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ATPM 16.01
January 2010


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by Mark Tennent,

CoPilot Lets Me Do It My Way

“Ha! You won’t need to take your Garmin with you,” said Claudia, the CoPilot Live expert. Hmm. Since when can a £27 smartphone application take the place of a £100+ dedicated GPS navigation device?

First, I gave it something really hard to do: drive me to work. The trip is all of eight miles, but my local knowledge knows that the most economical, fastest, and shortest route is not the one sat-navs choose. Google Maps gets it right, but not TomToms, Garmins…or CoPilot Live.

Instead, CoPilot wants me to motor inland from my home on the seafront to get to the A27, then drive back toward the coast and my office, which is adjacent to the harbour. Without exception, I’ll ignore the A259, which wiggles along the coast and, according to Google Maps, is three miles shorter and three minutes quicker. In rush hour, quadruple that time.

No Arguing

CoPilot Live accepted my alternative route as soon as I set off and quietly switched to it with no arguing. Which is completely unlike the nice lady in my Garmin, who repeatedly tells me she is “recalculating” and stubbornly tries to get me back on her chosen route. I can hear her sigh when there is no alternative but to accept my route. Blimey! Who is steering, her or me? TomToms are worse: they tell you to make a U-turn “when it is convenient to do so.” That’s very funny when you’re driving along the M1.

CoPilot Live is also refreshingly reticent. Its audible alerts are not as intrusive as Garmin’s or TomTom’s, both far too chatty sometimes. Equally, the silence can be off-putting and perhaps a little too speechless when it comes to choosing which lane to be in. A good choice of voices is included with more available for download.

Off to My Mother-in-Law’s

The next test was to get CoPilot to take me to my mother-in-law, who lives deep in the wilds of the countryside. The starting point was miles from any cellphone transmission towers, so CoPilot had to rely solely on the iPhone’s GPS. CoPilot coped without a glitch, easily keeping up with switchback lanes through deep cuttings in the sandstone, overshadowed by ancient oaks.

In France a couple of weeks ago, on the plains of the Languedoc, our TomTom decided we were in Paris and Boulogne rather than Carcassonne and Narbonne. A pal in Phoenix tells me that his TomTom thinks his house is 20 miles from its actual location in the middle of a desert. At least our Garmin knows where it is.

Live Services

As for other features, CoPilot Live has the full range via Live Services through the cellphone. These include traffic updates, cheapest petrol, local search, and so on. Unfortunately, they haven’t been implemented yet in the iPhone version and await Steve Jobs’ blessing. It also looks as though they will be added at an extra cost. Speed camera updates are free.

The interface for setting journeys and waypoints is intuitive, as is activating all the various optional settings. CoPilot Live can be used by hikers, sailors, and mountain bikers. It can also be used for walking or driving around cities. Displaying all the points of interest can be intrusive onscreen, taking up a lot of space and obscuring the route. Their display can be turned off, and they do not show until the vehicle is stationary.

Landscape View

When turned landscape, the iPhone has a better screen display than many sat-navs, and the battery life is good, too. CoPilot Live is not a power-hungry application. My new in-car iPhone charging cradle was a bad choice, getting in the way of the gearstick. For much of the testing, it was navigation by audio alerts rather than seeing the road ahead on the sat-nav screen, while my iPhone was slipped out of sight into my car’s center console. This was easy: CoPilot giving enough warning before the next turn.

After using CoPilot Live for a week, I have decided Claudia was correct: CoPilot Live on a smartphone can take the place of a dedicated sat-nav. It also means that your sat-nav is a pocket-sized package rather than a bulky dedicated sat-nav. The limitations of your particular smartphone, whatever they may be, may have a bearing on CoPilot Live. On the iPhone, though, CoPilot Live is excellent.

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