One great thing about writing for AppAdvice is that you, our readers, help us do a better job. Recently I wrote a review for MobileNavigator and a reader pointed out CoPilot Live as a possible alternative to MobileNavigator. I agreed that CoPilot Live was worth a look, especially since it had a similar feature set as MobileNavigator and was nearly one third the price.
In my previous review, I more or less held up MobileNavigator as THE navigation app to beat on the App Store. With such a drastically lower price, CoPilot Live could position itself to be a serious competitor, but for that to happen, it has to have a great, well-implemented feature set. So is MobileNavigator’s status safe for now? Is CoPilot Live a legitimate competitor? Not really. Let’s see why.
• Text-to-speech and turn-by-turn voice directions
• Maps of USA and Canada stored on the iPhone
• 3D/2D driving views with speed-variable zooming
• Ability to navigate to address book contacts
• Portrait/landscape mode
• Option to detour and choose an alternate route
• Route optimizer
• Tap to dial a POI directly on screen
• Pre-trip planning and preview
• Auto day/night mode
• Live weather for your location/destination
• RV mode provides guidance for larger vehicles
I want to tell you that CoPilot Live is an amazing app and that, for $35, is a great bargain and should be considered before you buy one of the more expensive navigation apps on the App Store. I want to be able to say that, but I just can’t. CoPilot Live is a clunky, if not confusing, navigation app. Menus are arranged illogically and the UI doesn’t even adhere to the sleek, intuitive look and feel of the iPhone.
Worst of all, the first time I took this app on the road to test it out, it got me stone cold lost! A friend had recently moved houses, so I input his address with no other knowledge of the area and set out. Not only did CoPilot Live fail to alert me to my approaching turn into my friend’s neighborhood, but it never mentioned that I had passed my turn or that it was recalculating a new route. When I finally began to question where it was taking me, I discovered I was 6 miles past my destination! Since I had to delete MobileNavigator to make room for CoPilot Live, I pulled out the trusty Garmin to get me back on track. Had I not given up on it, CoPilot Live would have continued to lead me in the wrong direction. Who knows where I would have ended up!
But before I make you think that CoPilot Live isn’t even worthy of being called a navigation app, let me be clear. CoPilot Live is a navigation app that would most likely get you to your destination were you to use it. That said, I’m not really satisfied with “most likely.” Not only that, but if developers decide to bring an app to a slick, intuitive, user-friendly device like the iPhone, then your app had darned well better be slick, intuitive and user-friendly too. It should also adhere to the look and feel of the iPhone’s UI.
Now, before I roast CoPilot Live in the furnace of my scorn, let’s have a look at a few of the things CoPilot Live gets right…or right-ish, at least.
CoPilot Live has most of the basic features you would expect from a navigation app on the iPhone. The common theme among them all is that they are very poorly implemented which is almost unforgivable on a device as cool as the iPhone. For the sake of brevity, I won’t list all the reasons why these good things are also kind of bad. Instead, let’s just take them at face value.
CoPilot Live has iPod integration, which is virtually mandatory for a navigation app on the iPhone. It also has text-to-speech that allows it to pronounce street names. It also has a few other handy features like the ability to tap on a POI to call it. It also works in both landscape and portrait mode and does a few other basics like showing the next turn.
One feature that CoPilot Live deserves credit for is the route planner and trip optimizer. If you typically use a feature like this, you would likely appreciate knowing it’s available on CoPilot Live. I also like the fact that CoPilot Live stores the maps on the phone itself. I realize that not everyone is a fan of this model, but as I said in my review for MobileNavigator, I’m not going to trust AT&T’s data coverage if I’m ever stranded in the boonies. I want the maps on the device, even if it does take up a little over a gig of space to do it. So CoPilot Live does get it right as far as this is concerned.
Overall, the look and feel of this app is slow and unnatural to the typical feel of the iPhone. For example, rather than swiping left or right to go to other pages in menus, CoPilot Live has left/right buttons to tap. I dare even go so far as to say that the layout of these menus is illogical and counter-intuitive. Rather than drilling down into folders or menus in a logical form, CoPilot Live’s menus are just all over the place. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten lost in the menus with no idea how to get back out to the map view.
And if I wanted to change a view or setting, I was usually only successful in doing so after just flipping through until I happened onto whatever I was looking for. I’m a fairly gadget savvy soul, friends, so for me to say that means something. Sure, I figured it out, but my point is that users shouldn’t have to. Things should just make sense, which isn’t the case with CoPilot Live.
CoPilot Live also has a button for “Live Traffic” but it is disabled by default and I have no clue how to turn it on because there is no explanation for why it was disabled in the first place. Is there a subscription? Is it an in-app purchase? Users are left to wonder. After some Googling, I discovered that traffic is a premium service available for purchase on ALK’s website for $20, but there is no way to purchase it from the app itself, which also makes no sense, seeing as how Apple has allowed in-app purchases for precisely these types of features.
iPod integration is a must-have for any iPhone navigation app to be taken seriously. Until last week’s update, CoPilot Live did not have this critical feature. It currently does allow for iPod integration, but again, the user interface is clunky and looks like the UI of a cheap, third party mp3 player. It does not allow for fast forwarding, rewinding or scrubbing through tracks. The track progress bar also moves every 5-7 seconds or so as opposed to constantly showing the progress of the track as it plays. I know this is a minor issue, but it contributes to the overall feel of a slow, backwards UI scheme.
Lastly, I have to mention the speech voice. Voice. As in, there’s only one. If you want CoPilot Live to speak street names, there’s only one voice that does it and it’s a very mechanical, monotone computer voice. If you are okay with “turn left” instead of “turn left on Main Street” then there is a huge selection of two other voices to choose from: a man and a woman voice. Granted, they sound far less mechanical, but again, it makes me wonder how quickly the developers just rushed this app to the App Store.
Currently, it would seem that as far as navigation apps go, you pay for what you get. If higher quality navigation apps like MobileNavigator or TomTom cost around $90, then you can get one-third the quality at one-third the price by purchasing CoPilot Live for $35. CoPilot Live seems like it is not quite ready for prime time. Granted, the beauty of the iPhone format is that all the developers have to do is release an update, but CoPilot Live needs more than just an update or two before it’s ready to compete on the same level with more serious navigation apps.
If you are in dire need of a navigation app on your iPhone, but you really balk at the $90 price tag of other navigation apps, then CoPilot Live might be the app for you. But before you say “oh that’s me!” and rush off to purchase it, consider that it may be less frustrating to just purchase a higher quality app from the start than to fumble with one like CoPilot Live that just isn’t as good. But if quality of execution or UI really doesn’t bother you and you just want something that works for far less money, then CoPilot Live may be your best option. Just remember that I cautioned you first.