Flightradar24 gets updated, becomes one of the coolest must-have apps for Windows Phone 8

There are apps that people must-have in the sense they rely on them for a specific service, and then there are apps that are must-have by the fact they are just so cool. Flightradar24 falls into that latter category, as we can’t imagine many scenarios where you 100% need this for daily life, but you still want it because it’s just impressive.

Flightradar24 (www.flightradar24.com) is a service that tracks, in real-time, all the planes in the world (or at least a whole lot). It uses your location to hone in on your area, and you can pan and swoosh around, clicking on planes and pulling up their flight info. In and of itself, that’s neat. But the app (which goes for $2.99) just received what looks to be a major update and it has blown us away for levels of 'awesome sauce'.

Head past the break to see our hands-on video of the app and mini-review...

Version 2.0 brings the two really amazing features: augmented reality and “cockpit view”. The first one is simply tapping the camera button to enable AR and then using the phone’s camera, you can pan and scan around the skies to ID plans in real-time that are flying around you.

The second new feature is a 'virtual cockpit view' of any flight that you select. We don’t mean that it shows you the layout of the cockpit (zzzz…) but rather it re-creates what the pilot would actually see at that exact moment. It does this by using the flight info (altitude, speed, direction) and computes it using a 3D virtual map. Hear a plane flying overhead? Hop into the cockpit and virtually watch as it flies over.

We’re not going to pull any punches: this is one of the coolest (although admittedly useless) things we’ve done with our Windows Phone.

If you won’t feel like tracking random flight around you, you can of course just enter in a specific flight to track that one. Friends or family flying? Track their plane, hop into the cockpit and more with Flightradar24.

Flightradar24 even features in-app purchasing, whereby you can buy “model graphics” for $0.99. So instead of seeing a generic “plane” for each flight, the plane will reflect its actual make and model. It’s kind of ridiculously great. Sure, totally useless, but we’re already sold on this app so an extra $0.99 ain’t going to break our bank.

The app is available on iOS, Android, Windows 8 (but not RT) and Windows Phone 8 but currently only Windows Phone 8 has the “cockpit view” feature.  Clearly the developers are throwing their hat into the whole “develop for two systems at once” with Microsoft. Seeing as the Windows Phone 8 version is getting features first, we’re kind of excited to be at the forefront of mobile technology.

So is it worth $2.99 (plus no trial)?  For us, yes. This is like the virtual sky map apps, where you point your phone at space and see all the stars. Not exactly a priority app but it’s damn fun to use. Flightradar24 is like that for us but more so since we’re plane bluffs (and live not too far from JFK international airport).

And here’s the thing: the app is done very well. Augmented reality? Check. Cockpit view? Check. In-app purchases? Check. Locksreen notifications (for social updates on the company). Check. The developers have embraced Windows Phone 8 to its fullest capability to bring a unique and fun app for you plane-watchers out there. But ultimately it’s your money and you need to decide if you can part with $2.99.

Watch our video demonstration above to get an idea of how it all works and pick up Flightradar24 for Windows Phone 8 here in the Store ($2.99, no trial).

For Windows 8 users (non RT) you can that version here for $3.49 though it has yet to be updated to version 2.x.

Thanks, Amir, for the tip!

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.