- Review Price: £25.99
A number of manufacturers have stopped developing their PDA and smartphone apps in the last couple of years, including Navman, which was one of the first to enter the market. But one company which is continuing to go from strength to strength is ALK Technologies. CoPilot Live dates back to Windows CE PDAs with GPS jackets, but it is still the top-selling sat-nav software for smartphones. Whilst Navigon has turned its attention to the iPhone, with TomTom soon to follow, ALK launched the latest CoPilot Live initially on Android, making this the first fully featured sat-nav app for this platform. It has also just launched an iPhone version. But Windows Mobile is still its main focus, and latest in the line is CoPilot Live 8, which has the same core features as the Android and iPhone versions, but with some important extra benefits.
CoPilot Live has taken advantage of smartphone integration for a while. But the latest version gets even closer to the current benchmark of sat-nav mobile data integration – TomTom’s LIVE Services. Traffic updates over GPRS were available in CoPilot 7. These were bundled for T-Mobile customers or cost £34.24 for two years if you were with a different provider. CoPilot 8 includes basically the same capabilities, which also work over Wi-Fi, and pricing is currently the same as version 8. You can call up a listing of current traffic incidents, and when navigating you will be offered the choice of rerouting round jams if desired, dynamically as they build up. However, the Android and iPhone versions of CoPilot don’t currently offer live traffic, with this being promised in a future update.
Live Link was also available in version 7. This is like Google Latitude, allowing you to track friends who also have the CoPilot software, and then navigate to their current location. This could be handy for finding family members, or tracking co-workers also kitted out with CoPilot-enabled smartphones, but probably won’t be the most significant feature for most users.
However, there are some useful new Live Services. There’s Live Weather, which gives you a five-day forecast for your current location, or any other destination you choose. The data comes from Accuweather.com, and you can click through to the latter’s site for a more detailed hour-by-hour forecast. ALK has also added dynamic Fuel Prices, which will let you find the cheapest petrol in your vicinity or any other location, although the service wasn’t operating yet in our early review sample. It’s also a premium service like the traffic updates, requiring an (as yet undisclosed) extra fee.
Most significant, however, is the new Live Local Search facility, which apes the Google Local Search provided by TomTom but using information supplied by Microsoft. Assuming your Windows Mobile device has a Wi-Fi or mobile data connection, you can search for keywords and take advantage of a Points of Interest (POI) database much larger than the one stored within CoPilot itself. For example, if you need to track down the nearest branch of your favourite coffee chain, Live Local Search will list branches in order of closeness to your current (or any other) location. Selecting one will not only give you the exact address and the option to navigate right there, but also the phone number. Live Local Search is also not currently available on the iPhone or Android versions of CoPilot, although Android will be getting a Google-powered version in a future update.
Setting up your destination has all the usual options. Aside from the address search, you can navigate to a full postcode, an irritating omission from Navigon’s MobileNavigator for Windows Mobile and iPhone. We also found the tie-in with Windows Mobile Contacts more reliable, as it appears to use the postcode to locate the contact’s address. You can also pick your destination from a general map view, or from the GPS tag on a photo, and even navigate to map coordinates, including OS Grid references.
The basic POI screen includes petrol stations, restaurants, hotels, major airports, cash machines and railway stations, but the full list contains 20 categories. There is also a Quick Stop section on the initial menu that lists just petrol stations, hotels, restaurants and vehicle repair, for more rapid access. There’s a detour facility, where you can choose to avoid roads you know are temporarily blocked, and a route planner allowing you to set up multiple waypoints.
The routing options include car, RV, bicycle, motorcycle and walking, with the latter a true pedestrian mode. This provides a top-down view and directions more useful for people travelling on foot. CoPilot also includes one of the latest sat-nav widgets; full-screen lane guidance which pops up at junctions. This covers more interchanges than most implementations we’ve experienced, too. It’s one of the most useful sat-nav map view additions in the last couple of years, as it genuinely helps you get into the right lane in good time when on the motorway. CoPilot’s basic map view is already clear and easy to read, with an optional night mode, and POI icons that pop up in 3D so you can see them.
There are some niggles, however. If you’re used to QWERTY keyboards, CoPilot’s alphabetical one will have you hunting around for letters, and we couldn’t find any way of configuring it otherwise. In landscape mode, almost a third of the display on the right is taken up by an information bar. This contains a host of useful data, including ETA and remaining distance, plus a large graphic of the next turning and a smaller one of the turning after that. However, it occupies a lot of space onscreen, and the portrait mode packs almost as much information into a much smaller area. So you may want to use that option or turn off the display bar in landscape mode, as useful as it is.
On a more minor note, the safety camera warnings pop up 1,000 yards before the actual location, which is much sooner than most sat-navs. Also, being told about the next turning two miles ahead of time is great on a motorway, but not so useful in the city. Fortunately, both these distances can be altered in the settings.
Overall, ALK CoPilot Live 8 shows why this has been the leading smartphone sat-nav app for a while. Although the Live Services are not new compared to standalone sat-navs, CoPilot leads the pack by providing the most comprehensive interactive options yet available in a smartphone app. It’s almost ludicrous not to offer Live Search in a device which is clearly going to have mobile data built in, and this is a genuinely useful facility. Currently, only the Windows Mobile version of CoPilot offers this, too. So whilst the rush to capture the iPhone sat-nav market is on, ALK has saved its most fully featured offering for Windows Mobile, making CoPilot Live 8 currently the best navigation smartphone app. With a single-region download version starting at £25.99, and the whole of Europe at £59.99, it’s great value too.
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