Years and years ago I had a Nokia phone that had a slide out keyboard. I bought it because the bundle that T-Mobile was offering was very attractive. They offered a cheap(ish) contract for 24 months and a copy of CoPilot sat nav. At the time I couldn’t afford a sat nav, they were very new and still considered a luxury so buying a phone with a sat nav built in was in my mind an excellent use of kit.
The reality of that experience wasn’t a happy one, first of all the phone was running an early version of Microsoft mobile and being Mac based meant that synching data was a nightmare. It’s best not to mention the battery life which was appalling and to be honest I wasn’t that impressed with CoPilot either. That early version felt clumsy and it was hard to totally trust it, however, to be fair that may not have been the apps fault because trusting a sat nav was an alien concept in those days and also I was afraid of going over my data quota. All this meant that I didn’t really use the app properly and eventually I dumped the phone and the app was replaced with a TomTom unit. I’ve had a couple of TomToms now and they have always served me well, however on the one trip to a camp site in Dorset it took us off the motorway through a housing estate and down a small country road. We got to the site correctly but it struck me that if we had been towing we would have been struggling on that route. From then on I have always planned the route with the sat nav in conjunction with a map.
Fast forward a little and I find myself reading a review of Sat Navs in Practical Caravan Magazine and the winner was… CoPilot Caravan Edition this again was in ‘app’ format and is downloadable for the major phone operating systems. I read the review and was impressed by the ability to input the size of your combined vehicles so the device knows not to lead you down any roads too narrow for your unit. At the time I didn’t buy it, but just before our last trip I had a look in the App Store and found that it had 30% off, so not wanting to miss out on a bargain I bought it for £34.99 and installed it on my iPhone 5S.
Getting a new Sat Nav for £35 is in my opinion a bargain!
CoPilot in action
There are a lot of menus and settings, some of which you will probably never mess with but it’s worth looking through them all and making sure you are set up correctly. I made myself a ‘towing’ profile from the combined size of my car and van and then I set my road preferences (you can avoid or favour large or small roads), then I threw it in at the deep end and made it guide us to Delamere Forest Camp Site 53 miles away. We set off without a written route and followed our progress only with a map just to double check we weren’t going in the wrong direction. CoPilot worked flawlessly even though the postcode for the site was off, but that happens a lot if the postcode is large, as we drove past the ‘destination’ point CoPilot started to compute the directions back to it.
The acid test came the next day when we drove from Delamere to Runcorn to visit a Pizza restaurant. I only had a large scale map book with me and no local knowledge of the roads so if it had gone wrong we would have been well and truly lost. CoPilot directed us through some major road works, doubling back on itself at one point because it knew that the junction we needed hadn’t been built yet.
Left turn ahead
The screen visuals are as you would expect from a Sat Nav, yes there are better depictions of the route on other units, but the CoPilot visual display is perfectly fine. The turn warnings are sensibly timed and don’t leave you guessing and the entry of the address is logical and straight forward. I did find however that one time the announcer didn’t do his job, the unit directed me to where I was going, but it didn’t speak to me. This, I found out, was because I had left the app open in the background instead of closing it down. Once I closed it and re-launched it, the announcements started again.
Are there any faults or criticisms? So far, no, nothing to report. I’ve used it just in map mode as I have driven around and it follows me on the map without a fault. The only one thing I could say, and this isn’s a fault with CoPilot, is that using a phone screen isn’t really big enough and you do have to focus quite hard on it*. Having said that, Apple very kindly allow you to download and use your apps on all your iOS devices so I have downloaded it on my iPad as well. This is a much better prospect, an iPad mini would make a brilliant Sat Nav screen, and if I could use my iPad Air in the car the people following me could see where we are going too as it’s that big!
If you have an iPad that has a SIM card then you will be able to access the mobile GPRS but if you have a WiFi only tablet you will need to pair it with a bluetooth GPRS dongle. I have a WiFi only tablet so I can’t test CoPilot on a bigger screen, CoPilot support recommend a Bad Elf GPS unit but they are quite pricey. If anyone knows of a different solution (or a cheaper GPS dongle) then I’d be happy to hear about it – and of course if a supplier wants to send me a unit to test I’d be more than happy!
You have reached your destination
So would I recommend it? Yes, definitely! If you have a TomTom or other Sat Nav you can buy the caravan enabled map, but it’s a lot more than the CoPilot and then you have to go through the procedure of updating your map (which I’ve found to be hit and miss in the past). CoPilot has European countries for you to download and you can use it guide when you are not in the car as it has walking and cycling profiles too.
All in I have to say it’s a great app and makes your phone that much more useful!
*I wrote this review a week or so again and since then I have used CoPilot to get me around some more. Because my other devices have been widescreen I naturally presumed i had to use my phone landscape too. This isn’t the best idea because when a call comes in or a text you have to tilt your head. So I tried it portrait instead and I suddenly realised that the map is so much better this way. So my comment above about having to focus hard on the screen isn’t actually correct, yes it’s a small screen but portrait mode is far better than landscape.