Paraphernalia

Reviewed: CoPilot Premium smartphone satnav app

I am faintly jealous of those people who have a natural sense of direction. I am not one of those people.

Left to my own devices, I will unerringly go the wrong way given a choice of two streets. I rotate maps so I can be sure both they and I are pointing in the same direction.

signpost-direction-travel-journey-satnav

Which way? Which way?

So I compensate. I print out maps, I study them closely, I pay attention to landmarks and street signs as much as possible, because without them I’ll get lost. Again. And with a toddler along for the ride, I don’t want to get lost at all, if I can avoid it.

That goes double if I’m driving on my own, especially once I’m off the well-signed motorways and trying to work out if the B110whatever is actually the same as this tiny street on the right.

And while Google maps can be a wonderful thing, I’m wary of relying on data too much as it almost inevitably disappears just at the most critical point. Plus you can’t scroll through your phone as you’re driving.

Therefore, unless I want to try covering the passenger seat in maps (not ideal either), that leaves satnav.

Frankly, I’m a bit wary of satnav too. It’s a wonderful invention, no question… when it works. Everyone’s heard the stories of it directing you down weird routes, through no entry signs, or simply losing a satellite signal after it’s stranded you in a field.

Follow the fish...

Follow the fish…

When I was asked if I wanted to test the CoPilot satnav app, it seemed like the perfect solution to see if satnav could win me back round.

There’s some helpful options, including letting you download maps in advance so you can use them offline while you’re abroad to avoid huge data roaming costs. And if you’re stopping in multiple places, you can edit your trip by tapping the stop on a map or by dragging and dropping your route to go via a waypoint.

It can also find useful places en route, including petrol stations, and optimise your route if you’ve added them in a random order.

Then there’s personalisation options, from themes to downloading different voices if you’d like a real person speaking to you, as well as a commuting option which learns your preferred route to and from work and scans for traffic. For Windows Phone 8 users, you can use voice commands as well.

So I decided to give it a test. With my mum in the passenger seat, and a fairly straightforward motorway drive to and from Halifax, we tried her sat nav, the app, google maps and a few directions jotted down on paper.

On the journey there, without CoPilot, our data disappeared for Google Maps, her satnav kept losing the satellite and insisting we should detour via Rochdale, and we resorted to the piece of paper and street signs – which mostly worked until we got to Halifax itself.

rochdale-sign-england-halifax

On the way back, CoPilot had its turn. And I’m kicking myself for not having used that the first time. It found the same quickest route that both human intelligence and Google Maps had come up with, it didn’t want us to randomly drive to Rochdale off a perfectly sensible motorway, and gave an impressively accurate eta.

The downsides? It does eat your phone battery, especially if GPS is on, although I like the fact it’s a smartphone app as I don’t have to remember to do anything to a separate gadget and will always have it on me.

If I want to have nice clear instructions through my car stereo, I can’t have the radio as well, although I suspect there’s a fix to be found so I can get music and directions somehow.

You also get a free 12 months of Active Traffic, where the satnav will recalculate the route if you’re heading into a jam, but despite trying to set mine up several times I get an error message saying ‘unable to complete’.

And while someone else might make more use of the extra features, it’s done everything I needed – got me from A to B, not stranded me in a field and worked on the highest stretch of English motorway. It seems petty to ask for much more.

Available for Apple, Android and Windows phones.

 

Image: Dauvit Alexander/Flickr; copyright MummyTravels; Mikey/Flickr