- Review Price: £26.99
With the release of the Apple iPhone 3GS and version 3.0 operating system, a number of vendors started offering fully-featured sat-nav apps for the world’s most headline-grabbing smartphone, starting with Navigon and then TomTom. But the app that has particularly grabbed the attention of iPhone owners since then has been ALK CoPilot Live, in particular because the UK and Ireland version is about half the price of its competitors.
We’ve already put the Windows Mobile version through its paces, and the iPhone spin has essentially the same basic features and interface. However, we didn’t activate the full gamut of live services at the time of that review, as they weren’t all yet available. So for this review we got our iPhone up and running with the Premium Live functions, which cost an additional £19.99 a year. The extra facilities include traffic updates, a local search, and fuel prices.
All these functions use your iPhone’s mobile data link, or Wi-Fi where available. However, three of the Live facilities are already included even with the basic software. These are the Live Link, Live Weather, and Roadside Assistance. However, the latter just gives you a number for the AA with the facility to call it directly from your iPhone, plus all the details of your current location. So it’s not quite as ‘live’ as the other functions. The weather service lists a five-day forecast for the location of your choice, and you can get a more detailed report for any given day, although this involves leaving CoPilot and loading the AccuWeather website into Safari.
Live Link is intended to help you track your friends and facilitate meeting up with them. However, they also need to be using CoPilot and be signed into Live Link for this to work. You will then be able to call up a map showing where they are, and also send them messages, which can include information about your current location so they can navigate to meet you. You can also track your friends who are signed into Live Link via the CoPilot website, and send them messages from here as well. It all sounds very impressive, and the Web facility could even be used for coordinating a fleet of vehicles. But its proprietary nature limits its usefulness.
The three premium services, unsurprisingly, are far more significant for the regular traveller. The Live Traffic system still relies on TMC for its data, but provides the option to use mobile data connectivity instead of FM radio to download updates. Since the latter requires extra hardware, and the former is more reliable and frequent anyway, it’s the best choice, and makes CoPilot’s Live Traffic quite powerful. You can browse a list of current jams by road number, or call up a map overview. Individual incidents are grouped under their road number, allowing you to drill down to find more details about each one, and choose to avoid any that could seriously impede your journey. Your route will then be calculated around the gridlock.
Live Local Search extends the POI database considerably in the same way as the Google Local Search included with TomTom’s Live Services. It allows you to search an Internet-based database for destinations nearby or in another city. Many of the results also include phone numbers, and like the Roadside Assistance you can call these directly from the iPhone to check details such as opening times prior to setting off.
The final premium Live feature, Fuel Prices, again parallels TomTom’s Live services. Aside from just calling up a list of petrol stations nearby, at your destination or in another city, it also provides the current pricing for the fuel type of your choice, so you can choose the cheapest option. We found the results were generally accurate, although not always.
For those who don’t go for the additional Live capabilities, all the usual range of sat-nav features are available as standard, too. In fact, there’s nothing missing compared to a regular standalone sat-nav. You can navigate to an address or full 7-digit UK postcode, although this follows the traditional city-street-house number routine as there is no option to search for a street across the entire country. A comprehensive Points of Interest (POI) database is also included, offering a full range of categories, and you can search this freely by name, although only nearby, within a city, or along a currently loaded route.
A Quick Stop option lets you route to a subset of nearby POIs without wading through the full interface. These include Petrol Stations, Restaurants, Hotels, and Vehicle Repair facilities. You can also save Favourites for future use or scroll through a list of recently found locations. There’s even a route planner allowing you to create journeys with multiple waypoints, which you can save and recall when required.
CoPilot can warn you of approaching safety cameras but by default this facility is disabled so you need to turn it on in the settings. Similarly, map POI display is turned off during motion by default as well, so you won’t see the exact location of the safety camera onscreen until you enable this feature. But having all the POIs marked onscreen does slow down screen updates in urban areas, so you may want to do without.
One feature you don’t need to enable is the full-screen lane guidance graphic. This pops up at complex junctions to tell you which carriageways to be in, and includes more than just major motorways. In many instances, the signposts to look out for will also be illustrated, to make doubly sure you go the right way.
ALK’s CoPilot Live 8 for iPhone was already shaping up well merely because of its extremely keen price. But it’s also comprehensively featured. Even with a year’s subscription to the Premium Live Services, it’s still cheaper than the alternatives from TomTom and Navigon. If you only want occasional navigation, CoPilot Live can turn your iPhone into all the sat-nav you will ever need for much less than a standalone unit, even when you factor in the cost of a screen mount and car power cable. Add in the Live extras, and it’s almost as powerful as devices costing closer to £200.
Score in detail
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