Garmin Mobile XT & Bluechart Marine Charts on a phone?

Mobile XTI wrote about Mobile XT previously. My comment was not that you couldn’t get chartplotting software on a smartphone, because patently you can – the comment I made was that you couldn’t get Bluechart marine charts to be read by Garmin Mobile XT on a smartphone. After making that post Bob left a comment that he had managed to get his Garmin Mobile XT to read Bluechart charts on his phone – even though this feature was not documented!…

Just to recap,Mobile XT is Garmin’s new GPS app that will be used in the expected Mobile 10/GPS 10X and Mobile 20/GPS 20SM products.

Garmin will also be releasing Mobile XT as an update for the ageing “Que” Pocket PC software that is included with the GPS 10 Bluetooth Receiver package.

Mobile XT is a newer version of the “Que Nav” application that comes with the iQue M3 and iQue M4 Pocket PC devices.

The software is sold on microSD cards that you insert into a smartphone which has built in GPS – you can of course use a miniSD or standardSD converter to house the card if necessary, for example in a PDA.

If your smartphone also has GPRS (data service) then the software will access “Garmin Online”. This gives access to a wide range of services such as traffic, weather, hotel rates and more. It give real-time traffic information from about traffic tie-ups and road construction that lie ahead on your route. Hotel rates, ratings and availability information comes from There is a good article here about the use of XT on a smartphone

So all the elements are there for using your smartphone as a handheld marine chart plotter on board your boat, and saving yourself £200 to £300 for a dedicated marine plotter.

… I haven’t tested this theory, but now I am sorely tempted, having just changed phone to the Samsung i780 that has built in GPS…but then there is Active Captain too …


9 thoughts on “Garmin Mobile XT & Bluechart Marine Charts on a phone?

  1. I am considering buying a nokia 6110 navigator. Will this phone work as a chart plotter? What do I have to do / buy?

  2. Rob – I would not use your phone as a chart plotter just yet – this is really “bleeding edge”….. The two apps that I am watching are Mobile XT from Garmin themselves and Active Captain. But remember with smartphones even the Windows Mobile operating systems currently in distribution – so far I have used WM5 and WM6 – have significant multitasking and communications differences.

    The Nokia 6110 uses Series60 which is a Symbian OS shell program. The Mobile XT software will run on the Nokia 6110 and several other Symbian phones, but I am not sure about Active Captain.

    1. Mobile XT from Garmin


    a. Garmin are aiming this at street navigation – they make no claims about using the Bluechart software with it…although there is a comment from a reader on the blog who says it works.

    b. Mobile phone GPS receivers are not as good as a dedicated GPS receivers with its own power supply and no other functions going on to compete with its function. Remember there is a multitasking operating system running on a phone that will be trying to carry out a lot of other tasks at the same time.

    c. Garmin Mobile XT Navigation is software aimed at smartphones with built in GPS receivers and it is sold on microSD – although it comes with SD and miniSD card adapters. There is a nice review of someone using this software in the UK here. and in the USA here.

    2. Active Captain The authors of this software are aiming at the Palm computer market such as the Treo range.


    a. No sign of the Windows Mobile version yet – still testing

    b. Don’t know if they support Symbian/Series60 as used on the Nokia 6110

    3. Nokia 6110 Good phone, but…


    a. It does have a micro SD slot so that is suitable for installing software, and transferring maps.

    b. It does have GPS

    c. It uses Nokia Map Manager for transferring maps to/from the PC – I doubt whether that will cope with transferring Garmin map formats or even recognize them c. It claims that you can get more maps by using the ROUTE66 Software for street navigation – but their web site does not say whether their software will read any map formats other than their own or indeed what format of maps they do use

    d. The Route66 web site does not list any Nokia phones as compatible !

    e. The Nokia takes a while to lock on to GPS satellites – on land it enhances this process by using AGPS (assisted GPS) that means using a packet data Internet connection to help with location – this will not be available out at sea when you may well be out of range of the packet data network (this is different to GSM that is used for voice calls).

    So while all these developments are exciting and indicate a trend – I would not recommend using these devices for chart plotting on a boat – unless you are like me and just want to try it – “because you can” …if you do try any software – I would try the Garmin Mobile XT. Hope this is helpful 🙂

  3. I can add something to the discussion…

    I’m the author of ActiveCaptain Mobile as well as Maptech’s previous Outdoor Navigator product (removed from the market by my company). I’ve been using Palm and Windows Mobile devices at my helm (and dinghy and desk!) as a chartplotter for almost 5 years. Reliability has never been an issue – the small screen can get in the way especially with the big boat. I experimented with it going from Maine to Key West (some 2,000 miles). The instant zooming and panning helps a lot but there are times when you just want a bigger screen.

    ActiveCaptain Mobile is in beta testing for Windows Mobile right now. There are 50 people with it. It should be released this Summer.

    I have a Symbian Series 60 phone and am looking at a variety of ways to support it. Symbian has almost no traction in the US and Canada – it’s the only reason it wasn’t selected first. As we move toward better international support, we’ll support the international platforms too. My plan for that is:

    – Support nautical charts for EU first for the existing platforms (Palm/Windows Mobile). We have recently licensed the chart data from UKHO allowing this to happen now.

    – Move to Nokia/Symbian for direct support in a couple of ways: a) a lower-end interface that allows marina, anchorage, and local knowledge markers to be accessed over street map data, and b) direct chartplotter support with the UKHO charts.

    It’s a slow, steady progression. But we’ll get there.

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  5. I really like what you wrote here. Thanks! I have been testing an ipod Nano lately for my geocaching. Have you ever tried that? It’s pretty cool actually, and works well.

  6. For me as an athlete tracking my progress with my work out is the most important thing. I ve tried using my mobile for this purpose but this did not work as planned so I had to find a better solution. Garmin Forerunner seems to be one of the best series of gps watches which does the job. I tend to choose older and more established devices in the forerunner series same as I choose older gps devices for driving such as Garmin Nuvi 300 .


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