Following Apple ‘s WWDC a few months ago, I have been eagerly awaiting the release of a turn-by-turn GPS app for the iPhone. And like London buses, it seems after waiting an eternity for one, suddenly a whole bunch arrive at once. Lucky for me, the one I get to review is CoPilot UK and […]
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Review: CoPilot for the iPhone ticks all the GPS boxes

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Following Apple ‘s WWDC a few months ago, I have been eagerly awaiting the release of a turn-by-turn GPS app for the iPhone. And like London buses, it seems after waiting an eternity for one, suddenly a whole bunch arrive at once. Lucky for me, the one I get to review is CoPilot UK and Ireland, and it was well worth the wait.

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CoPilot starts by asking you to register an id with an email address and password, which is a bit annoying, but doing so promises updates and access to live services (without requiring further registration). The first thing I notice here, and hope is not a general theme, is the non-QWERTY keyboard.

Following that you are asked to set up some initial parameters such as your desired narrative voice. Once this is done you are taken to the main screen with a horde of menu options, from address, POI and map options to live services, lane assists and speed limit. It ‘s worth mentioning here that almost every aspect to the navigation software is customizable. You can change voice warnings for approaching turns, switch voices, language, map display (2d/3d along with a plethora of associated options). This combines with map styles, speed limit warnings, safety alerts, guidance, day/night mode and unit of measurement (imperial/metric) and then probably the most useful, lane assist “ which will clearly point out the exact lane you need to be in when approaching a highway offramp. You are also able to customize your on screen display of route info, such as estimated arrival time, nearest town, current road, speed, distance remaining.. the list goes on.

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The first thing I did was to choose an address, and punch in a post code. Its at this point that I am once again presented with a ABCD layout as opposed to QWERTY keyboard, which is both a little surprising and disappointing. This was something I encountered on my dedicated Garmin GPS device and it still never ceases to baffle me why a number of the large mobile GPS technologies would not choose the keyboard standard.

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I decided to look past this (the bright, colourful interface helped) and chose a number of different locations using street addresses and postcodes, each of which was correctly translated into the correct address, and within a few seconds the best route was chosen. My first test for the device was to switch across to walking mode (I happened to be walking somewhere soon after downloading), as my desired routing and start the journey. The software offers both portrait and landscape views as well as the ability to zoom in and out using buttons in the corners. Another smart design choice places all POIs in your vicinity on the screen, all clickable giving you information about each, but as soon as you start moving it removes them to clear your vision of the road and upcoming turns. Once again, this is all customizable.

The walking mode has some definite disadvantages over the normal car navigation. It ‘s quite slow, fairly unresponsive to movement, and much of the time is spent staring at the same screen with all the POIs visible (i.e : it thinks you are standing still). I have to admit it does improve as you walk, but all in all, it could do with a more responsive walking mode.

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Switching over to the more common driving mode, you still have the slow start before it picks up your position and starts updating, but as soon as it does, it ‘s very quick to track you and update the map. By very quick, I would have to say it ‘s slightly slower than a dedicated SatNAV, but definitely manageable and certainly nothing to complain about.

Aside from the odd incorrect guidance (where its saying go left, and there isn ‘t a left, which happened once) the navigation is incredible. As soon as you go off course, it immediately notices and within a few seconds offers you an alternate route. And with the introduction of live traffic services in an update, CoPilot will be unbeatable.

You also have quick stop options which gives you a list of POI types to choose from, hotel, gas station etc. Added to this you are able to select as many additional stops as you wish, and while you are on a particular route, you can also select to detour. So all the standard SatNAV options you would expect from a dedicated device, including a whole bunch more are included in the software. I assume each update will include additional POIs, as well as updating existing ones that have changed.

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Included in the software is a number of live services, some of which aren ‘t available yet. I am not sure how these services work as each states it requires a wireless connection, so unless you are travelling in a Wifi zone, this will be impossible to use. Unless you are able to download them ahead of your trip for the areas you need. I expect a future update will allow this to come through on 3G or EDGE but at the moment these are simply worth a mention.

One of the key features of the software, and a necessity for anyone using a navigation device is the ability to make and receive call whilst driving. My experience of the software is that calls received are switched to and immediately it switches back to the navigation route, seamlessly, albeit with the usual iPhone delays. The only downside is, you cannot make calls from within the software whilst driving, and exiting to make a call results in the route being lost when you return (although you will see in the update notes below this has been corrected).

As I was rounding off this review, an update has appeared in the App Store, which offers the following additional features :

  • Safety camera warnings
  • Improved GPS performance
  • Dial a POI from on screen
  • Restarts and remembers destination after a call
  • Improved activation

The good

All in all, this is a brilliant navigation app, one which will find a prime, permanent spot on my iPhone. The customization ability across almost every feature of the application rivals most dedicated SatNAVs. The feature list is extensive, the interface colourful, intuitive and incredibly well designed. As a result, my Garmin will be on eBay quite shortly.

The bad

Aside from the odd navigation hiccup, and the walking mode needing some work, there is only one other minor gripe I have with this fantastic navigation app, and that ‘s the keyboard within the software. According to the developers, the QWERTY layout is due in a future update “ lets hope it ‘s soon.

The verdict

This is by far the most comprehensive GPS navigation software on the iPhone market, with such depth in its feature list, it ‘s hard to fathom any other navigation app will come close. At the current ridiculously low price tag, it ‘s a complete no-brainer, as it ‘s worth more than twice that. If you own a car, a bike, or 2 feet, go out and buy this. Now.

CoPilot is 25.99

[iTunes link]

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