July 15, 2009 | by Andrew Kameka
Put on your seatbelt, check your mirrors, and launch CoPilot Live for Android? That’s not the traditional pre-driving routine, but it’s what I did when testing CoPilot Live, a new GPS application that offers turn-by-turn voice navigation for Android. The ALK-produced service creates Android GPS navigation systems on the fly thanks to massive map libraries available for every inhabited region of the planet.
CoPilot also offers enough features to make me wonder if it would sink or swim during a marathon road-trip through Florida. Here are a few impressions of my Weekend With CoPilot.
CoPilot Live has a standard entry method for destination searches. Users can enter the address, cross streets, points of interest, points on a map, recent GPS coordinates, or GPS information stored in photos on an SD card. The app predicts city and street names as text is entered, then automatically calculates a route from your current GPS position.
My nephew and I set-out from Miami to attend a concert in Orlando, visit friends in Kissimmee and Lakeland, and watch a NASA shuttle launch from a friend’s house in Cocoa Beach. The shuttle launch would eventually be scrapped before we returned home, but would CoPilot prove to be equally as disappointing?
How does turn-by-turn voice navigation work in CoPilot Live? Very well. CoPilot offers clearly understandable voices in 28 languages, including English (Australian, US, and UK), French, German, Spanish and more. The American-accented Jill was a pleasure to listen to as I traveled more than 700 miles this weekend, a big improvement from the choppy voice libraries I’ve experienced in the past.
Instructions are clearly stated and turn notifications are available at 2 miles, 1 mile, and 3/10th mile before the next turn. The volume level was strong on my T-Mobile G1 even when music played in the background at a reasonable level. However, if you listen to music as unnecessarily loud as I do, you’ll need to lower the volume when the 2-mile warnings start. I missed a notification at one point and kept right rather than left, thus getting on the wrong road. Thankfully, CoPilot recognized this and gave me instructions to exit and return to the right course.
CoPilot offers display options for 2D, 3D, itinerary, 2D next turn, and a glance-friendly Driver Safety mode. Each option has its own usefulness and method for displaying progress or miles until the next movement. I used the 3D and “Planning A Trip” modes because I had several stops to make in different towns, so I wanted something incredibly easy to read. After all, my actual copilot controlling the phone for the first leg of the trip was my eight-year-old nephew, so CoPilot needed to be an easy visualization of the route. Both of us were able to sneak quick glances at the device and quickly know how to travel the highway networks of Central Florida.
POINTS OF INTEREST
Every GPS device must be able to find places to eat, get gas, rest, or repair a vehicle. Thankfully, I only needed to worry about the first two, but the POI database proved effective as I drove north. CoPilot charted a route that took me to a familiar rest stop in Fort Pierce, but I didn’t want to get anything to eat there. It was much more appealing to drive to a nearby restaurant en route to our exit from the Turnpike towards Interstate-95. CoPilot offers a view of several nearby restaurants – ranging from big chains to locally-owned establishments – and shows distance, contacts, and routes for making stops. Gas stations were also displayed, which came in handy when I was running almost on ‘E’ on the I-4.
The true test of a GPS app is its accuracy and reliability. CoPilot performed well in one aspect and good in another. As I expected, the app could not get me to a friend’s house because she lived in a relatively new subdivision (neither could Google Maps or MapQuest, so I can’t really fault them there). I was able to get there thanks to a cross street search and all other searches were spot-on accurate in getting me to my destination. The routes were accurate and reflected the shortest time getting to the destination.
Reliability twice proved to be a concern. On the drive north, a massive thunderstorm created traffic problems and made it difficult to establish a data connection with my network. I tried to connect to the Live Traffic/Weather service to confirm that it reflected the slow-down, but no service was available. Obviously, T-Mobile is at fault for that, not CoPilot, but it reflects a potential problem of using a mobile phone-based GPS program.
On another leg of the trip, traveling on the I-4 to Lakeland, CoPilot inexplicably froze on me and stopped providing instructions. I’m not sure what caused it because maps are stored on the SD card rather than pulled from the Internet, so the connection shouldn’t have been an issue.
Overall, I must say that CoPilot was very solid and reliable given the circumstances. After all interruptions, including incoming calls, CoPilot promptly re-launched and resumed navigation.
CoPilot offers three special features that may interest Android users: Live, My Places, and PhotoNav
- Live Service – Live Traffic updates users to reported traffic incidents nearby, en route, or in a destination city (important for considering detours); Live Weather warns of impending weather conditions at the destination; Live Link reveals user positions and allows subscribers to message or track other CoPilot users. I found no use for Live Link, but it’s an optional feature that others may enjoy.
- My Places – Stores shortcuts to stored destinations like Home, Work, Recent, and Favorites. Each provides easy access to navigation to common addresses or recent locations. Users can quickly add to their favorites by pressing “Save Current Location” when they travel somewhere. If you enjoy a new establishment or attraction, save the coordinates for safe keeping and quick re-visiting at a later date.
- PhotoNav – CoPilot can browse a photo gallery and search for coordinates stored within an image. Imagine stumbling upon a great beach and deciding to take photos with family or friends. If your device has enabled storing GPS coordinates within the photo’s details, PhotoNav will be able to browse the gallery and provide turn-by-turn navigation to return to the spot that photo was taken. The feature allows users to return to exact locations just as easily as photos allow them to return to those memories.
Despite the storm, I made it to my friend’s home in Cocoa Beach. Over the next three days, CoPilot then easily led me to a pleasant trip to Kissimmee, a nice lunch on the way to Lakeland, and a fast route to the event in Orlando that I thoroughly enjoyed.
I have never attempted to visit as many places or people in such a short amount of time, and I’m thankful to have had CoPilot guiding me most of the way. I could have printed directions for each stop, but that would have been wasteful and not as efficient as having my phone tell me the quickest way to get to each destination.
In four days, I traveled nearly 700 miles to five towns and countless stops over a dozen roadways. CoPilot Live was a top-notch guide throughout the long-winded weekend. As long as I have an Android device, I’ll more than likely continue using this application.
- CoPilot Live is available in the Android Market for $34.99 USD (one-time fee)
- Premium services for Live Traffic and Fuel price listings are also available in certain regions
- Requires an SD card that is at least 2GB or more of memory
- Maps are licensed and downloaded by continent or region (North America, Europe, Oceania, etc.)
App: CoPilot Live
Price: $34.99 USD