CoPilot Premium Review

CoPilot Premium Review

May 27, 2014

When it comes to mobile navigation software, the scene is packed; if there is one thing Google Maps has done, it’s to create an enviable situation for consumers: to compete in this space, developers have to come correct, or not bother coming to the party at all.

CoPilot is not a rookie piece of software, and as such, seeing how it stacks against competing solutions on Android is sure to be an interesting ride.

The interface has the bright-but-serious look that one might expect from a mapping solution, with default sky blue on white backgrounds making up the basics of the menu UI. The menu is a treat of sorts, revealing that the mapping interface can be tweaked with built-in themes that enhance the daytime/nighttime experiences. the entire theme can also be adjusted, with relevant and zany choices like breast cancer awareness pink or multicolored halloween. These “little” customization opportunities go a long way to increasing the usability of the product. Other settings give a glimpse as to other features contained in the app: language and gender choices for voice, ability to show local speed limits and proclaim warnings based on such, units of measure, sharing tools and more.

With regards to the app in action, the 3D rendering works well, and the overall smooth design of the menu spills co4over into the navigation. A search easily pulls up the location, and then the trip begins, with a screen that auto adjusts to he ime of day. There’s more good stuff here; using touch, it’s possible to tweak the information displayed (like speed and ETA) on the screen. 2D maps can be toggled here as well; the same handy menu pulls up trip summary, alternate routes, detours, points of interest and even walking directions. There is a lot of potentially useful information that can accessed on the fly.

In addition to searching (which works with Android voice dictation) one can input locations by coordinates, pre-entered “Places” and by the devices address book/contact list, which CoPilot interfaces with. The app allows for total trip control; it’s possible to plan by type of vehicle (car? Bicycle? Feet?) and avoid toll roads or to choose either the fastest or shortest route available. The app also offers a cloud feature for backup, and a year of free traffic monitoring service ActiveTraffic.

My biggest gripe with the app admittedly runs counter to my “complete mobility” rallying cry: I would love a web interface. A lot of times, for my needs, it is great to be able to input an address found while surfing on a laptop. Some folks might balk at the price when weighed against other options, especially since other vendors are getting into the offline side of things as well.

But for a full-fledged mobile option that packs in plenty of functionality, CoPilot is tough to get around.

Or get around without.

MapQuest Review

MapQuest Review

Dec 13, 2012

Even before Google had its name appropriated as a verb, MapQuest accomplished the same thing. MapQuest opened up the door to so many road adventures, and I still have stacks of printouts. In the days of preceding standalone GPS units and mobile software, TripTiks and printouts were what the cool kids did.

With decades of cartographic experience under the belt, MapQuest is almost made to make mapping products, and MapQuest for Android looks to explore that premise.

The user interface was clean, and looked functional without being cramped. The opening map showed my location with GPS on. Graphically, the mapping portion retained a business-like feel that i would have expected from MapQuest, with pinch-to-zoom working admirably. The navigation looked crisp, with focus seemingly given more to touch functionality than loud looks. The program switched to landscape effortlessly. Clean arrows and distance icons accompanied the mapped route.

Off the bat, there were fixed buttons to search for staples like food, accommodations, gas, hospitals and miscellaneous entertainment on the concealable and sliding bottom dock. I found this to be pretty convenient; especially since looking stuff up through the dock while navigation was quite easy. The search functionality did work well, and when available, I could access business location and “go” to the location. The Action tab was also a nice idea; it gave me access to a menu that allowed me to list written directions or edit the route on the fly. The voice used was faintly human, and it did an adequate job of communicating street names concisely. I especially liked the map touching functionality, whereby I was able to touch a point on the map and generate a route to it. I also found that the app re-routed pretty well as well.

Option-wise, the developer adds in toggles for satellite and nighttime views, giving the app a bit more versatility in different situations. It also boasts the ability to show real-time traffic, traffic cams and store map tiles locally.

I would have liked a more vibrant day view, and more options off the initial data entry or search. Giving multiple choices of navigation can be a positive, especially in places the driver is familiar with.

All in all, MapQuest is a great online option… good enough to pay for, in my opinion. The price makes it that more appealing, and it does compare favorably with the Android platform heavyweights.

TomTom Android Review

TomTom Android Review

Dec 11, 2012

Frankly, navigation applications are not entirely scarce on Android, as there are quite a lot of options for people interested in convergence. What is a little less common, and invariably much coveted are offline solutions.

This is where industry heavyweight TomTom looks to fill in the blanks. TomTom USA for Android is a solution that works online as well as offline with downloadable maps. Thus, the user is not held to ransom by finicky data connections.

As expected, the download was fairly large, and the app warned me of such.

TomTom comes with a packed feature set. Aside from the expected voice directions, it also had multi-point travel functionality, and the ability to work when my device was in portrait or landscape. For basic navigation, I was presented with a few travel options: I could choose a bike option, walking, an “eco” route (one that cut down on stop and go), or I could choose to drive with the shortest or quickest route.

There were several other customization options as well; I found plenty of built-in themes for both daytime and nighttime navigation. I could also change the type of voice. A lot of care seemed to be ascribed to making the user experience as nice as possible. For every generated route, I was able to look at the map and written directions, as well as a demo of the route. I could also get an alternate route, avoid portions of the upcoming route and even create an off-route waypoint. This waypoint could be an address, a recent destination or a point of interest. I also was a fan of the lane guidance and the way the app automatically re-routed me when it determined I went off grid. It worked quite well without signal.

One important piece for me was the fact that TomTom worked well in the background, even with music playing. It worked with my contacts, and the app also offered free lifetime updates, which is a biggie. Updated traffic was an extra in-app purchase. Now, considering the cost of the app, some folks may balk at the extra cost associated with getting traffic warnings. I was not able to to get TomTom to pop up as an option when invoking navigation from a Google search, and I was not able to figure out how to use or generate coordinates, which is something that I actually use often. This is something that is good to have in a pinch, and I would have expected this in this app.

Still, for folks looking for an offline option that is backed by good reputation, TomTom might fill the void.

Scout by TeleNav Review

Scout by TeleNav Review

Oct 25, 2012

Scout is the newest, award-winning Android voice-directed navigation app from TeleNav Inc. Don’t call it a comeback…

Full disclosure: I am a fanatical advocate of device convergence. I want one device that does a lot of things very well. I want functionality in the palm of my hand. Since my phone is with me most of the time, it makes sense that it serves as the hub. Much has been made about the hastened obsolescence of secondary devices by smartphones, and Scout does make a strong case for the retirement of standalone GPS devices.

Scout seemingly shares the same engine with its older brother TeleNav GPS Navigator, but where the original is nice to look at, Scout goes for statuesque. The UI is sharp, with colors contrasting well, and it looked bright and inviting.

There is a clear effort to make the application more social. Billed as a way to discover places and get there, I thought Scout mostly succeeded in living up to its lofty self-imposed premise. I noticed that the app pulled in information about local weather on the Dashboard. The Places tab gave me GPS-generated locations categorized by type (like Lodging, Food, ATM and even wi-fi spots).

And, of course, there was the Drive functionality, which was really nice. I was able to set up my Home and Work addresses for easy retrieval later. Entering an address got the software going, and it quickly got me three color-coded optional routes, with estimated times and distance superimposed on a map which, allowed me to visually compare the routes.

The navigation “voice” sounded human. Fortunately, the dialogue wasn’t overdone, as can happen with some apps. The reminders were concise and timely, and the audio guidance could be set to directions, traffic, both or neither. The languages could be toggled between English and Spanish, and I had the options of picking metric units or imperial units. The voice input worked well for me, and I was able to switch back and forth between 3D and 2D. I also appreciated how, when set to auto, the device automatically gives a bright contrasting night-time mode at evening time.

As an additional feature, Scout syncs with TeleNav online, allowing me to trip plan from a desktop and backup addresses. The TeleNav website even has interactive mapping software, so it is the perfect cloud solution. The optional upgrades (speed limit, lane assist, red light camera and more) are available via in-app purchase.

Feature packed as it is, one gripe I had was a comparison I inadvertently made to an earlier iteration of Telenav Navigator: more voice choices would be nice. Also, any offline functionality, even partial, would be very welcome. Multiple transit (biking, walking, etc) modes could also be valuable.

With the industry giant (Google Maps) looming in the smartphone space, it takes a formidable offering to stay relevant. Fortunately for Android users, Scout casts a mean shadow of its own.