by Jim Guld
CoPilot Live Premium, North America Maps $14.99 for iOS and Android. For complete pricing and map availability, visit their website at www.copilotlive.com. There is a free version, but it does not offer voice-directed turn-by-turn instructions.
Technology can make travel a richer experience. Teaching technology to travelers is what Geeks On Tour is all about. We have been using GPS for navigation since we started RVing back in ’03. Keeping up with this stuff is a full time job and we love it. Visit us at www.geeksontour.com.
Don’t get rid of your paper maps and atlases. Do get the CoPilot Live app for your mobile devices – we like it. It is available for Android phones and tablets, iOS iPhones and iPad 3G, Windows mobile, and laptops, too. Be sure to read thru the excellent user guide available on their website under the Support menu.
I first got the CoPilot app for my Droid RAZR phone and used it in our travels from Louisville, KY up through New Jersey, New York, and New England. While in Vermont, I bought the new Google Nexus 7 tablet. The main reason for getting the tablet was for navigation. This review is based on those 2 devices.
Stand-alone Dashboard GPS navigation tools have been around quite a while, and they still have their place. More and more I see them being replaced by general purpose devices like smartphones and tablets running navigation apps.
The Big Picture, Planning Vs. Navigating:
Size matters. So does distance. I still like planning our trips using a laptop and a combination of Microsoft Streets & Trips, Google Maps, and paper maps. The big laptop screen makes it easy to see and the information available is unprecedented. Navigation using the laptop requires a GPS receiver and a secure place to mount the laptop. It is much easier to mount a mobile device running CoPilot for navigation. I have decided that for me, the 7 inch screen is ideal for trip navigation. I attach it to our dashboard with a simple strip of Velcro.
I still use the free Google Navigation with voice search on my Droid for around-town driving, finding restaurants, stores, etc. It is always with me.
The Nexus 7, with its superior resolution, Android 4.1 OS, reasonable price, and responsive touch screen is a great way to go. And, unlike other Wi-Fi only tablets, it includes the GPS receiver. More on the Nexus 7 in an upcoming review.
Though you can use the app right after downloading, you will want to customize it for best results. Spend some time with the settings for the Map Display, Guidance, Traffic, Speed Limits, Language & Voice, etc.
Vehicle Preferences are especially important for RVers. Height restrictions and Propane restricted tunnels are nice to see and are usually available only on higher end GPS units. We entered our RV height at 12’ 6” and it properly routed around some low bridges but not all. Admittedly, we’ve never seen so many low bridges as we did in Connecticut, none of our devices or other resources showed all of them.
The Pros: Almost too many to list. Here is a summary.
- Great street maps which are stored on your device. No need for a data connection while navigating.
- RV aware settings for height and propane.
- Excellent spoken turn by turn directions – short and clear. Visual cues on the screen are easy to follow.
- Trip planning is easy. Alternate routes are suggested. You have complete control to drag your route to exactly where you want.
- Choice of 2D and 3D views, with or without directions on screen.
- There are multiple ways of adding a destination. You can select a contact from your address book, pick a location on the map, input lat/lon coordinates, and even use a geotagged photo.
- Price. It is inexpensive if you already have a device. It is worth buying a device just to have the app.
- FREE Quarterly Map Update for All CoPilot Live Premium Android and iOS Customers
- Sound is not as loud as most dedicated dashboard units. You can use Bluetooth or cable to your radio, if so equipped. I think I will get a new dashboard radio with Bluetooth capability for better volume.
- The onscreen keyboard is flakey. Strange things sometimes happen when using it for input. Occasionally typing an entry just won’t work at all – pressing search enters your typing twice, or adds extra characters. This can only be called a bug. I have seen this mentioned in other reviews.
- Discrepancies in maps and directions. No GPS Navigation or map is completely and absolutely accurate. This app is better than most, it did correctly route us around some low clearances, but not all. We are using the CoPilot Live Personal – not CoPilot Live Truck, which is available for $149. There is a way to send corrections to CoPilot. On their website, you’ll see a link to ‘Submit a Map Improvement.’ They guarantee that the corrections will be made within 45 days.
In conclusion, this is a great app for navigation and planning on your smartphone. It is even better on a tablet like the Nexus 7.
A Short Video Demo of CoPilot Live on the Nexus 7 Android Tablet