DJI Mavic iPhone Controller

Upgrading My iPhone Part Three: Flying the Mavic Pro

Using the iPhone X

Screen Size

I’ve already written about the screen size of the iPhone X in this blog post. Apps that operate in landscape mode lose a significant amount of screen space on the iPhone X. Additionally, the DJI Go 4 app is, as of this writing, not optimized for the iPhone X screen. The app therefore doesn’t take advantage of the real estate that the iPhone X does provide (#1 in the image below). And it doesn’t deal well with the reduced height.

Not only is the screen less tall in landscape mode because the physical dimension of the screen is smaller along that Y axis, but the operating system reduces the height even more. iOS places a thin bar across the bottom of the screen to remind you to swipe up from down here to close the app. Whoa! Yuck! (#2 in the image below)

See the screenshots below. Notice the DJI Go 4 app on the Plus sized iPhones is a full 176 pixels taller than the same app is on the iPhone X.

DJI Go 4 iPhone 8+ and X Comps
Granted these are not actual sizes because they have to fit in my blog post, but the scaled ratios are exact.

Screen size is a huge issue for me personally. The reduced screen size results in my inability to read the camera settings data in #3 highlighted above.

Screen Brightness

Even though the iPhone X (and 8/plus) is 125 nits brighter, I could see no brightness advantage. When wearing my polarized sunnies out in the bright sunlight, seeing the screen was a challenge, even with the screen brightness maxed out.

And speaking of brightness, I would suggest you make certain Auto-Brightness (Settings → General → Accessibility → Display Accommodations → Auto-Brightness) is turned off1. For some inexplicable reason my screen repeatedly began to dim to the point I wondered if it had died. I couldn’t bring the Control Panel down with the top right swipe down gesture and foolishly exited the app to go to settings to turn the brightness back up.

When I returned to the DJI Go 4 app, I had lost my connection to my Mavic Pro, and it was way out there. I couldn’t see it at all and was depending on the iPhone’s map and camera view to know where the Mavic was. Fortunately I was able to bring it back manually before the battery became an issue, having forgotten that we have the RTH button on the controller itself2.

Additionally, I had forgotten that you can adjust the brightness of the phone display inside the DJI Go 4 app itself. (Simply swipe the screen left. Here is a short video demonstrating where this and 4 other controls are hidden for quick access.) Don’t think I’ll make that mistake again any time soon!

Now, I know hoods are available to shade the phone’s display from direct light, but, to me, they are cumbersome. Some work better than others. Some hardly work at all. And a hood is just another thing to have to tote around when flying. I haven’t tried an anti-glare screen on the phone. Again, just another thing to futz around with. I want clean, simple, reliable, easy.

Important Aside
FaceID Hardware and Sensors
Click to enlarge and see what sensors are where

Now that I’ve thought about it, I suspect the grip on the controller that holds the iPhone (see the image at the top of this page) covered the ambient light sensor on the iPhone causing the operating system to dim the phone’s screen. This was an ongoing issue. The screen repeatedly would dim to virtual black. I’m pretty confident this is the reason.

The iPhone 8 Plus and my old iPhone 6s Plus didn’t have this issue because the sensors, camera, and ear piece are lower from the top on those devices. Therefore, they are not covered by the controller’s grip. The FaceID hardware (and the ambient light sensor) is at the very top edge of the iPhone X and is totally covered by the grip. Ahah! Moral of this story: always turn off Auto-Brightness before flying when using the iPhone X!

FaceID

The Mavic Pro controller’s grips for the phone are going to cover the FaceID hardware at the top notch of the iPhone X. Therefore, you will probably want to leave your phone security on but use the passcode to open the device when FaceID fails.

The iPhone 8 Plus

Screen Size

The iPhone 8 Plus didn’t have the screen size limitations, and this was a huge advantage. Maybe Apple will come out with an iPhone X Plus. Who knows.

Screen Brightness

Screen brightness is identical to the iPhone X but psychologically seemed less problematic. Maybe because the screen was larger? My iPhone 6s Plus seemed brighter (even though it has 125 fewer nits) than either the iPhone 8 or X.

FaceID

Doesn’t exist on the iPhone 8 Plus, which has the fingerprint sensor. But the fingerprint sensor, though not completely covered by the side grip of the controller, is still too covered to function well. I end up using the code to unlock.

Summary

If you have really excellent eye sight, don’t need to wear polarizing sunglasses when flying outside in the bright sunlight, and can read really ultra tiny text on screen then flying your DJI drone with the DJI Go 4 un-optimized app on the iPhone X will probably work out just fine for you.

Remember to turn off Auto-Brightness when using the iPhone X!

I’m going to keep flying my Mavic with the X to try to force myself to become more comfortable with it because I don’t want to lug around another phone (my old iPhone 6s Plus). And, I really like the iPhone X otherwise. I’m hopeful that, in the near future, DJI will optimize their app for the iPhone X to make use of the actual available screen real estate and make the teeny weeny camera settings less difficult (virtually impossible) to read.

The iPhone 8 Plus doesn’t have these issues and works just fine.


Check out the posts in this series:

  1. Upgrading My iPhone Part One: Setup
  2. Upgrading My iPhone Part Two: The Unexpected
  3. Upgrading My iPhone Part Three: Flying the Mavic Pro [This post]
  4. Upgrading My iPhone Part Four: Using My Osmo Mobile
  5. Upgrading My iPhone Part Five: Which Phone Am I Keeping?

  1. I’ve gone so far as putting Accessibility in my Control Panel. 

  2. I never use it. I’ve only used the RTH icon on the phone.