The iOS Advantage With ForeFlight

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ForeFlight Community,


In the ever-changing world of aviation technology, ForeFlight has carved a niche as an innovative and forward-thinking provider of flight planning and navigation solutions. From our incredibly talented and passionate team to our world-class customer support, there are many components that have fueled our success. One pivotal choice was made on day one, when we committed to investing heavily - and exclusively - in Apple’s ecosystem. This was, and continues to be, the right decision for us. Nevertheless, one of the most common questions we’re asked is, “Hey ForeFlight, why aren’t you on Android?”

It’s a good question! One that opens the door to understanding how Apple products have shaped the way we innovate. Let's dive into ForeFlight's commitment to the iOS ecosystem and how this strategy has contributed to our success:

State of the Platform

ForeFlight generally supports the last two major iOS releases - meaning, we ship new features to devices operating on systems up to two years behind the latest version. Even still, ForeFlight Mobile continues to operate on devices that are significantly older, albeit without the benefit of new features from our monthly release schedule. This decision is rooted in two key factors. First, each new version of iOS brings with it new capabilities and enhanced performance, and we want our customers to benefit from that immediately. Second, the iOS install base is incredibly up-to-date. Apple reports that 76% of all iPads introduced in the last four years, and 71% of all iPads in total, use iPadOS 16. For iPhone, the numbers are even higher. Apple reports 90% of all iPhones introduced in the last four years use iOS 16. If we compare this to the Android ecosystem, the numbers are quite a bit different. According to AppBrain, only 25% of all Android devices are currently on the latest version, Android 13. Interestingly, a significant percentage of Android users continue to use the 2019 release of Android 11 (21.5%), surpassing the adoption rate of the 2021 release of Android 12 (17.3%).

Android OS version data is just one part of the picture. Besides the diverse operating systems in use, individual Android devices often have a customized version of the Android OS. Manufacturers add their own layer on top of the base Android OS for various functions, adding complexity to testing. Each device also varies in hardware specifications, including screen size, CPU, battery, and other sensors. The fragmented Android install base makes the question "Why aren't you on Android?" complex, as it depends on the Android version, manufacturer modifications, and hardware capabilities. These complexities often lead to delays in releasing features on one or more platforms for a multi-platform mobile product, especially one as extensive and complex as an EFB.

We believe Apple's commitment to a standardized software and hardware stack, combined with regular and prompt updates across its ecosystem, is a critical advantage over the Android platform. It’s not just about security and stability - having our users on the most up-to-date OS ensures ForeFlight performs at its best, making every flight a smoother experience.

Streamlined Design and Development

Apple’s development toolchain enables us to design, build, test, and ship a single codebase that seamlessly deploys across all Apple devices. This guarantees that the functionality we develop performs as intended on every customer's device. From a design perspective, Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines have heavily influenced our design strategy at ForeFlight. We have leveraged Apple’s tools, like their iOS design kit and SwiftUI live preview capabilities, to accelerate the pace of our design iterations and the overall quality of our application’s user experience. Likewise, when it comes to engineering, our iOS engineering team benefits from a standardized cross-company IDE through Xcode. This tool employs integrated unit tests, powerful code completion, version control, and more. These capabilities streamline our development process for new features, and contribute to greater stability and a more cohesive user experience in ForeFlight Mobile.

Tight Hardware and Software Integration

One of the benefits of a standardized hardware platform is the ability to tie software capabilities much closer to hardware capabilities. With a cohesive hardware ecosystem, there is less need to abstract software functions for accommodating various sensors or screens. As such, Apple’s APIs allow developers to create more efficient capabilities from the start. For instance, ForeFlight leverages the tight integration of iOS APIs with Apple's GPUs, enhancing the functionality of our app. Notably, ForeFlight Mobile utilizes Apple’s Metal graphics API to drive features like Airport 3D View, Synthetic Vision, and the Aeronautical Map. Since Apple tailors their software APIs specifically to their hardware capabilities, developers who build their applications on these APIs benefit from unmatched performance (and battery life!)

In aviation, the iPad's durability, stability, and user-friendly interface have made it the device of choice, and ForeFlight has aligned itself with this industry trend since the very beginning. The seamless integration of Apple's unified ecosystem ensures a reliable and consistent user experience, allowing us to set new standards in flight planning and navigation. So ForeFlight’s commitment to Apple isn’t just about the tech; it’s about giving our users a smoother experience every time they use our application. 

Blue skies,

Ryan

Ryan McBride joined ForeFlight in 2013 and currently holds the position of Head of Community. His qualifications include a Private Pilot license earned at The University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences and a Bachelor of Science in Telecommunications from Michigan State University. Ryan’s dedicated work in developing aviation tools that enhance safety, affordability, and enjoyment has played a vital role in the company’s growth and success.