Today, ALK Technology, the company behind the popular CoPilot sat-nav apps for iOS and Android has announced support for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 (x86), bringing both paid and free apps to the platform in the coming weeks.
For those who don’t remember, CoPilot goes way back with Microsoft having integrated the first GPS system in a Windows laptop and even selling Pocket CoPilot for PocketPC. In other words, this sat-nav owes a lot of its legacy to Microsoft’s systems all the way up to Windows Mobile 6.5 (Flashback: Our CoPilot 8 review from 2009).
The company backed away from Windows Phone 7 though instead concentrating on iOS and Android. Part of the problem was also their complaint about managed code being difficult to work with for their system. Of course with such a complaint one would expect them to jump back in as soon as native code access was granted and sure enough, they have today.
Some screen caps of the Windows Phone 8 CoPilot
We recently spoke with David Quin, head of consumer applications for ALK Technologies, about the new Windows Phone 8 version and some other bits of information to pique your interest.
Most folks will wonder why anyone would opt for CoPilot over Nokia’s Drive+ system, which is offered for free to all Windows Phone 8 users. It’s a legitimate question, especially since price comes into effect. Quin emphasized that CoPilot is heavily focused on in-car navigation solutions and that is the primary target for this app.
By concentrating on being “clear and non-distracting” including a neat feature called Direction Screen (which only shows the maps/directions when a turn is approaching), CoPilot hope to bring a more polished and feature-complete driving experience. In short, CoPilot knows that they have to out-do and out-perform Nokia and even though they rely on the same mapping information (Navteq), CoPilot seems confident that they can bring their A-game to Windows Phone 8. Here are some of the main features of CoPilot for Windows Phone 8:
- ActiveTraffic™ calculates the fastest routes and accurate arrival times based on live traffic flow information
- Comprehensive local search with integrated access to Yelp, Wikipedia, and Google
- Clear, non-distracting 3D map views with lane arrows and signpost display
- Automatic route calculation and recalculation if a turn is missed
- CoPilot ClearTurn™ makes navigating complex intersections easy
- On-screen speed limit indicator and excess speed warnings
- Advanced trip planning with a choice of 3 routes and drag-and-drop route editing
- Global map regions available to purchase and store on the device as required
Surprisingly, the company has actually seen steady increase in sales on both iOS and Android, even after the latter introduced free Google Maps Navigation to all Android users. That should tell you that the company is doing something right. While free for casual users may be totally satisfactory, there is a benefit for a paid version.
Legacy: "It's good to be back in the Microsoft fold" - CoPilot's David Quin
Co-Pilot will of course offer complete offline mapping support, allowing people to download maps directly to their device without the need for a data connection. They’re also looking to keep the app updated frequently by attempting anywhere from 6-10 patches a year (assuming the Store approval is smooth). That should keep consumers who are paying for the app content that bugs are being addressed, features are being added and maps and POIs are being updated.
Pricing for CoPilot on Windows Phone 8 will feature cost parity with both iOS and Android. For the US, CoPilot will be a modest $9.99 a year with European regions priced around $26.99 or all of Europe for $40-45 (we’re told and heard before that mapping data in Europe costs more and that’s reflected here).
The app itself is free and includes trip planning and mapping as a fully functional app (think of early Bing Maps) but users can then opt for an in-app purchase to download offline maps for the full experience.
Regarding Windows 8 RT for those of you with a Surface, the company is currently focused on Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 (x86) but it is on their roadmap (like most companies, they are constrained by priorities and development costs).
CoPilot for Windows Phone 8 is expected to be submitted to the Store in early March and assuming the approval process is successful, users can expect to have the app within a short period.
Luckily for you the company is here at Mobile World Congress and we’ll get a hands on demo of the new app later today. [Update: Our hands on demo is now live]