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Friday, September 11, 2009
iPhoneTunes review: Sygic NA VS CoPilot Live NA
iPhoneTunes review: Sygic NA VS CoPilot Live NA

I had been very much looking forward to trying out CoPilot from ALK Technologies. ALK has a long history of providing GPS navigation on other smartphone platforms, so this wasn’t a new fish in the growing sea. The reviews I’d read online were absolutely mixed on their products, this iPhone version of CoPilot especially. You either loved it or hated. I had considered writing a full review of the product, but in the end I’d spend most of the time comparing it Sygic, so following the format of Robin’s original TomTom vs navigon let’s put ‘em to the test.

1. Display dimensions and size

• Sygic: Map real estate: 320X388 pixels, map can be displayed in portrait or landscape. Installation size is 1.62 GB.

• coPilot: Map real estate: 320x435 pixels, map can be displayed in portrait or landscape. Installation size is 1.12 GB. With a transparent bar on the bottom, that can be lowered.

iPhone Car IntegrationiPhone Car Integration

Winner: CoPilot, for an extra 47 pixels lengthwise. In neither case, however, did I find myself unable to see a portion of the map or wishing I could see more.

2. Street name display

• Sygic puts the name of any cross street in white and it offsets it from the street itself. The street is indicated by a little arrow pointing down from the name. This has the effect of the street names always being displayed horizontally, rather than in the direction of the street.

• CoPilot, however, puts the names of the streets within the streets themselves. When a street is vertical or diagonal, the name follows that orientation. There is no option to change this orientation. In dense areas, the street names really glob together and are difficult to read. See image above right…

Winner: Sygic for better readability.

3. Map zoom (Driving and stand alone)

• Sygic has an autozoom feature that as you get closer to denser areas on the map, it will zoom in on your location so you can better discern your exact position and potential directions.  Once out of that area, it zooms out giving you a larger view of the surrounding areas and your route. However, in all areas where the map is visible, pinch and zoom is not available. You have the plus and minus buttons in the corners to zoom with only. 

• CoPilot uses pinch and zoom in most areas of the app. They also provide plus and minus buttons onscreen for when you’re driving.

Winner: I’m going to give this one a draw.  While not having pinch and zoom is a pain when planning, it’s completely unnecessary when driving which is where I’d use this map the majority of the time.  Also, autozoom is nice, so each app has its own “plus” above basic zooming that’s not available on the other.

4. Navigate to

• Sygic, after selecting Navigate To, it generates the following list to choose form: Address, Favorite, History, POI, Zip Code, Home, Point on Map, Enter GPS position, City Center and Last Valid Position.

• After tapping on Destination, CoPilot brings up: Address, POI, Contact, Pick on Map, Intersection and Coordinates. Favorites, Home, Recent and Work are all available on the “My Places” menu.

I’ll compare each where the apps are similar, and then handle anything unique.

Address works just as you’d expect in both except for one huge, glaring mistake in UI the design of CoPilot: the keyboard uses an “ABCD” layout instead of a standard QWERTY.  It may seem a minor change, but…well, if I was going to recommend against an app on one feature alone, it would be this. It’s the most aggravating part of the app. (Sygic)

iPhone Car Integration

POI in coPilot gives you a very short list of categories, which is nice as it covers the majority of things you might want to find quickly. There’s a “More Categories” button at the bottom of the list, so you can narrow it down further, or you can directly search by name (using the same wacky keyboard layout). Frustratingly, there are two categories on the menu that are grayed out; ATM & Commuter Rail Station. I don’t know if they’re grayed because I don’t have the “pro” version or if they’re just going to be part of a later update, but in either case they shouldn’t be there. It would be nice, also, if I could modify the categories that might show up on the initial list as I live right by the airport, so I don’t need to find that one regularly. I would prefer to replace that with Entertainment, for example.

Sygic’s list of categories is quite long, perhaps too long in some cases.  When searching for the local theater, do I do “Culture” or “Entertainment”? What’s the difference between “Health/Care” and “Hospital/Polyclinic”. What the hell is a polyclinic? (Sygic.  While Sygic’s list is annoying, coPilot’s dumb keyboard layout and teasing me with categories I can’t have really ticks me off.)

Contacts, when selected, will bring you up a list of your contacts so you can route to them quickly. I know that this is one of the most requested features for nav apps, but it really does nothing for me. If someone’s in my contacts list, I’ve probably been to their house and know how to get there. But, I DO realize a lot of other folks might have use for it. smile  Also, oddly enough, it includes every contact in the list, even if there’s no address for them. 

Sygic does not provide a Contacts option, but promises one in their next update due soon. While I don’t mind not having this feature, as stated, it appears to be the most requested one, so I’m giving the point to CoPilot. (CoPilot)

“Find on Map” and “Intersection” are a great features in CoPilot if you know about where you need to be, but not the exact address (such as a restaurant for which you can’t find a POI or address for).  CoPilot uses pinch to zoom, but also provides “+” & “-” buttons to zoom in.  It works very well, too. 

Sygic doesn’t provide an Intersection option. They do offer Pick on Map, but in comparison to CoPilot, it’s just too much. You start out with a view of the whole globe, which is very slow to respond. You can zoom in using a slider to the right of the display, which I assume they did for more “car safe” control of the display. Pinch and zoom is not available. It’s very difficult to narrow down the location you want, and hard to use. While it appears they’re trying to make it easier to use when driving, I can’t see that being the case in practice. (CoPilot gets two points here: for having an Intersection feature and a “Find on Map” that works.)

Coordinates, which both apps provide, I did not have any use for, but I’m sure some folks will like having it. (Neither)

iPhone Car Integration

Winner: CoPilot ekes out a win in this category with more features overwhelming the horrible design decisions to not use a standard keyboard and to list things I can’t have.  Seriously, fix the keyboard.

5. Maps

• By default, CoPilot uses the 2-D map, and it’s zoomable by either pinch and zoom or button presses. CoPilot’s 3-D is really just the 2-D map at an angle. The same limitations and features of that map are available there (streets follow orientation, pinch and zoom, etc). There is also no autozoom feature. There’s an option in Settings, though, that will show POIs right on the map, which can be very useful.  The only problem is, with CoPilot’s street name layout, on a POI-dense street, it becomes very difficult to read the screen.

• As in all other areas, Sygic uses zoom buttons on the 2-D map. Sygic’s 3-D map is much nicer, providing a good view of the horizon as well as showing street names in horizontal form, regardless of street orientation.  It has no option to show POIs on screen.

Winner: Sygic, again for better readability.

6. Night view

• Sygic offers one set of colors for day and one for night and you can only switch between them. You can, however, set it to automatically change when it’s dark.

• CoPilot offers multiple color schemes that can be used in either night/day mode. It’ll also switch automatically to the mode you need. 

iPhone Car IntegrationiPhone Car Integration

Winner: CoPilot, for a really good selection of choices in views.

7. Voice and sound

• Sygic comes with about 30 different language choices and it appears the voice is independent of the language chosen for the app. So, if you want US English for the text and UK English for the voice, you can do that. The voice choices are very slim, though, with only one or two available for most languages. Sygic’s voice is not as annoying when used over the iPod app, though. Although, I will admit it would be nice if either of them would just pause whatever I’m listening to!

• CoPilot comes with 29 different language choices and most appear to have multiple gender choices. The voice is dependent on the language you choose. If you read my review of Sygic, you know I’m partial to the British female voice…CoPilot offers FOUR different voices that fit that category with Emma rocking my world!  (For those with BBC America, she sounds like the announcer they have in their commercials.)  One thing that CoPilot does not do well with, though, is volume control when using the iPod app as well.  Emma will come BLARING over my car speakers, and appears to not lower the volume of the iPod, it just gets louder to be heard over it. I can find no option to adjust the volume. 

Winner: Sygic. Although I love Emma’s voice, it’s not enough to take control of this category. Sygic’s distinction between voice and language and better iPod interaction make it jump to the top.

8. Speed control and turn guidance

• Sygic offers very little configuration in this area. You have a single option to enable a max speed warning, and that’s about it. From experience, it simply appears to warn you when you’ve exceeded the posted limit. There is a slider to configure this a bit, but it only lets you choose from “inside built-up areas” and “outside built-up areas”. I have no idea what those mean. smile

• CoPilot has an option in Settings to set a speed warning, but it’s greyed out. This, too, might be a “pro” feature. CoPilot does offer quite a few tweaks on how turn warnings are relayed, though. You can specify how often you want to get the warnings (2 mi, 1, mi, 3/10 mi, at turn). It also has an option to turn on alerts for POIs (such a gas stations or restaurants). So, if you’re going on a long trip, setting a POI alert for restaurants will make it easy to determine if you should get off at the next exit or not.

Winner: Grudgingly, I’m giving the point to CoPilot. Grudgingly because of the tease of the feature that’s not there. Fortunately, they provide enough configuration to win the category.

9. Planning preferences

• Sygic’s options here are a little sparse as well. Under Planning Preferences, you choose route type (fastest, economic, shortest, pedestrian or bicycle). Under Toll Road Preferences, you can have it ask, avoid or not avoid them. And…that’s it. 

• CoPilot buries this in the settings under Routing Profiles. In here, you can create a profile where you can choose Vehicle Type (Automobile, Motorcycle, Walking, Bicycle or RV), to favor or not favor highways, avoid (or not) tolls. You can also select if you want to take a scenic route, although I don’t know what that will give you. I’ve seen no functional difference with it on and off. You can also avoid propane-restricted tunnels, which is nice if you’ve got an RV with a propane stove.

Winner: CoPilot for many more options. The RV choice may seem like an odd one, for example, until you consider RVs can’t drive down certain areas due to their size. 

10. Sign Posts

• Sygic provides the option of choosing how sign posts are displayed (all directions, preferred or disabled). You can also set the size. As mentioned in my review, it was a nice feature that they tell you which exits NOT to take, too.

• CoPilot does not show sign posts

Winner: Sygic takes an easy win here.

11. Lane assistant

• Sygic does provide a lane assistant and it works very nicely in practice. 

• CoPilot does not offer lane assistance, although there is an option in Settings, leading me to believe it’s also a “pro” setting.

Winner: Sygic, because it’s there!

12. POI

• Sygic doesn’t provide any options to display POIs onscreen. 

• CoPilot not only provides you the option of displaying POIs on screen, you can choose which ones you’d like to see as well as when you’d like to see them (Never, When Stopped or Always). Each POI shows up with a different icon type, you can tap on them to see what each on is, and even get the option to update your route to get there!

Winner: CoPilot by a longshot.

13. Itinerary

• Sygic offers a basic Itinerary feature where you can play multi-stop routes. It does not, however, offer any options to optimize or schedule breaks.

• In CoPilot, you get to this via “Plan or Edit Trip” on the menu. It’s a very simple interface with which you can quickly setup a multi-stop route. It even has options to to optimize the stops, calculate your fuel cost and to schedule breaks according to a specific schedule.

Winner: CoPilot for more options. 

14. GPS Signal

Sygic’s acceptance of signal quality seems a bit stricter. As I sit in my office writing this review, Sygic refuses to show me my location, but coPilot does…even though it’s complaining it’s not the best signal. 

Winner: CoPilot.  When outside, in the open, it makes sense to try and get the best signal. But, that’s not always an option. For example, if I’m at work and want to plot directions to where I’m meeting some friends, it’s enough for the app to get my general location. It’s not essential that it take full advantage of the 3m resolution GPS provides. I can then get my directions and be ready to go BEFORE I get in my car. 

15. Price

• Sygic: $79.99 for the version reviewed.

• CoPilot: $34.99 for the version reviewed

Winner: CoPilot. This, however, comes with a caveat. While I can’t confirm this, it appears CoPilot purposefully disables some features just to lower the price. I can understand the “ala carte” nature of the way they designed their apps, and I’m sure some people will appreciate it. I just don’t want to see those features in my menus if they’re not there. If, however, those options and features are just items that are going to be added as part of a later release, then it’s no contest. 

And the winner is;

If we look at points, CoPilot squeaks by 9 to 5, there is one draw (map zoom). On the whole, it does offer slightly more options than Sygic, and at a lower price. As I was doing this review, I found myself using Sygic a bit more frequently than CoPilot for day-to-day usage, but I think that was more due to a familiarity bias. As I played with the software to get more in-depth, I found CoPilot’s additional options to outweigh the ones that it was missing. Lane Assistant, for example, is a nice feature…but how often is it really needed? 

If you’re looking for a good navigation app for your iPhone, you really can’t go wrong with either one. It really depends on your needs and price point. But, for the time being, CoPilot definitely offers a better value for the price. 

[Editor’s note:] CoPilot Live is beating Sygic NA here, which received 5 stars in our previous review, because it did all it should do. CoPilot Live NA received 3 stars by our reviewer Charlie before. Because it beats Sygic here we cannot give it lesser points then Sygic, obviously.


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