Cloudy Days and Connected Nights

With tablet and iPhone in hand and head in the clouds

Archive for October 2009

WordPress 2 for iPhone/iPod Touch

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Okay. I tried to use the first version of WordPress for iPhone a few times, and though it was superior to the other blogging apps I tried, it was not all that usable.

Version 2 (a new app, not an automatic upgrade from the first version) is much improved. I still might not choose to create a complete blog entry on it: it still lacks essential features like links, easily styled text, the ability to embed images by URL, the ability to easily place images within the body of the text (or anywhere but at the end of the post), etc. etc. But for someone like me who does a lot of iPhone app reviews, or anyone caught without a computer and with the need to build a WordPress blog post, it works well enough.

For instance, when blogging a new iPhone app review I have always, in the past, had to email screen shots from my iPhone to my laptop, or send them via USB cable, and then upload then to WordPress to illustrate the review. With WordPress 2 I can simply start a draft on the iPhone, add the screen shots directly from the iPhone’s image library and save the whole thing to my blog as a draft.

I can then open the draft from WordPress.com and put the finishing touches on it: put the images where I want them, add links and format text. I save a significant amount of time!

I could even, in a pinch, compose a Pic of the Day post by saving an image from my smugmug site to my iPhone image library and composing the text on the phone. In a pinch.

You can also manage comments and pages from your iPhone with WordPress 2.

And, of course, just to make the point this post is being done completely on the iPhone using WordPress 2.

I even figured out how to move an image to the top of the post, or anywhere you want it: you just have to cut and paste the code after saving the draft to WordPress the first time! You can even edit the class statement in the HTML to align the image within the text. It is set to alignnone. Change that to aligncenter or alignleft or whatever you want and…just like magic!

And of course, if you know just a little HTML you can style text too as I did above.

Now if only the next version of WordPress for the iPhone makes it easier. That would be really useful!

To see what one composed on the iPhone and adjusted on WordPress.com looks like, take a look at the previous post on MobileRSS.

Written by singraham

October 30, 2009 at 6:02 pm

MobileRSS: great “one trick” app

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MobileRSS from Nibirutech

One of the best features, IMHO, of the iPhone platform is that it encourages simple little one trick apps. MobileRSS from Nibirutech is a simple client for Google Reader. That’s it. That is all it does. But it does it’s one trick so well that I am actually using Google Reader on my iPhone and enjoying the experience.

And of course, managing, and enjoying your Google Reader subscriptions is, in actuality, no simple thing. The fact that MobileRSS makes it simple is a testimony to just how good the app is!

MobileRSS does anything and everything you might want to do with your Google Reader account, and does it all with admirable speed and ease. (Or almost…actual feed management tools will come in the next update.) Your subscription folders appear as they do on the web client, with badges to let you know how many unread items you have in each. When you touch a subscription folder, it opens in list view with all it content subscriptions, each with their own badge for unreads. You can open the whole folder and see all the unreads from all you subscriptions, or you can open individual feeds. Unread items are marked with the little blue unread circle common to many iPhone apps.

Touching an unread feed opens the item in MobileRSS’s reading view…an elegant implementation that includes images and lays out the text in an easy to read on the iPhone fashion. You even have the option of opening the original in the browser module without leaving the MobileRSS app. So fine.

There is an action button the bottom of the screen that in list view allows you to mark all as unread. With the reading view open you have icons for adding a note, opening the item in Safari (will exit app), favoring the item, sharing the item, and an action icon that allows you to email, tweet, or send the item to Instapaper or ReedItLater. Excellent!

Did I say all this is done with admirable speed. Marking all items read, for instance, takes far less time on MobileRSS than it does on the web client.

All in all, I can no imagine a better Google Reader client…and, in fact, I can not imagine a better Google Reader experience. I find myself using my iPhone just as often as I use the web client…and I suspect I will come to actually prefer interacting with Google Reader via iPhone, the more I use the app.

I should mention that MobileRSS is available in two versions: free and paid. Free is, of course, ad supported, and lacks the share function. I tried the free version and liked it so well that I bought the paid version. My theory is that Nibirutech has done such a good job on the app that I want to keep them in business…just to see what they come up with next!

Just a simple one trick app…but what an excellent trick it is! iTunes link: MobileRSS

[By the way: I created this post in record time using the new WordPress 2 app on the iPhone in conjunction with the web WordPress composition page. More on that in another post.]

Written by singraham

October 30, 2009 at 4:21 am

Posted in app, iPhone, iPod Touch, review, RSS

SimplyTweet 2.5: Whoo! Isn’t this a whole new app?!

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SimplyTweet's Full Landscape views

SimplyTweet's Full Landscape views

Okay. Come on now. SimplyTweet 2.5 is a whole new app, right? This has to be more than a free version update. It takes the amazingly rich SimTw feature set and the refined interface and adds some significantly awesome new features (like full TextExtender integration!) while providing a major UI overhaul that makes for what amounts to a whole new (and improved) user experience. This has to be SimplyTweet Plus, or SimTweet Ultra, or something. Right?

I mean, didn’t someone just justify (and rightly so in my opinion) adding a 2 to his app’s name and charging as though it were new based on similar changes? (And that was without push!)

Mentions view in Landscape

Mentions view in Landscape

SimplyTweet 2.5 is not just an improvement on what I consider the best Twitter app for the iPhone and iPod Touch…it is that, of course…but as I see it, version 2.5 qualifies as a whole new app. What we have in SimplyTweet 2.5 goes beyond the accumulation of all the little (and bigger) enhansenents and refinements in the 5 versions since push was introduced with 2.0. In fact, a user who has not looked at SimplyTweet since 2.0 would be completely justified in thinking they had discovered a new Twitter client…one with all the advanced features, push, saved views, multiple accounts, etc. etc. that were there in SimplyTweet 2.0, but one that presented such a different (read better!) user experience that it could not, certainly, be the same app.

Saved Lists in SimplyTweet

Saved Lists in SimplyTweet

As I have noted before here, SimplyTweet is a Twitter client for the iPhone and iPod Touch which is in rapid development. What is rapid?…how about a new version every two to three weeks…or just about as fast as the App Store approval process allows. The developer is continuously adding features and tweaking the UI based on customer feedback and expressed needs. It is actually kind of fun to watch. You can follow his Twitter timeline (@simplytweet) and get some real insight into how a responsive programmer develops an app for the iPhone. Every version adds significantly useful features and refines the user experience.

The primary reason for the new user experience in 2.5 is the full and smooth implimentation of landscape mode. SimplyTweet missed beating Tweetie 2 to full landscape by a week or so, but even if it had not, it still would not have been the first iPhone Twitter client with landscape views of your timeline, @s, and DMs. That honor goes, of course, to Landscape Tweets. However SimTweets implimentation is just about seamless.

ST25-10

Landscape compose, and a saved draft/note.

And it is a surprisingly useful feature. I have always used landscape compose where availabe, but until version 2.4 landscape compose in SimTweet was (as it still is in many apps) a compromise. When tipped to landscape some of the features of the compose view disappeared. (This seems to be inherent in Apple’s implimentation of the landscape keyboard and any programer who wants different has to figure out his or her own way around the limitation.) That problem was solved in SimTweet 2.4. With full integration of landscape in all views, though, I find myself using SimTweet in landscape most of the time. Somehow it is just more comfortable…maybe easier on the eyes…maybe not as cramped and confined. I like it!

Hidden behind the Action icon in Compose View

Hidden behind the Action icon in Compose View

The second change that makes the app feel different is, in reality, not much more than a name change. SimTweet’s Saved Views has always been a powerful feature. With 2.5 Saved Views are now renamed Saved Lists to better reflect their true nature and the coming Twitter native lists. Oh, and the Edit Lists menu item is moved from the main More menu to the Misc menu under More.

The name change only emphasizes how good the implementation is in SimTweet. You can create new lists in the Edit List view and then choose contacts from your friends and followers list, one at at time, but the easiest way to add friends and followers to any existing list is to open their profiles and choose Add to List from the Actions Menu (envelope with swoosh) at the bottom right of the view. This brings up the standard picker roll with the names of all your existing lists. Folks who are already on a list have a little list icon next to their atvars on their profile views. A list can consist of a single twit who you want to follow closely among all those you follow, or it can be a group of twits related in some way in you mind. I have a list, for instance, of Twitter app developers, and another list that just has SimTweet’s developer on it. And, of course, I have a Family list, and list of my collegues, etc., etc.

Until Twitter fully implements its own List schema and the API to go with it, SimTweet uses Twitter search to populate your lists with the tweets attached to those twits. This has the advantage of calling up tweets you would not have wanted to miss, even if they are buried well back your own timeline.

You can also use a Saved List to hide a group of those you follow from your main timeline. This is a kind of filtering function for those with massive follow lists. Hiding a list can be turned on and off in the Edit Lists view.

Another nice feature of 2.5 is that Drafts are now saved as Notes, so you can access them and work with them at any time. SimTweet has saved the current draft when you cancel at tweet in the compose screen (and choose Save Draft instead of Discard) for several versions. The draft just sort of magically appeared the next time you opened the compose screen…and you could only have one draft saved at a time.

SimplyTweet has also had Notes for many versions. Until 2.5, a Note was attached to a profile. 2.5 integrates the two functions. You can still attach notes to profiles, but now, when you cancel a tweet, if you choose to save it, it will appear in your Notes list. Notes can be opened, edited, posted as tweet, posted as DM, or emailed. Saved drafts. Multiple saved drafts. Multiple applications for Saved Drafts (er…Notes).  There you go. What more could you ask?

If I type "i" now, it is one of my TextExpander snippets, and will auto expend to "Case U missed it:"

If I type "i" now, it is one of my TextExpander snippets, and will auto expend to "Case U missed it:"

Then there is full integration of TextExpander. TextExpander is a app for the Mac that automatically expands snippets of text into full words or phrases. It runs in the background on the Mac and works wherever you are processing words. On the iPhone TextExpander can’t run in the background (not allowed by the OS). Therefore you have your choice of typing up your message in the TextExpander compose box and sending it to one of the twitter clients they support (which you set in TextExpander’s settings) or, if your app is TextExpander aware, you can use the snippets right in the compose view of the app. SimplyTweet offers both options. TextExpander is a separate purchase in the app store, but I am finding that it saves me significant time. If you tweet a lot, and use the same phrase frequently, then you can type the whole phrase in a couple of keystrokes as a snippet and it will magically (and musically, I might add) expand right in the SimplyTweet compose view. You have to create your snippets in TextExpander, and set TextExpander to be friendly with other apps, but once you have a set of snippets, text entry in SimplyTweet can go a lot faster. I like it.

Account Picker: available by tapping @account where it appears in List and Compose Views

Account Picker: available by tapping @account where it appears in List and Compose Views

Another small touch that I have come to appreciate more and more  is the way SimTweet handles multiple accounts. This is not new in 2.5. It was developed and refined over the first few updates after 2.0. There is an Accounts View, which allows you, of course, to view, select, and add accounts. But switching accounts is much easier than opening the Accounts view. On every list view, at the top, under the title, is the @account name. Touch it, and you get the OS picker roller with all your accounts listed. Choose.

And, say you open open a tweet from one account, and want to repost it as though it came from one of your other accounts? No problem. Touch the @account title in the header of the compose view and choose another account. Or you are posting a tweet and realize it really should come from another account. Same thing. Easy.

And, of course, SimTweet 2.5, as it has since 2.0, pushes @s and DMs from all your accounts. It automatically loads new @s and DMs if you have them when you open SimTweet. And it alerts you to incoming @s and DMs while the app is running too. Push works. Push works really well in SimplyTweet.

Then there are little SimplyTweet only touches: the # symbol on the compose screen that allows you to insert the # character without opening the extended keyboard, the way recent tweets are displayed in account views, the Between Us button on account views that calls up recent public exchanges with that follow/follower, the easy conversation views accessible from any tweet (and from the swipe pop-up icon bar), the ability to reply to  multiple tweets (and twits) by selecting them in your time-line list view (great for building #followfriday tweets, among other things), the ability to customize the contents of the swipe icon bar, and to choose one of several themes for the whole app, etc, etc.

SimplyTweet is a great twitter client. It is the one that is always on my iPhone and that I use every day. It simply does more of what I need a client to do, and does it remarkably well. In my opinion SimplyTweet is the best twitter client on the iPhone by a good margin. Version 2.5 only reinforces that opinion, by, once more, significantly improving the user experience. The developer, we are told, has even bigger things in mind for 2.6. If you are not using SimplyTweet I have one question for you. Why not? Get on board. It is a great twitter client and it is only going to get better.

Written by singraham

October 24, 2009 at 6:46 pm

Tweetie’s Second Coming: Tweetie 2, does it measure up?

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Tweetie 2

Tweetie was, by far, the most popular twitter app on the iPhone and iPod Touch. I suspect it had, and has, more users than all the other twitter apps combined.

If it had a failing, it was that it was not often upgraded. The author, one could argue, got side-tracked with his version for Mac, and left Tweetie on the iPhone pretty much as it was while other, less well known, clients incorporated a host of new features, especially with the advent of OS 3.0. The fact that so many people stuck with Tweetie through it all is testimony to how well Tweetie did its basic job of connecting people to twitter, and doing the things they needed to do with twitter on a day to day basis.

Of course, that made the announcement of Tweetie 2 just that much more delicious to the faithful, and tantalizing to other clients’ users (as well as worrisome to other clients’ developers). Tweetie 2 was greeted with the furor appropriate for, well, a second coming.  It has now arrived, and been thoroughly gushed over all over the net. It is getting generally, absolutely glowing reviews.

full landscape view: surprisingly nice!

full landscape view: surprisingly nice!

Tweetie was, for quite a while, my own twitter client of choice, but I will admit that I was seduced away, first by the richer (if idiosyncraticly implemented) feature set of Twittelator 3.0 (the first client to really make use of the OS 3.0 potentials), and then by the Twittelator-rich feature set, and, shall we say, Tweetie-like simplicity and speed, of SimplyTweet. And I will admit, right up front, that Tweetie 2 will not become my twitter client of choice (not yet at least). There is only room for one twitter app at a time in the main launch bar on my iPhone screen, next to the FaceBook app.  Some of the features that I have come to rely on every day are still only available, or simply better implemented, in SimplyTweet. In what follows you will see that I am unable to avoid comparisons between Tweetie 2 and both Twittelator 3.0 and SimplyTweet 2.5.

excellent tweet view

excellent tweet view

Of course, the second coming of Tweetie  has been complicated by the developer’s decision to break with the free upgrade model that iPhone and App Store users have come to expect. He argues that making all current Tweetie users fork out another $2.99 for v2 is justified because so much of the code is new, but, honestly, it is still Tweetie, and honestly, he does not need to justify the upcharge at all. I am sure, from the changes evident in the new version, that he spent a lot of hours (days, weeks, months) on coding. He deserves to be paid a reasonable wage, and the only way of insuring his income is to charge current users (of which, as noted, there are many) for the new version. It is not like this is a $20 app. And for their original $2.99 most users got close to a year out of Tweetie. The developer did warn potential Tweetie  buyers in good time, right in the app store description, that a new version was iminent, and that it would not be a free upgrade.

It is just that we are all spoiled: we expect unlimited upgrades on $3 apps. What planet are we from?  If developers are going to continue to develop their apps for the iPhone, if, in fact, the app store is to survive in the long run, we have to expect that there will be, that there have to be, charges for new versions. The sooner we get over it, the better for us all…and the better for the health of a platform we, if we admit it to ourselves, have become dependent on. I want to see the iPhone and the app store live and flourish. To do that, developers have to make a living. Simple.

Climbing down off my soap-box now, lets take a look at how Tweetie 2 measures up against the competition.

landscape compose: see that character count toggle?

landscape compose: see that character count toggle?

Opens the compose option panel

Opens the compose option panel

Landscape in all views is actually a surprisingly nice feature. Tweetie 2 is not the first twitter app to implement it. That honor goes to, how could you miss it, Landscape Tweets (and the version of SimplyTweet currently in the approval process, which I have been using in beta for a week now (2.5) also has it). Still, it is a nice feature and well implemented in Tweetie 2. I wasn’t sure. But I do find myself tipping the iPhone over to landscape a lot in List View, and in Tweet View. I almost always use the landscape compose view (which, of course has been available for a long time in many clients). I really like Tweetie’s little arrows at the top of the screen in landscape view that allow you to move through your tweets without returning to the list view (they are there in portrait too, but I am less apt to use them). Somehow it is just easier and more relaxed  for me to read the screen in landscape. Your mileage, of course,  may vary.

And while we are at it, Tweetie 2’s compose screen is elegantly done. Tap the character counter and the keyboard is replaced by a feature selection panel that includes icons for  url shortening, picture attachment (from the library, including video if you have a video accepting service enabled in the settings, or the camera), geotaging, as well as access to recent #hastags and to your list of follow/followers (for @addressing purposes). These options are not unique to Tweetie, of course (SimplyTweet, for one, duplicates them, and adds text shortening, as does Twittelator), but the icon panel replacing the keyboard is.

landscape tweet view

landscape tweet view

The other much heralded (and lauded)  set of Tweetie 2 features has to do with its off-line, tweet caching, and draft abilities. Here, again to be honest, Tweetie 2 is just catching up to Twittelator, and Twittelator goes way beyond Tweetie 2 in its ability to save, view, and work with individual tweets, as well as user-defined sets and selections of tweets. Off-line reading and composition has been in Twittelator almost from the beginning (Twitt a later?).

And both Tweetie 2 and Twittelator apparently trade caching for limits on the number of tweets they load and cache. Tweetie 2 apparently loads about 200 tweets at a time, and caches maybe that many more. Unfortunately 200 tweets, for me, is about an hour’s worth at most times of day…which means my timeline in Tweetie 2 has big gaps unless I open the app on fairly regular basis. I am spoiled, again, by SimplyTweets ability to load all tweets since the last one I read (and that can be 1000 or more first thing in the morning). It is not that I read all those tweets. But I do like to cherry pick, and I do like to know they came in.

swipe pop up icon bar

swipe pop up icon bar

And, speaking of cherry picking, for me, Tweetie’s lack (so far) of groups or sub-lists is a real limitation…I need to be able to have quick access to the tweets of those twits that I really follow, as opposed to those that I casually follow. I don’t want to miss a tweet from my immediate family, or from my closest twitter friends. (Then there are special purposes lists, like my list of twitter app developers 🙂

Of course, Twitter has just implemented their own lists function (which is what Tweetie’s author always said he was waiting on). I don’t have it on my Twitter page yet, so I have not been able to experiment with it, and can not comment on how it works in comparison, say, to Seesmic Desktops groups, Twittelator’s sub-groups, or SimplyTweet’s lists…and I do not know how long it will take Twitter to make the lists function available through API to external clients, but I do know that I, for one, need lists now…and both Twittelator and SimplyTweet provide them.

tweetie2 402

advanced settings include many integration options

And then there is push. I have, somewhat to my own surprise, come to like push in a twitter client. SimplyTweet has great push. It pushes all your accounts. You can go so far as to turn off auto-load for @mentions and DMs and just rely on push, since, even when the app is open, there is an audible and visual alert when a new @ or DM comes in.

Tweetie 2, on the other hand (like Twittelator), still relies on Boxcar or another 3rd party app for its push funcition. True, yesterday they made Boxcar 2 free, and Boxcar 2 has push for FaceBook as well as Twitter (and email if you use the forwarding service)…but…Boxcar is only free for a single twitter or facebook account. If you have more than one twitter account, or you want to use it for both twitter and fb, there is a charge for each additional account. And it is still a separate app, which has to be generalized to cover a lot of twitter clients, and simply can not be completely integrated with any of them…not the way SimplyTweet’s push is completely and seamlessly implemented within the program.

Tweet view action options

Tweet view action options

When working with individual tweets, Tweetie 2 has an excellent set of options (see the screen capture). At first I thought that the one that I use every day in SimplyTweet is not there. I post the links to my Pic of the Day blogs at least twice a day, and it is very nice to be able to open the first post and simply repost it, sometimes adding “In case U missed it.” SimplyTweet calls this Reposting. Tweetie can actually do exactly the same thing using the Quote Tweet button.

What Tweetie2 does have, that is still, I think, relatively unique, is integration with a lot of external twitter apps and services. This goes well beyond the usual read it later services. It includes TextExpander integration, both send to Tweetie from Expander and in-app snippit expansion within Tweetie…for those addicted to snippets (actually, version 2.5 of SimplyTweet, currently under review as mentioned above, has full TextExpander integration as well). For other examples of other services take a look at the screen shots for the account views and settings (above).

Account view options

Account view options

Tweetie 2 also has intergration with the iPhone’s  Contacts app. You can create a contact from a twitter follow/follower. I can’t think of any reason why you would want to do that, but it is there, and maybe I simply lack imagination.

Little things I like about Tweetie 2:

1) the way it displays a little icon in list view on tweets with image links, and the way it displays a little thumbnail of the image in tweet view.

2) the swipe icon bar with its excellent range of options (see screen shot above), including an action icon that opens up even more options.

3) the ability to display real names or screen names (though only SimplyTweet allows you to display both at the same time).

4) the ability to view DMs from those who DM you in conversation mode, going backwards from the current DM.

5) the In Reply To button in tweet view that allows you to trace a chain of @s back through time (though the Conversation view of @s in SimplyTweet is easier).

6) switching your atvar to the other side of the tweet in list view for your own tweets: kind of like bubble view without the annoying (to me) bubbles.

7) as already mentioned, the little up/down arrows in tweet view that allow you to move tweet to tweet without returning to the list timeline view.

8) the speed at which the app opens and loads your timeline and the responsiveness of all controls (a biggie!).

Still there are reasons, some big, some small, that  SimplyTweet will stay on my iPhone, and Tweetie 2 will, despite my having invested $6 in the app now, be retired to my iTunes library to wait for further upgrades.

Account view, but no view of recent tweets without clicking the link

Account view, but no view of recent tweets without clicking the link

The biggest reason is undoubtedly the fully intergrated, all accounts, push that SimplyTweet handles so well. Close second is SimplyTweet’s easy and excellent  implementation of lists of selected followers. Third is the fact that Tweetie still does not display the number of unread tweets, @s or DMs, and only marks unreads in the DM view.

Then there are little SimplyTweet only touches: the # symbol on the compose screen that allows you to insert the # character without opening the extended keyboard, the way recent tweets are displayed in account views, the Between Us button on account views that calls up recent public exchanges with that follow/follower, the easy conversation views accessible from any tweet (and from the swipe pop-up icon bar), the ability to reply to  multiple tweets (and twits) by selecting them in your time-line list view (great for building #followfriday tweets, among other things), the ability to customize the contents of the swipe icon bar, and to choose one of several themes for the whole app, etc, etc.

So, Tweetie 2 is a good twitter app…even a great twitter app. But, for all that, it will not replace SimplyTweet in the main launch bar at the bottom of my iPhone screen! Not yet.

Written by singraham

October 17, 2009 at 10:41 am

CoPilot Live 8: full featured turn by turn nav, and a bargain too!

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CoPilot 015

CoPilot Live 8

[Please see the updated take on Nav apps here to see why CoPilot is still my pick for the best resident map Nav App on the iPhone.]

Okay, I admit it. I am an app junkie. Apparently I can not stop with one of any kind of app. I was happy with Navigon’s Mobile Navigator for iPhone (see Navigon Update and Navigon Review). It worked. It worked well. It still works well. It is just that I read this little piece on the upgraded versions of the other Nav apps out there, and got, you know, to wondering.

CoPilot, according to this little piece, just added text to speach, making it the second app with that feature. And, CoPilot has thing called CoPilot Live, which includes live map updates based on new data and user feedback on the existing maps, the ability to display a 5 day weather report for your destination, an add-on (costs extra) for real time traffic, and something that shares locations with friends. But what hooked me was when I read that you could enter a waypoint (intermediate stop) by just tapping the map. That was a feature I had just been thinking, on my last trip, that I really wished Navigon could do.

Choose destination by touching map!

Choose destination by touching map!

Given that CoPilot Live 8 sells for $34.95, or about 1/3 the price of Navigon or TomTom, I, you know, got to wondering if it was maybe worth a try. Just for research. You know. To find out if it was any good. At the least I would get a review out of it, right?

So I bought it. That’s what app junkies do. I have about 130 apps in the green pastures of my iTunes library. I have maybe 30 of them on my iPhone. Still, you get the benefit, gentle readers, of my disorder. As in this review of CoPilot Live 8 for iPhone!

First, the most noticable difference between Navigon and CoPilot, at least on my 3G iPhone, is one word: SPEED! Sure CoPilot launches faster (a whole lot faster) and it finds its initial location faster too, and it maps your route faster as well…but the real difference is in the menu works…touching a button or choice in Navigon always left me wondering it I hit it right, because there was noticeable lag every time you tried to do anything. Typing text the whole program hung between letters, and it took seconds for the list of anything to fill (states, towns, restaurants, etc.) Not fatal. Just annoying. (Well, maybe fatal if you tried to do anything while driving too often.) I was living with it. CoPilot on the other hand almost seems to anticipate your touch and start to do whatever you wanted before you get your finger off the screen. Shucks, it is often completely done doing whatever you asked it to do before you get our finger off the screen. Fast? I’d say fast. And this on a 3G.

Touch a POI and you get options

Touch a POI and you get options

It does everything that Navigon does except for display the speed limits and traffic signs and provide lane assist (interestingly the European versions of CoPilot do these things as well…so there is hope NA will get these features in an upgrade somewhere down the line). Oh yeah, and the text to speech voice is not nearly as sexy as the Navigon voice, but maybe they will fix that too. (CoPilot does offer other voice choices, equally as sexy as the single voice on the Navigon, but only the Frank Computer voice does text to speech.) On the other hand, CoPilot Live  does a whole lot of things Navigon does not do.

There is that touch the map to enter a destination thing. That is so cool, and so useful. Then there is the touch a Point of Interest and a pop-up appears with the name, location, and the option to either go to or, get this, call! thing. How cool is that? There is the ability to search for Points of Interest not only buy picking them from a list centered on whatever location you specify, be it right

Options for entering destinations

Options for entering destinations

near by or a far away city…but by tying the name directly. Ever try to find a Subway in a strange city on most Nav devices or apps? This thing is as good as Google maps or Yelp at locating just exactly what you are after. Actually better than Yelp since it will display a map with your choices displayed and represented by numbers. There is also a very easy touch button to show you Points of Interest along your route you might want to visit. (Navigon can do this too…but it is not nearly as easy or as intuitive.)

I am actually discovering more features that I really like as I use the app more. For instance, I just found on a recent trip that when you reach a destination, you get a pop-up asking if you want to return to your starting point or program a new destination. Way to go! I don’t know how often I have gotten back in the car and thought “boy, I wish I could just tell this GPS to take me back where I started.” On most apps and stand alone units you have to manually enter the address, or, at the very least,  go to your recents and choose it from there. You can also access the return route in CoPilot through the Edit Route menu.

And, while the Frank Computer voice may not be sexy, the text to speech instructions are the best I have yet encountered. Frank remarks on confusing sharp bends in your current path, guides you on and off ramps (with next turn instructions where needed), and provides route names in a manner that simply inspires confidence. He may be a computer, but he is a vastly considerate computer…and knows just what you need to hear.

And did I say CoPilot does all of this fast? I think I did.

CoPilot Live also provides a much greater range of customization than Navigon: for screen display, map display, Point of Interest display, routing options, etc. etc.

Lots of POI choices

Lots of POI choices

Strangely it also has the ability to save and reload a route. I have never seen that before.

The menu system is several screens deep, but very intuitive. I figured most of this stuff out just playing with it so far.

If you have noticed a, shall we say, playful tone to this review, it is intentional, and inspired by the app itself.  The maps are somewhat cartoony…crayon bright and colorful…not objectionably so…but enough to give me a this is fun impression while viewing them. I have no idea if this was intentional on the part of the programmers, but to me, it is a theme that runs through the whole program…from the funky maps to the (can it be intentionally) funky computer voice for text to speech, to the Live features that include social sharing, to the jazzy menu layout and screen navigation controls…this app just gives  me a fun feeling. Navigon is very capable and serious, fully competent to get you where you are going. CoPilot Live is fun, and seems to assume that you might want to have some fun along the way to where you are going.

Fun maps

Fun maps

Just my impression. Call me crazy.

Of course, it is not all fun. I have found some minor mapping inaccuracies around my native patch. At least one short by-pass that  is not on the map, street number offsets, and it does fail on my GPS/Mapping program worse case test: 53 Depot Street, Freeport, ME. (Most map apps, including Google Maps, put 53 at the wrong end of Depot Street altogether, something I found out the hard way when trying to make it to my daughter’s recital one memorable day.) On a recent lengthy trip down the Atlantic coast from Jekyll Island GA to Boynton Beach FL and back to Jacksonville the next day (6 hours each way) on I95, it gave me  two instructions to stay on 95 while the secondary route number (407 in GA, and 9 in FL) “split off”. It evidently thought that the change in route number meant the other route went somewhere 95 didn’t. In neither case was there an exit when Frank said “now stay on 95”. The first time was actually in the middle of the river separating GA and FL. Good thing I have more sense than my iPhone.

As with any GPS app or device, on long trips I would advise checking the route before you start driving, checking your destination to make sure it is where you really want to go (easy in CoPilot since you can see the route on a map and zoom in at the destination end, or see a turn list), and maybe using another mapping service (Google, MapQuest) to verify. It is easy on the iPhone. Google Maps is right there, and MapQuest is a free download.

That said, and duly warned, at $34.95 CoPilot Live 8 is simply a steal. By far the least expensive turn by turn nav app on the store. And yet it is certainly among the best, if not the best overall. I will continue to give it a through workout over the next months of travel and report back on any issues I find, but so far, I like this app!

I like it so much it makes it hard to go back to sluggish, stodgy old Navigon. In fact, I took Navigon off my iPhone (to free up more memory for apps, of course!) and retired it to the green pastures of my iTunes Library.

Check out the CoPilot Live website.

Or view CoPilot Live on the iPhone app store.

Also note this from the CoPilot Live site:

Update coming soon:

  • In-app purchases for premium Live services
  • Access to iPod controls and playlists from CoPilot
  • Additional GPS performance improvements
  • User control to dim or switch-off music during voice instructions
  • Further enhancements based on customer feedback

Better and better. Each one of these features will be most welcome, thank you. Especially the iPod controls and music interruption during voice instructions! And “further enhancements based on customer feedback”…now there is a phrase to conjure with.

Like I said. I am liking this app!

Written by singraham

October 2, 2009 at 6:34 am