Can the £26 CoPilot navigation app topple TomTom?
It wasn’t that long ago the terms of Apple’s iPhone SDK specifically blocked development of navigation applications (the wording was “For Applications that use location-based APIs, such Applications may not be designed or marketed for real time route guidance”).
But despite that restriction a few navigation software vendors did try porting their products to the iPhone, and at the same time sneakily announced what they were doing, and that they had working versions available.
As a result, users lobbied Apple to drop the restriction, and that’s exactly what it’s now done. As a result, there are now a number of navigation tools available in the App Store, and I’ve taken a look at the three major players: TomTom, CoPilot Live from ALK, and MobileNavigator from Navigon.
I’ll be covering these in more detail over the coming months, but initial impressions are that all three are pretty good. Pricewise, CoPilot Live is cheapest at £26 inc VAT for UK mapping, while MobileNavigator costs £52 and TomTom is £60, as is MobileNavigator’s Western Europe version (TomTom’s European version costs £80).
Asking people to download an app that’s going to deliver a £60 hit to their credit card is a brave experiment I can’t help feeling these prices are a bit steep, as typical iPhone business-class applications cost just a few pounds (for example, QuickOffice costs £7.50, and there are several powerful database applications available for around £6).
Asking people to download an app that’s going to deliver a £60 hit to their credit card is a brave experiment. But, on the other hand, these iPhone apps are still cheaper than most standalone satnav units, so if you already have the phone a trip to the App Store might be a reasonable proposition.
In terms of the mapping data that underlies these products, both MobileNavigator and CoPilot Live use NAVTEQ maps, whereas TomTom uses TeleAtlas maps. The latter is hardly surprising since TomTom now owns TeleAtlas, but it’s disappointing because although no digital map can be totally accurate, I do find that NAVTEQ’s maps are consistently better than those provided by TeleAtlas.
Also, as I’ve pointed out before in this column, TeleAtlas doesn’t seem to respond to errors pointed out via its Map Insight feedback system. On that basis, both MobileNavigator and CoPilot Live have an edge over the TomTom software.
When it comes to moving around the map, MobileNavigator is brilliant: scrolling and zooming are both smooth and rapid, so much so that if you know your start and end points, it’s often easier to plot a journey on the map than by entering address details.
TomTom isn’t quite so finger-friendly, but it’s still fairly responsive, but poor old CoPilot Live fares badly in a head-to-head comparison, feeling quite sluggish to use compared to its rivals.