The market for mobile devices has recently exploded with applications aimed at pilots. As of 9/12/2012, there were 601 aviation apps available on iTunes. There are flight-related apps for Android, BlackBerry and nearly all other mobile platforms, but it's the iPad that had the earliest development cycle of any mobile device out there. Not only are the iPad developers cranking out apps of every imaginable type, but the technology to support those apps is now filtering into our environment. Examples include integration with portable pocket-sized Attitude Heading Reference Systems (AHRSs) that can replace a whole slew of traditional aircraft instruments and navigational tools, turning your iPad into a wireless glass panel, and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), a GPS-based tracking technology capable of transmitting live weather and traffic data directly to your iPad. These technologies give us outstanding synthetic vision and enhanced situational awareness.
Another favourite app of mine is ForeFlight. My savings on U.S. aeronautical charts alone pay for their 75.00 USD yearly subscription fee. (At present, their Canadian navigational coverage, which will set you back an additional $150 per year, is limited to IFR charts, but plans are underway to incorporate VFR maps as Nav Canada releases them in digital format.) In my spare time I help run a charter airline -- and ForeFlight makes quoting fares a breeze! I can work out flight plans in a less than a minute, utilizing real-time weather data. I love it enroute as it tracks my aircraft giving me ETAs (in the US, we are allowed to use this as primary navigation on VFR but not IFR). I use these technologies for weather and traffic updates as well. One area where ForeFlight falls shot to its main competitor, WingX Pro, is synthetic vision. As a flatlander living and flying in Florida, I don't need the synthetic vision feature, but out west that would be almost a necessity for terrain avoidance.
One caveat about having all this exciting technology at our fingertips is that we might get so overwhelmed with the extra information, we forget about the basics. Remember, that your first and foremost priority is flying the airplane. On the ground, these mobile devices and apps are invaluable for learning new equipment, studying for new certificates or ratings, pre-flight planning, etc. In the air, we must make sure that we are not so distracted by the flood of information that we lose situational awareness.
Update: check out Steve's new blog post for more suggestions on how get the most out of this exciting new technology.