ALK CoPilot Live 4 Pocket PC
(Updated September 4, 2004)
(Updated June 11, 2007)
(Updated October 29, 2007)
This is not a full review of CoPilot Live 4 Pocket PC, just some early impressions based on limited usage. I will update this occasionally, and eventually try to turn it into a full review.
UPDATE: This was never updated beyond the overview. ALK is now up to CoPilot Live 7, but some of the information here may still be useful.
You can skip to any section of the review here.
CoPilot Live 4 Pocket PC is ALK's (formerly TravRoute) follow-on to Pocket CoPilot 3.0. It looks nice, but unfortunately it crashed so that I couldn't use it until I uninstalled it and completely removed it.
CoPilot Live Home Screen
I first got Pocket CoPilot 2 with the Navman sleeve. I later upgraded to Pocket CoPilot 3.0. I got CoPilot Live 4 for my iPAQ 3870 Tuesday, May 20.
When I heard about CoPilot Live 4, I was hoping for the following:
The ability to use the detour/do-not-use feature in Planning mode. That would be useful for calculating distances of various routes.
The ability to choose what points of interest (POIs) get loaded on your device. In Pocket CoPilot 3, you got a subset of the POI database for the whole country. There was a trick to get entire POI database, but that required about 150 MB! You should be able to select all (or a subset) of the POIs on the map you're using.
Support for more than 25 favorites.
Support for multiple routing options, like Shortest, Quickest, etc.
Support of a 3D map mode to better visualize your turns.
Support for other color schemes (like Destinator's "Night Mode").
It looks like CoPilot Live includes #2 and #4. Waypoints may help with #1. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that the customizable display will help with #6.
After opening CoPilot Live 4, I installed it without much difficulty. They did make me enter a CD key, which I don't recall having to do in the past. I also had to enter this during online registration (you think they could have uploaded it and filled in the field for me).
I created a large map (basically a rectangle containing California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah). This was reported as being 105.3 MB. It took almost 33 minutes to download to my Dazzle USB 2.0 Flash reader, but eventually made it.
When I started CoPilot on my iPAQ, there was an activation screen! I assume this is because CoPilot Live can be used with other GPS products now, but it's still annoying.
I was able to acquire satellites just fine. The satellite status screen is more attractive than that of Pocket CoPilot 3.0, but less informative. It isn't as attractive as Destinator's screen, though.
The options and look of the program are better than Pocket CoPilot 3.0. I haven't used the program extensively, though, so I can't comment on all of the options. Here is a picture of one of the times I've used it.
CoPilot Live In My Mustang
One of the things I've always liked about Pocket CoPilot is the Planning mode. You can plan a trip and get routing information, just like MapQuest, even without a GPS signal. You can see both a turn-by-turn itinerary and a graphical display on the map.
Turn-By-Turn Itinerary View
Planning Mode Map View
Things are not perfect, though. While using it the Wednesday after I got it in Navigation mode, after I reached my destination, I turned my iPAQ off without exiting CoPilot Live. When I got back to my car and turned my iPAQ back on, CoPilot Live crashed (but I didn't get to see the message).
After that, whenever I tried to start CoPilot Live, I got the splash screen and the program died with no message.
I did a soft reset to no avail. I uninstalled CoPilot Live and its support programs, then reinstalled everything. I still had the problem.
I sent a tech support report to ALK, and got a response back in a few hours. The E-mail said that not only did I have to uninstall CoPilot Live and its support program using the Remove Programs settings applet, but I also had to delete all the files in the directories and then reinstall the program. I had not deleted the data directories, figuring it would save me the time of downloading them again. After I deleted everything, reinstalled CoPilot Live and then downloaded the map data again, the problem was fixed.
By the way, this is similar to an issue I had with Pocket CoPilot 3.0. I turned my iPAQ off without exiting, and Pocket CoPilot crashed when I turned it back on. After that, Pocket CoPilot would crash (with a message, though), every time I tried to use it. When I reported that to TravRoute, they responded with a link to a patched version which worked for me. It would be a bad sign if they have the same bug in CoPilot Live.
On another trip I took in July, I noticed that I wasn't getting voice prompts. As I was driving at night, and could easily see the on-screen directions, I didn't stop to try to fix the problem.
However, a couple of days later, I decided to try to fix things. Audio was working, because I got the annoying "Welcome to CoPilot Live" voice prompt while the splash screen displayed. I also ensured that the audio amplification was turned all the way up. I set a route in Guidance mode and, after CoPilot Live determined my position, directions were displayed, but there was no voice prompt describing my first turn.
I moved to my front door, and tried the reroute button to see if I could force a voice prompt. The good news is that the voice started to speak. The bad news is that it died part way through the prompt. The worse news is that my iPAQ 3870 had hard reset! I was not happy. I was able to restore my device, but I'm going to uninstall and reinstall CoPilot Live again to see if I get voice back.
That worked, and the problem may have been a bad Compact Flash card. During a trip to Disneyland over the Labor Day weekend, CoPilot crashed on the way home. My Compact Flash card was completely trashed, and I couldn't even format it on my laptop. I returned the card to the manufacturer and got a new one, and things have been fine since then.
I do wish that CoPilot Live wasn't so sensitive to problems, though. If the sleeve containing the Compact Flash card comes loose, you can get a warning that the Compact Flash was being written to, and you should reinsert it or you may lose data. Putting the sleeve back on didn't really fix that, though; instead, my Compact Flash directory had nothing in it!
I thought CoPilot Live had trashed my card again, but what really happened was that its writing had created a folder called \CF Storage Card\My Documents\gpstracks in main memory of my iPAQ. (I have my \Storage Card folder named \CF Storage Card so the insertion order of the Secure Digital and Compact Flash cards is irrelevant.) Reattaching the sleeve caused my Compact Flash card to be found under Compact Flash2. Removing the sleeve, deleting the \CF Storage Card directory, then reattaching the sleeve fixed things.
Also, maps aren't always accurate. I can understand maps being out of date, but the following image shows a road that doesn't exist (the short one in red). It also shows Cienega extends all the way to Union, when in fact it ends after it turns and intersects San Benito (the part in red is wrong).
Inaccurate Map Data
You can buy CoPilot Live 4 Pocket PC from ALK's Web site. Go to the CoPilot Live product page and you'll see there are several options. These include the following:
Software only for $229. If you have a previous version, you may be able to get an upgrade price (I got my upgrade for about $50).
An iPAQ sleeve version for $299. You can't get the Navman sleeve that I have any more, but I've heard good things about this new sleeve.
A Compact Flash card version for $299. This is good for any Pocket PC with a Compact Flash slot, but you'll probably have to store your maps on an SD card.
A Bluetooth GPS module version for $349. This is good for any Pocket PC with Bluetooth support, but you'll probably have to store your maps on an SD card (or a CF card if your Pocket PC has a Compact Flash slot).
A serial cable version with a "mouse" antenna for $299. This is intended for older Pocket PCs and Pocket PC Phone Edition systems.
Installing the software will take about 4-7 MB of storage memory. ALK recommends having 6-12 MB of free program memory.
Since I started this review, ALK has released CoPilot Live 4.5. They charge an upgrade fee, and I refuse to pay more than once a year, so I haven't reviewed that.
There is one huge problem — the crashes — and a few minor problems in CoPilot Live, and several improvements I'd suggest. I'll start with the problems.
The product can crash in such a way that it is no longer able to start again. This is obviously a critical flaw. If this happened on the road, you can't exactly take time out to reinstall your GPS software — even if you have the installation CDs and a computer.
Worse is the hard reset I got. Imagine losing all of your data while driving, not just your GPS.
CoPilot Live does seem to allow saving something called a "QuickStart" with your map data, which seems to be the CAB files needed to install the software. Unfortunately, that takes about 10 MB and only installs the software in the main memory of the Pocket PC, not on a storage card.
These problems may well have been caused by my Compact Card being bad, though. I had noticed that an MP3 file occasionally got corrupted, but the card had seemed mostly stable.
UPDATE: It seems that my Navman sleeve had gone bad. Whether that's responsible for all of the crashes can't be determined, but CoPilot Live seems to work fine with my new Haicom Compact Flash card in my NexiPak dual Compact Flash sleeve.
I saved my favorites from Pocket CoPilot 3 and put them in the data directory's Save folder. When I tried to plot a route from my house to one of those favorites, I got a route that wasn't very good. Worse, the line on the map showing the route seemed to cut across streets instead of run on the streets. Deleting the favorite and reentering the address fixed that. Other favorites did not exhibit this strange behavior, so I'm not sure how pervasive this problem would be.
Searching for POIs on a large map can be SLOW. ALK needs to speed up the search process. If routing a trip from California to Arizona can be done in several seconds, finding a Denny's near you shouldn't take hours. I'll accept maybe one minute for a search, but no longer.
ALK also needs to allow you to cancel the search if you change your mind. Hitting OK during the search does dismiss the POI dialog, and you can use the software. However, it appears the search is still going on, because the busy cursor is still displayed.
When using the Contacts to set a destination, the Other addr field can't be selected. (This was a problem in Pocket CoPilot 3, too.) For example, my brother's mailing address is a P.O. box, which I have set as his home address. I have his real address saved in the other address field, but CoPilot Live will not let me access that.
Having to enter a 25-character product key twice is annoying, especially when you have to activate the product to use it.
If the crashes are the fault of CoPilot Live, that's obviously the worst problem, and really needs to be fixed. Searching for Points Of Interest also needs to be sped up significantly. Not being able to use your old favorites can be a hassle, but this problem will only affect those upgrading from a previous Pocket CoPilot release.
There are also several things I would suggest to improve CoPilot Live.
Allow viewing the itinerary in Guidance mode. You can see an itinerary in Planning mode, but not in any other mode. If the itinerary could be displayed from your current location, this would allow the passenger to get a feel for any upcoming turns. I wouldn't expect the itinerary to dynamically change if the driver made (or missed) a turn while the itinerary was displayed, but that would certainly be a nice feature.
CoPilot Live should be smarter about displaying contacts. For example, if a contact record doesn't have any address information saved, why bother displaying it in the list? Also, if the contact only has a work address, why select the Home address radio button?
Provide the ability to use the detour/do-not-use feature in Planning mode. You shouldn't have to use a waypoint to avoid a road.
Support more than 25 favorites. This is especially important because any destination you set gets made a favorite. If you don't manage your favorites, you could easily lose some that you use frequently to one-time destinations.
Support a 3D map mode to better visualize your turns. Here is an example of a TomTom map that illustrates this.
TomTom 3D Map
In order to make it easy to see street names, though, the user should be able to toggle between 3D and 2D modes.
Support other color schemes. At least have something like Destinator's "Night Mode". Providing various themes would be good, as would allowing the user to choose the colors to use, perhaps using a theme as a starting point.
None of these are must-haves, though, and don't detract from the usefulness of CoPilot Live.
I like the new look and feel of CoPilot Live 4. It has many useful additions to Pocket CoPilot 3. Unfortunately, crashes that can prevent you from using the program again or hard reset your Pocket PC are big problems. It could be a hardware issue if my Compact Flash card is failing, but I haven't had problems with it in the past.
Also, while not a problem with the program, it would be nice if ALK allowed you to download new map data. ALK seems to create a point release of the software in November or December, and a full version around May. They both have new map data, and users of the current product should be able to get that. You pay a lot of money for the program, and getting a year of map (but not software) updates for free seems reasonable. If you pay for a software update, you should get another year of map data, too.
Rating the product on the typical five-star scale is difficult given the crashes. Pocket CoPilot 2.0 would have gotten a 3 out of 5 because the map data was so out-of-date. Pocket CoPilot 3.0 would have gotten a 3.5 out of 5. With the new changes, CoPilot Live 4 would get a 4 out of 5.
Post any comments about this in our forums.