Hands on: Co-Pilot for iPhone review

17th Aug 2009 | 16:25

Hands on: Co-Pilot for iPhone review

Bringing turn-by-turn sat nav to your iPhone for a mere £26

Pricing and navigation options

Sat nav on the iPhone looks set to be big business. The release of the £26 Co-Pilot Live 8 UK and Ireland app into the App Store has followed Navigon's Mobile Navigator and NNG's iGO MyWay – both of which cost £53.

Today, TomTom has released its take on full iPhone turn-by-turn. The £60 app has arrived several weeks earlier than expected, probably due to the release of the other apps.

At less than half the price of all its competitors, Co-Pilot's parent company ALK has seriously undercut the competition and will be looking to capitalise on those not bothered about the TomTom name.

Like the other sat nav iPhone apps there's no traffic information on Co-Pilot Live 8 for iPhone as yet, while TomTom is the only one to include information about pesky speed cameras thus far.

The whole app is extremely easy to use and feels very much like a proper navigation app. It doesn't even pander to Apple's iPhone keyboard design, instead sticking to ALK's own design. This is a little odd, but is not a big issue.

Co-Pilot for iphone

The navigation display is clear and crisp with easy zoom controls, a customisable info bar and easy access to adjust settings for your route. 2D or 3D mapping is available, and you can also easily view your itinerary, unlike the Navigon app.

If you have music playing, the voice instructions simply mingle with the music. There's no way to mute these except to go deep into the settings. This is a little unfortunate, but is one of the limitations of the handset. Of course, the iPhone will only single-task Co-Pilot as with any other third-party app, so you'll have to exit completely to perform any other function.

Co-Pilot for iphone

Traffic information is planned for many of the systems later in the year, Co-Pilot included. Co-Pilot does have access to Live services, such as weather or roadside assistance, but the traffic option is blanked out.

Co-Pilot for iphone

Selecting destinations is quick and easy and, unlike in the Navigon app, you can use full UK postcodes. You're also able to go on just an address, a previously saved location (such as where you left your car), a point of interest, map pin or even co-ordinates. The input is intuitive and flexible.

Co-Pilot for iphone

Points of Interest can be turned on or off - in the grab above, they're off. The app makes it easy to add in a Detour or Quick Stop to get cash or petrol.

Co-Pilot for iphone

GPS issues and verdict

Like the other sat-nav apps we've tested, Co-Pilot can be used in both portrait and landscape: the display will simply adjust depending on orientation.

The My Places area of the app enables you to store favourite destinations as well as your home and work addresses. You can also plan routes easily for future retrieval as well as work out the best route between multiple stop-off points.

Co-Pilot for iphone

Co-Pilot for iphone

One area that did disappoint was the walking directions. Much has been made of the poor performance of the GPS chip in the iPhone, but in-car this doesn't present too much of a problem - even if the display is a little slow to update after you've made the turn as instructed.

However, on foot this problem is clearly exposed and in our experience the app can only be used as a guide rather than a definite navigation tool when walking - it simply doesn't pick up your updated location quick enough - not even as quickly as the Maps app does.

Co-Pilot for iphone

This wasn't helped by the mapping itself - here we're being directed up a hill and back down again despite there being a clearly better route (the blue line is an 'as the crow flies' representation of where we need to walk).

Co-Pilot for iphone

Other now-standard sat-nav features, are the real Signpost display matching real-life signs and Lane Assist - pop-ups at the top of the display show which lane you need to be in. ClearTurn is designed to show key motorway junctions more clearly.

As a final note, and having spent some time using the iPhone as a sat nav, we'd definitely recommend you also invest in a cradle such as Belkin's TuneBase FM. Not only is it great for holding your phone in place, it means you can also hear the instructions through your car stereo and answer calls hands-free, too.

So is it worth the £26? Definitely. Co-Pilot is so far the best sat-nav app we've seen for the iPhone. If you've not already got a navigation app or a standalone device it's an absolute snip (though the in-built GPS chip is not the finest for walking or cycling). But, of course, the real question is whether the TomTom app is worth twice the cost. Check out our TomTom for iPhone hands-on review.

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Liked this? Then check out A week with the iPhone as a sat-nav

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