The AirVue golf GPS application for the iPhone provides a simple user interface, satellite views that include distances to layup targets and hazards, and the ability to determine the distance to any point on the hole. We applaud the crisp overheard satellite views and friendly interface, but wish it had the ability to pan or zoom within a hole – the fairway view displayed is based on what AirVue believes is the appropriate landing area for your next shot, with which you may or may not agree. Distances do not always continue to update during the hole, so users should be sure to either tap the screen at their desired landing point or change views to receive updated distances. Lastly, be sure to check if your favorite courses are available – relatively poor course coverage is one of the negatives of the AirVue application.
- Least expensive golf GPS application that we tested
- Satellite maps display distances to hazards and layups
- Solid scoring and statistics – for all players in a group
- Provides club recommendations for shots
- Inability to pan and zoom as desired – the user is at the whim of what the app thinks is the appropriate view
- Distances may not continuously update
- Initial course load time can be long, depending on your wireless signal
Availability: Discontinued. As of mid-2013 this app was no longer available in the iTunes App Store.
Critical Golf Test: AirVue lags the top iPhone applications with 75% coverage in our course coverage analysis. Coverage of “Top 100″ courses was strong (19 of 20), but tailed off significantly in other course types, most notably in “Best New” courses (7 out of 20). Coverage in all regions was roughly equal, with the West (13 out of 20) trailing other geographies.
Manufacturer’s Claims: AirVue claims to have over 18,000 courses in its database, which puts it in the middle of the pack among iPhone applications.
Starting a Round
The Good: Because AirVue loads the data for the entire course at the start of the round, there is no delay during play as you change zoom levels within a hole or move between holes.
The Bad: The tradeoff for the quick transitions described above is that there is a longer initial loading time when the course is first selected (though it’s a tradeoff we readily accept). While courses can sometimes load in under a minute, poor signal strength can cause the load time to vary wildly, so it is best to plan ahead and either load the course before you leave the house or while warming up on the range.
Details: After the application is launched, you have the choice to select from a list of nearby courses (listed alphabetically, as opposed to proximity to current location, which didn’t make any sense to us), search for a specific course, or go to a list of courses previously played. Selection of the course initiates the process of downloading the course, which we found can take anywhere from under a minute to up to 10 minutes, depending on whether you are at home on a wireless connection or at a course with spotty network coverage. As there is no hole handicap information included, you will not need to select the tees you are playing.
If you are returning to a round after exiting the application, you will be prompted to start where you left off – AirVue automatically remembers your last hole and also all of the scores entered, no there is no need to pause or save your round before exiting.
Ease of Use
The Good: AirVue has an exceptionally simple interface, so users won’t have to spend any time poring through a manual. Navigation is straightforward, as the application provides one main screen from which the user navigates between the Hole, Fairway and Green views (see “Course Detail and Mapping” below for a full description of the views), and a basic scorecard. The design of the crosshairs is quite nice – they appear above where the user touches the screen, with a small hole in the center to use for pinpointing targets. In satellite views AirVue helpfully indicates the player’s position with a red dot, and also displays hazards and targets.
The Bad: The user doesn’t have the ability to pan and zoom within the hole to see the landing area desired, but rather can only see the area AirVue thinks is most appropriate. This can cause problems right off the bat, with long hitters finding the fairway views don’t extend as far as their drives.
We weren’t able to determine a pattern for when the application would decide to automatically update distances update as the user progresses through the hole versus when it would require the user to tap the screen on the desired target point or change views to receive updated distances. Compare this to virtually all of the other iPhone applications, which continuously update distances during the hole. When a user reaches their ball we recommended pausing for 5 to 10 seconds to confirm the reading will be accurate, and also tapping on the screen at desired targets or landing area to confirm AirVue has updated distances.
- Buttons. Like other iPhone golf GPS applications, everything is accessed through touchscreen buttons – those buttons that appear on screen and are touched to navigate the application. Upon launching the application, there are buttons for searching for nearby or recently played courses, or the option to search for a specific course. There is also a dedicated help button.Navigation buttons are placed in a toolbar at the bottom of the display, and include arrow buttons to move to the previous or next hole, a button to mark shot distances, a button to toggle between hole views (Hole, Fairway or Green) and a button to access the statistics screen. From the statistics screen you can enter the scorecard view if desired.
- Battery Life. Every iPhone golf GPS application that we tested (including the AirVue) was a battery hog. We are guessing AirVue is trying to conserve the battery by not updating distances as often as other applications, which seems to extend the life of the battery a bit more than competitors. With each application tested, we were able to complete a single round, but two would be pushing it. See our intro to iPhone golf GPS applications for ways to conserve battery life during play.
Course Detail and Mapping
The Good: Users can touch the map to select any point on a hole and receive the distance both to the selected point and the distance from that point to all the other marked targets on the hole (such as the center of the green, bunkers, hazards, et al). It’s nifty to move your finger around and see all of the different target distances instantly updated. And unlike many other applications, you can see the distance to where you are pointing on the touchscreen as it is displayed above the touch point. Very well done.
The Bad: There aren’t as many marked hazards/targets as there could be, which defeats the purpose of the very nice feature of combining the satellite view and hazard/target distances. In our test rounds, we encountered an extremely large number of obvious hazards/targets that were not marked, most notably prominent water hazards (both creeks and ponds), bunkers, and doglegs, as well as some mis-marked green front and back points. We also played one course that had a whopping 5 holes with pars incorrectly listed, which might be bearable if you could edit the scorecard pars, but unfortunately you can’t. And finally, during one of our test rounds the last three holes had no images available – not good!
- Views. AirVue has an easy to use interface, with three different views. Each satellite image is shown assuming the user is at the tee box or center of the fairway, approaching the green that is displayed at the top of the screen. To start a hole, AirVue displays the last view selected on the previous hole – a bit unusual, as you will most likely then be starting each hole in green view, as opposed to the relevant view to start the hole (such as a focus on the landing area for the drives when a user is beginning a par 5).
AirVue doesn’t rotate views based on player position.
- Hole view – This is the highest-level view, usually showing most of the hole (though for some reason, rarely the tee box), and on a few occasions showing the entire hole and some surrounding area. Depending on the course, we saw up to five targets and hazards marked, along with the center of the green (though the front and back edges were NOT marked). Target distances are color-coded, with a red background for hazards, dark green background for layup or driving targets, and a light green background for the center of the green. This image does not change during play of the hole.
- Fairway view – On par 4s and par 5s there are two fairway views shown during play of the hole. This view is the next level of zoom from the hole view, and the area displayed is based on what AirVue thinks is the most relevant landing area for your next shot – there is no ability for the user to pan to show more of the hole or advance to the next fairway view. The initial view generally covers from the start of the fairway (it usually does not show the tee box) to approximately 235 to 260 yards from the tee box, which is a problem for long hitters, who won’t be able to see their landing area in this view. The second view, available on par 4s and par 5s, includes the remaining fairway and green, and will be displayed starting approximately 235 and 275 yards from the center of the green. Like the Hole view, the Fairway view shows the distance to up to 5 targets and hazards and the center of the green, and also adds the distance to the front and back of the green.
- Green view – The Green view shows the green along with some of the surrounding terrain, including the approach area and the greenside hazards. Distances to the front, center and back of the green are shown.
- Hole Information. The hole number and par are available on all screens views for the course. Hole handicap is not available.
- Custom Mapping. Like other iPhone golf GPS applications, AirVue does not allow users to add custom hazards and targets to the course map.
Suggestion Box: It would be nice to be able to “lock” down the crosshairs when selecting a target point, so you could take your time evaluating your next shot (maybe a simple double-tap?). Currently, the crosshairs and distance reading will disappear as soon as you lift your finger from the screen.
The Good: AirVue offers the ability to track both scores and statistics for up to four players.
The Bad: We seen bugs on several occasions. In one repeated case, when a player exits AirVue during a round and then returns to play, all scores that were entered to that point in the round are deleted (argh!). We have also had most of our original preference settings, including all club distances, unceremoniously erased several times from memory in between rounds. Quite a pain…
- Shot Tracking. AirVue can track the distance of shots (but not what club was used).
- Club Recommendation. AirVue allows users to enter maximum distances for each of their clubs from within the Settings menu. Based on these distances, when the user selects a point on the hole the distance both to that point and to the green be displayed on screen, the recommended club to use both to the target point, and the club that is recommended for the next shot.
- Score and Statistics. AirVue has continued to improve, and now allows users to track both scores and statistics. AirVue can actually track both scores AND statistics for the user and up to three additional players (most applications will track the score for multiple players, but only keep statistics for one player). Users can track their score (entered relative to par), putts, penalty strokes, sand shots and fairways hit (or if missed, which direction). AirVue will automatically calculate greens in regulation and scrambling. Statistics from the current round cannot be viewed during play, but information from prior rounds can.
- Auto-Advance. The AirVue will auto-advance the user from hole to hole if the application is started when you are on any tee box. If not, there is no ability to subsequently turn on the auto-advance feature, so the user will need to manually advance from hole-to-hole.
- Preferences. AirVue has added the ability to set fairway marker distances to display in hole and fairway view as red, white and blue dots, along with driver distance which will be shown as a yellow dot. Users can also enter the clubs in their bag along with their maximum distances, which allows AirVue to display not only the distance to a point selected, but also the recommended club for that distance. Very nice improvements.
Mapping Accuracy: AirVue showed reasonable mapping accuracy of courses, with only one mis-marked green during our testing (this on a course that would have benefited from someone on the ground to accurately determine and map green edges, which most iPhone GPS applications, including AirVue, do not have). The recurring theme with all of the iPhone golf GPS applications that we tested is that updating of distances takes a few seconds (noticeably longer than with dedicated golf GPS devices), so users are advised to pause upon reaching the ball to give the application a chance to lock on to the satellites. As mentioned, the AirVue seems to take a bit longer than others to lock onto satellites to update distances.
Retail Price: AirVue retails for an incredibly low $9.99 and by a wide margin the least expensive application in our comparison test.
Fees for Access to Course Database: AirVue does not charge for access to the course database – all courses are included with the cost of the application.
Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: With a one-time fee of $9.99 and no additional charges, the AirVue application is far and away the least expensive in our cost comparison over three years (assuming downloading a certain number of new courses every year).
Value: At $9.99, AirVue offers a tantalizing price for those looking to step into iPhone golf GPS applications. It offers most of the advanced features and functionality of the best applications and a price that is tough to beat.