforms.

    The information shown in different windows is a difficult balance. One problem that I mentioned earlier, is that some data is missing in the primary feed and has to been looked up. The second problem is that the app is used by everyone from wife waiting on airport for her husband to plane spotters and ATC people. For one person "OGN VIA DST" is clear, for someone else is hieroglyphs. We are really trying to make a good balance so the information in the apps can be used by anyone, but not use to much space.

    Comment


    • #3
      I am glad that you took the time to respond, and I still hope, you may one day find time to reply to my intensive review point-by-point. A good time to reconsider my review may be when the new version got out. Then, some features may anyhow already be implemented/obsoleted!

      For now I put this aside, and concentrate on my 2 key requests:

      Extra info on selected plain possible without "bloating the data feed" !
      The feed shall of course only contain the data necessary for rendering the map: This is Callsign(mostly this is equivalent to Flightnumber), position, track, height, speed. It would be very redundant to put the various extra informations into the feed, such as route, model, etc. Only if one selects a plane ("on click"), its callsign can be used as the unique lookup key in other databases/tables, to then query and display these extra informations.

      So for my request the workload would almost not change, as this is the same data fetching as selecting the "full info" in the mobile versions, and in the web version, there is anyway always the "full info". To improve efficiency even further, you can have the rarely changing tables in a local cache, such as: Flightnr->Route, IATA->Full airport name, ICAO-> Full airport name. You see, some data only needs to be fetched once per session (i.e. model) or even lasts more than one session (flightnr -> route info).

      So please, can we have at least route info for the selected airplane, by saving the Height/Speed labels and using shorter unit abbreviations? Please please please! The question "Where does it come from, and where is it going" are I think the ultimate questions for augmented aircraft reality. (Just compare with the basic human identity questions: "Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going?")

      Difficulties in information design for both dummies/pros:
      I think a good tradeoff is possible. The "basic info" shown if an aircraft is selected ("centered") on the map must by nature be very short to not consume too much space on the screen, hence the route info as "OGN VIA DST". Those who don't know, make one more click and get the "full info", those who regularly use it, already know those abbreviations by heart.
      And also concerning units abbreviations: First, most people are familiar with "mph" "kph" or even more with the more language neutral "m/h" "k/h", and also "m" and "f" in this context are clear, only "knots" abbreviated as one letter "k" conflicts with "kilometer" hence my suggestion was "kt" ot "K" (capital letter K). And then, if you still don't know it, you again consult the "full info" or "help", where you can read the full names, and from then on you got it and are accustomed to it.

      If one is creative with the layout, we can get pretty much data into the small "basic info" box.

      The current layout:

      AIR1234
      Alt:12345 ft Speed:321 knots

      Compared to some further mockups:

      AIR123 JFK VIE
      12000m 230kph A320

      Note: Contains compressed route and model info.

      AIR123 12000m 230kph
      JFK: New York, NY, USA
      VIE: Vienna, Austria


      Note: Route info in clever "full format", not using long strings "John F Kennedy Airport, New York City, New York, USA or even United States of America" but rather only "City, (in the large anglosaxian countries also the state), Country or even only Countrycode" but still showing the airport code as a differentiation attribute, which can help if cities have multiple international airports.

      Comment


      • #4
        Meanwhile many features were realized on the web and mobile apps! Thanks!

        Center selected plane
        Jittering visuals were already improved long ago

        Places
        Recently the search bar now finds both flights and airports.
        You thereby follow the user experience trend to use (one main) search(bar) as a primary form of navigation, i.e. Google Chrome).

        Comment


        • #5
          And some more features meanwhile realized in the premium version
          • Bookmarks (Originally suggested as "Favorites - Your quick map navigator")
          • Fullscreen

          Comment

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