Not so long ago Satellite Navigation systems (or Sat Nav’s for short) were considered a luxury item which only the hardcore technology enthusiasts who yearned for the latest gadgets would dare purchase. Now though, the market for these devices is far more accessible for those who desire a decent aid to our driving needs, with an exhausting amount of brands and an even larger array of models to choose from. The days of stupidly large road atlas maps have thankfully been assigned to the history books and even for those who loath gadgetry, user friendly interfaces are often part of the appeal.
It is very easy to spend hundreds of pounds buying the hardware and the software in one complete package for a fully featured Sat Nav, yet if you own an Apple iPhone 3G or later, you already own a powerful piece of portable hardware, so why not save some of those precious pennies and invest in just the software side alone.
The Apple Store currently boasts over 100,000 free and purchasable applications that you can download and enjoy. Sat Nav solutions are certainly not left behind as already there are a few options including one from the well known TomTom brand and also the maybe quieter release of CoPilot Live 8.
Your Apple iPhone 3G/3GS has a very impressive hardware feature list that shouldn’t be ignored when considering whether you want to go down this route. Sporting an extremely clear and bright touch screen, while also incorporating a powerful processor to quickly calculate and present the information for your drive. In fact the iPhone can more often than not trounce the top end competition in the stand alone Sat Nav field with it’s specifications, so already we are off to a cracking start for our considerations.
Sat Nav in your Pocket
One of the main disadvantages with stand alone Satellite Navigation units is that it is yet another piece of technology you have to carry. We are often warned in television advertisements and with signs in car parks to not leave your valuable items in the car. How many of us in the past have flaunted our ignorance I wonder and stashed our Sat Nav in the glove box to save carrying it around on a hot summer’s day, particularly when you are a fella that doesn’t carry the treasure chest that is a woman’s handbag? Quite a few I would imagine!
One item you will always carry with you though is your trusty phone. For fear of not being in contact with family, friends or work at the crucial moment, our phone sits in our pocket given pride of place among our other necessities such as our keys and wallet. It therefore seems perfect sense if we purchase the software for our iPhone to add Sat Nav functionality.
There may also be occasions where you thought a Sat Nav wasn’t needed for your well travelled journey or you are relying on somebody else’s directions, only to find you are diverted off the course you remember or your friend has a panic and forgets. With a Sat Nav in your pocket, you can whip out the solution to your directional nightmares and find your way back to civilisation.
A Small Budget
Currently available for a meagre £26.99 on the Apple iTunes Store, no doubt your first thoughts at this price point are of a cheap and nasty solution, however actually you couldn’t be farther from the truth. CoPilot Live is a wonderful piece of software boasting features you would find hard to match at anything like under £30.
Getting from A to B
CoPilot Live works very similarly to any other Satellite Navigation software out there and although the interface may be a little different, the process of selecting destinations, storing favourites, selecting your home and work locations all exist and many more features aside.
If you haven’t purchased one already, a dock for your iPhone to sit in while driving is a must and even orientation doesn’t matter as CoPilot Live will rotate and adjust the screen for whatever your preference is or simply for convenience. In both views the instructions are very clear to read although I am sure most will be tempted to choose the more Sat Nav traditional feeling landscape mode. Either way, the iPhone screen excels in its clarity and brightness. Another recommendation is of course to have an iPhone car charger, which you can have plugged in permanently if you so wish to avoid battery drain.
What we look for in every Sat Nav device of course is to direct us to our destination in the most intelligent way possible, without it sending you off the edge of a cliff. For the most part, CoPilot is very accurate and will not only know where you are at any given time, but will also lead you where you wish to go with the minimum of fuss.
It is extremely important with any Sat Nav device to have a sense of confidence in the route it offers you. The temptation to ignore commands when you think you know better can be a result of a lack of faith in the electronic gizmo, but for the most part, CoPilot Live gives you precise and accurate routing. It is only on fairly rare occasions you may have an issue, when in one instance I had a slight problem. The map wasn’t showing a left turn and instead thought it was one continuous road. Every Sat Nav has limitations in this area and others, but overall I am very happy that for under £30 I managed to get to my destination without any stress along the way.
Lane guidance adds to your relief, indicating clearly with an on-screen image which lane you should be on when Motorways often diverge into two different routes and when you are about to turn off completely from the hustle and bustle of three lane travelling.
If you have an address of for example a friend’s home, you can either enter in the post code or the city and then select the road and house number. Even better you can select from your iPhones contacts if you have already added addresses to their profiles.
Like other Sat Navs, Points of Interest (P.O.I. for short) databases built into the software can be used to locate petrol stations, restaurants, hotels, major airports, attractions, parking and much more. The locations of those pesky speed cameras (or referred to as safety cameras on all sat navs) are also known to the software, giving you a little audible alert and a display on screen indicating the speed at which you should be cruising under.
You can even select whether you are in a car, walking or on a bike. If the light is dipping and becoming dark outside, your CoPiliot will switch to a less intensely bright night view, to make it easier on your precious driving eyes. Different views such as 3D (the default), 2D and even 2D next turn are selectable to allow customisation that configures the application to function exactly as you wish. You may also desire a change in the statistics it displays during your journey and of course CoPilot doesn’t let you down here either.
Dipping into the settings, you can configure the voice alerts to come in at 500yds, 1mile and even 2miles to give you plenty of preperation time. The downside is when you receive a call, which unfortunately disables your directions until the call is over or you decline instead of answering. On the plus side though, you can still control your music in the ‘iPod’ section, which gives you access to your chart favourites while running the software. Currently the music doesn’t pause when a vocal instruction is given, but apparently an update for this is on the way.
Knowing where to go may not be enough to satisfy your lust for information, so CoPilot offers Live Services, which essentially translates as additional features you can access. The area that will offer the most temptation is the Live Traffic option. This will inform you of any delays on your route covering many of the major roads.
CoPilot has an extensive range of real human recorded voices you can select to read aloud the route instructions. As recorded voices, they will state the most basic information such as turning left and right and other such details you rely on. If you would like to go the whole hog though, you can also purchase a text-to-speech voice for a few pounds, that will not only increase the information given to you via the speaker, but also read aloud the road names which can always prove useful. With any computer generated voice of this nature though, the information can be read out in a most bizarre manner, stating locations with the incorrect pronunciations, or just the intonation is off adding to the confusion. All in all though, if you do want to avoid staring at the screen as much as humanly possible, this is the way to go.
Versus the Stand Alone
We may still be a little way off competing with the brute force of stand alone Sat Nav devices, however so many of the features are here right now on your iPhone for a very sensible and wonderful price of under £30. One day all phones will have some form of turn by turn navigation software pre-installed, but until that day arrives, you can’t ignore the amazing CoPilot Live for the iPhone. I will still use my stand alone device for the majority of journeys as I spent hundreds of pounds on getting the one with all the bells and whistles, but when you compare the two products and the price difference, you like me will be more than happy with the CoPilot software on offer.
I may have one of TomTom’s top specification stand alone units, however CoPilot Live for the Apple iPhone should be considered a wonderful achievement for both the iPhone itself and the creators of the application. Not only does it get you to your destination, but does so with an impressive feature set, clear instructions and for an extremely reasonable price.
Whether you are looking for your first Sat Nav system or simply an additional back up, CoPilot Live for iPhone is worthy of not just your consideration, but your hard earned cash as well.
Rating: 4 / 5
iTunes Store Link: CoPilot Live UK and Ireland