Mobile Plane Simulators: When We Can’t Fly in Real Life...



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Travellers and pilots across the world have had their wings clipped due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, with the travel industry being one of the most affected sectors by the crisis. It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that one of the most popular app categories over this period has been flight simulators. If you can’t fly off to a far-flung land, many smartphone users are finding the ability to do so from the comfort of their sofa the next best thing.

With Microsoft Flight Simulator proving a massive hit for traditional gaming devices, the two biggest competitors for paid flight simulators on the mobile market, Real Flight Simulator (RFS) and Infinite Flight (IF) are battling it out head-to-head app stores across the world, creating huge revenues in the process.

Real Flight Simulator is in the top 5 for the most installed paid gaming app in multiple countries, including the app-market goliath of Brazil. RFS is also in the top 20 most downloaded paid apps in some of the other big spender markets, such as Germany and the UK, where it lands 19th and 16th respectively.

Infinite Flight, on the other hand, also consistently ranks very well, reaching between the 11th and 100th most downloaded paid apps in the country scoreboards over 40 times. It has notable success in the charts in the gaming category in Pakistan (8th), India (14th), Nigeria (18th) and France (20th). These are huge app markets and these remarkable statistics show that plane simulators are probably more popular than what you first would have thought. But plane simulators haven't always been this successful.

Plane success?

Flight simulators have always been a niche in the gaming industry, attracting a solid crowd of enthusiasts much like an indie band with a cult following. However, their newfound prominence is the result of a spike in recent months, and, with Microsoft’s new release, there may be a golden age for the flight sim genre upon us. But what is causing this trend?

When lockdown swept across the world around March, with flights cancelled, holidays abandoned, and travel restrictions in-place almost globally, people’s real-life escape methods were thwarted.

But people found that you can experience the joys of aviation in other ways - and this time you can be the pilot. Both IF and RFS saw big jumps in their growth just as real-world airports were being closed. RFS, for example, saw a three-fold increase in installs form the 16-20th of March on iOS devices, and later on, IF recorded a four-fold increase in downloads from the 7th to the 15th of April.

Experiencing the joys of flight vicariously through mobile devices has been the antidote to the global ban on international travel. While some of this growth may be down to the global increase in app consumption - up 40% by some calculation - since the start of lockdowns, the flight simulator category’s growth speaks of something else. It is indicative of a very real trend in our modern world: where increasing mobile reliance leads us to consciously or subconsciously act out our deepest desires on the thing that is closest to us. Our mobiles. And the desire to fly and see the world from a different perspective has never been greater.

But can mobile phone plane simulators satisfy our desire to fly, or at least make up for that missed get-away holiday? Well, there’s only one way to find out. Below is a review of the top 3 FREE flight simulators you can download and play on your phone right now.

Top 3 FREE flight simulators

1. X-Plane

With X-Plane, you can jump into the app for free and pilot the Cessna 172 and the Cirrus Vision Jet. The graphics are very advanced, and the cockpit views include a heads-up display device that demonstrates to sim-gamers why this tech has taken such a hold in real life as a way to improve aircraft control while reducing pilot workload.

One of the most inventive features is the fully rendered internals of the cockpit as seen above. You can turn your pilot's head using finger scrolls and explore the beautiful array of buttons and levers. (This function also works outside the plane to get some stunning visuals as you fly).

Availability: Android and iOS.

The stats: Over 150k downloads.

2. Flight Pilot Simulator Free 3-D

While Flight Pilot may not be able to match the competition in terms of aesthetics, it does enable the user to unlock new planes without having to pay. Completing the challenges and missions in this game to unlock your coveted planes will keep you enjoying this one for hours.

Availability: Android and iOS.

The stats: Over 15 million downloads. This app demonstrates the merits of making your app discoverable in India, which is responsible for almost a third of the apps downloads.

3. Airline Commander - A real flight experience

This is the plane sim we would recommend for those just starting. The app breaks down flight simulations into smaller, more digestible challenges, such as following flight routes or doing taxi missions. This makes the gameplay much more enjoyable for newer players or for players who have less time. There is, however, room for more experienced fliers, with more advanced missions and a greater variety of planes to pilot of all different sizes.

Availability: Android and iOS.

The stats: Over 500 k downloads. Again, the merits of being popular in some of the growing economies such as India, Brazil, Mexico are exemplified with this app.

Mobile gaming has never been so good, and it's an industry which is growing rapidly in popularity. For more up-to-date insights on mobile gaming, or apps in general, read more of our blogs at Airnow.com.