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CoPilot Live throws a hat in the navigation ring

Mel Martin

Well, another day, another iPhone GPS app is released to the eager hordes. One of the latest entries is CoPilot Live [iTunes link]. Note: CoPilot Live is also available in a version for the U.K. at the App Store.

The North American version is a US$34.99 full featured nav for your car, bicycle, or just walking around. All the maps are built in, so it does not require any data, which is a plus.

There are things I like about this app, other than the low price. The screens look good, and are highly configurable. They give you the option of getting live weather at your current location, or your destination. I'd like to see that on every GPS app. Satellite acquisition was quick, with no glitches. Although some users have reported crashes, I found the app stable and reliable.

The voice instructions are very clear, and you have a choice of several languages with either a male or female speaker. In the U.S. the choices are 'John' or 'Lisa.'

You can zoom in or out of the 3D or 2D maps, and it appeared that as you approach a destination the map zooms in automatically. The app quickly switches to portrait or landscape mode, and you get a full screen, large type indication of the next turn. It pops up for a few moments, then returns to map view.

The app allows you to plan a trip in advance and preview the route. Happily, you can choose a destination from your address book.

Of course, things aren't all rosy with CoPilot Live. Here are the issues I saw in a couple hours of driving around town.

First, sometimes the directions lagged, and told me to turn when I was already through an intersection. When I put in my home address, the app could find my street but said there were no house numbers available. Ouch. My street has been there for more than 10 years, my neighbors and I all have house numbers, and every other GPS app has gotten me there just fine.

When I asked for nearby hotels, I got a list of restaurants. When I asked for restaurants, I got a list of hotels. Whoops. The POI list itself was OK, but pretty out of date. Entering a street name was no fun because the keyboard is in alphabetical order. Ewwww.

At one point, doing a POI search, the app reported there were no POIs around, and asked me to click on 'more.' Trouble is there was no 'more' button.

In settings, there are several options, but things like speed limit, lane assist, and safety alerts are grayed out. Similarly, when searching for points of interest, ATMs and commuter rail stations are also grayed out.

Like most of the similar GPS apps, there is no text to speech, at least not yet. Navigon is promising it in an update for their app.

Bottom line, I think this app has a lot of potential. The developer (ALK Technologies) says an upcoming free update will provide a QWERTY keyboard, improved GPS performance, ability to call a POI, and for an additional fee, provide real time traffic.

That is fine, but what the app really needs is a better map database. As of now, it has too many missing streets and house numbers.

The egregious errors need to be fixed, like dead end menus and lists of hotels that are restaurants instead.

Of course, this app is inexpensive, and some are complaining the DRM is a bit draconian. You have to install it through iTunes, and the activation scheme requires you do it over Wi-Fi.

I think the low price could put pressure on the more expensive apps, but so far, the more expensive navigators all work better. We haven't reviewed the much awaited TomTom app yet, but we'll do it soon.

Here are some screen grabs that show the good, bad and the ugly when using this app:

Gallery: CoPilot Live Screen grabs | 6 Photos

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