Find your way with CoPilot Live GPS [iPhone – Review]

This post is by Rob Griggs-Taylor – a 40-something Scottish bloke, married with three kids. He’s a petrol-head who also rides an old Honda motorcycle for fun, and has a love of gadgets. You can find out more about him at http://www.griggs-taylor.co.uk

Your finger moves the mouse towards the ‘Buy App’ button, but once again you hesitate. “It’s £25.99,” you think to yourself. “That’s a lot for an iPhone app that I don’t know much about! And it’s not TomTom…”

Fortunately for you, some of us here at Geek Speak have already clicked that silvery ‘Buy App’ button and bravely purchased Co-Pilot Live 8 for iPhone, and now we’re going to tell you whether you should go ahead and buy it for yourself. Please be aware that an update to the software actually took place during the testing for this review so if you have the App and don’t recognise some of the features, it’s time to check the App Store for updates!

The most popular SatNav product in the UK is widely accepted to be TomTom. I’ve used and recommended them to friends and family, and bought at least three over the years. When TomTom announced that the software would be launched on the iPhone I was excited, and then patient. And then a bit bored. And then a bit more patient. And then horrified. How much? £60? So, thinking that this was quite simply poor value for money, I went searching for an alternative and was surprised to find a number of products available for the iPhone and all cheaper.

I opted to buy Co-Pilot Live v8 as the write-up on the iTunes Store made it sound and look like a viable alternative, and it seemed to have some interesting features.

Installation was a breeze, although a little time consuming as it’s a big file. Please do follow the instructions and download to your computer through iTunes and then install to your iPhone or iPod Touch. There are many feedback notes stating that installing straight to the device did not work well.

Initial setup is straightforward, allowing you to have a ‘Work’ address saved in addition to the normal ‘Home’ one. On the main screen the software operates in portrait or landscape mode comfortably although it does take a couple of seconds to ‘re-focus’ when you move from one aspect to the other.

Using it is easy enough, once you get your head round the fact that the menus can be fairly tortuous. It’s definitely best to familiarise yourself with the layout before getting into the car as some of the features are not where you might expect them to be.

In everyday use, we’ve found it to be a very acceptable alternative to TomTom or other competing sat navs, with no significant issues. There are some lovely touches, like showing you at the top of the screen which motorway lane you should be in when approaching an exit. The latest update also includes a photo-style picture of a motorway exit as a full-screen representation, and even the sign that you should see ahead.

You are given the ability to set a clock time when the day colours change to night colours. We thought that this didn’t happen if you are actually using the gps as that time passes, but in testing this week it did do so.

Speed camera locations were recently added as POIs, but the implementation is a bit clunky with the iPhone telling you ‘Point of Interest Ahead’ rather than a more obvious warning. This took us a little while to get used to!

The main screen can come across as a bit ‘busy’ until you get used to the layout, but there’s a lot of very useful information available. You can program the bottom display bar to show a small selection of stats, e.g. current speed, estimated time of arrival, distance to destination and so on, but if you choose more than two they roll round. I settled on speed and distance to destination as the ETA is ridiculously inaccurate at the beginning of a journey. As Chris stated, it makes the ‘beat the satnav’ race a lot easier!

I’d written a whole piece on the fact that you could use the ipod function in the background while Co-Pilot was directing you to your destination, and the downsides of having to come out to change tracks. However in the latest version (8.0.0.469) ALK Technologies have added an iPod menu into the software allowing you to choose playlists and skip tracks, toggle shuffle and repeat status and pause the music. It’s a neat idea and it works acceptably in practise, although some of the features like track choice don’t work in exactly the same way as the regular iPod software. Note that there are some minor flaws currently, like the fact that mine shows no podcasts despite there being around twenty when accessing via the normal iPod function.

Unfortunately though, they haven’t managed to solve the biggest negative of running both. which is that the sat nav SHOUTS at you over the top of the iPod. This is particularly irritating when listening to podcasts, and at the time of writing there is no way to balance out the two volumes. In the last update the developers added a ‘mute’ function to Co-Pilot which turns the verbal directions off while leaving the iPod playing. There’s a space on the iPod screen that seems exactly the right size to fit a volume slider so I’m assuming that this will appear in a future update.

One slight downside is that Co-Pilot has been known to crash while out driving, which is just what you don’t need from your SatNav. However, we found that if you restart your iPhone before setting off the program is very stable.

Finally, we come to the Live bit of Co-Pilot Live. This is clearly still a work in progress. The Live Traffic section is currently unavailable but will eventually be able to supply traffic updates while on the move. In the US this costs around $20 for an annual subscription, and if the $/£ conversion is favourable will make it significantly more competitive than the £7.99 per month that TomTom charge for a similar service.

At the present time many of the other Live services seem to be available at no cost but it looks as if ALK will start to charge for them in future. For the time being the Live Fuel is useful as it finds petrol stations near your location and can even show the fuel cost which is a nice touch. Weather is also available and you can choose to see it where you are or at your destination.

LiveLink is a facility to track your friends after entering their email address and getting their approval to be tracked. We haven’t had the opportunity to trial this yet, but it could be useful if trying to meet up somewhere as it allows you to see their position relative to your own.

LiveSearch finds something you’re looking for nearby. I tried a few recognisable brand names, all of which it found, but some of the locations were omitted suggesting that again this is a work in progress.

Not all of the features available on other Co-Pilot Live platforms are available on the iphone. For example there is the ability on some to navigate to the geocoded location of a photograph held on the device. There is also a Windows-only desktop software tool but again this is not compatible with iPhone.

This means that Co-Pilot Live doesn’t offer the same levels of customisation available to other products, such as uploading your own POIs or creating your own colour scheme. However these limitations are more than offset by the other features available.

In summary, you get a pretty polished application for a fair price, especially considering the price of the TomTom app. I have no hesitation in recommending Co-Pilot Live v8 if you’re an iPhone user and you’re looking for a competitive satnav App.

Nice work!

  • Swaps from night to day colours automatically
  • Where two junctions are close together it shows both in the pre-directions
  • Shows which lane to be in at motorway exits in addition to signs
  • The developers seem to be listening to the user community and feeding out updates

Could do better…

  • Speed camera locations are not well integrated
  • Mute volume is better than before, but some method of adjusting the volume with the iPod function playing would be great
  • A little laggy sometimes deciphering instructions and on startup
  • ETA is waaaay inaccurate at the beginning of a journey
  • Occasonally crashes, but seems to work perfectly if you restart your iPhone before setting off on a journey

This test was carried out with CoPilot Live UK & Ireland, available from the Apple App Store*.

* Affiliate link

Do you want more on the iPhone? Find our best iPhone posts here.

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