CoPilot GPS satnav app goes free, Ball’s in your court, TomTom

The navigation wars continue to heat up: CoPilot GPS, a new freemium version of ALK’s satnav software for smartphones, is launching on the iPhone App Store and Google Play store for Android today. Where ALK’s current app, CoPilot Live, provides voice turn by turn navigation and offline mapping for £20, CoPilot GPS is free, pitting it directly against Google Maps Navigation on Android.

We’ve written before about how ALK has smartly dodged the problem of piracy on smartphones with aggressive pricing and a sensible attitude towards engaging customers, and CoPilot GPS is the next logical step. It’s a navigation app that takes a “freemium” approach pioneered by many mobile games developers.

Essential Reading:

The download is free, and you can download one country’s maps for free. It’ll plan journeys in advance and guide you, but if you want live traffic updates, and crucially, turn by turn guidance, you’ll have to pay: £19.99 for a lifetime licence on the latter, and £9.99 per year for ALK’s ActiveTraffic service.

At a glance, it might sound like ALK is donating both its kidneys with this gameplan, but the model actually makes perfect sense. On iPhone, it’s a good deal, while on Android, it’s almost necessary since Google provides the same for free with its Maps Navigation service. You might as well get people using the app in some way: if some users then upgrade for voice guidance and more offline maps, all the better. Certainly it’s worth a download as a way of navigating abroad without fear of racking up data charges, since maps are stored on the phone.

We’ve given CoPilot GPS a spin on Android (the iOS version should be available shortly) and it’s a quick 20MB download that seems to work spiffily: you only get one free set of maps though so choose wisely.

It does raise one question however: what on earth is TomTom doing in the new mobile era? It has one substantially more expensive iPhone app, and only a points of interest app on Android. Is it just going to let minnows like ALK eat its lunch, dinner and breakfast? Let us know how you get on with CoPilot GPS in the comments.

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