CoPilot’s David Quin On GPS On Smartphones

The convergence of multiple technologies is what essentially transforms normal mobile handsets into smartphones. It is the culmination of functionality and applications that turns a normal phone into a mini computer. One of these convergence technologies is GPS, and CoPilot Live Worldwide’s Director of Marketing David Quin, offers insight on where this will take us next. Here is what David had to say.
GPS devices really took off in the last decade, but now the same thing can be done on a smartphone. So does this signal the end of GPS devices?

David Quin:
As one of the pioneers of smartphone GPS navigation, we have seen a huge rise in the number of people using their phone as their primary navigation device in the past few years.

Today’s smartphones offer fully integrated GPS receivers, large color touch screens and loudspeakers for voice directions. When you add a sophisticated and full-featured app like CoPilot Live, you can provide the same performance on a phone as you would expect from even the most expensive in-dash or dedicated systems.

That said, the dedicated GPS device remains a popular choice for those looking for a simple mechanism that does the job. There are plenty of people who perceive the multi-tasking smartphone as being too ‘complex’ and others who remain concerned – unnecessarily – about screen size and the risk of excessive data roaming charges. There’s still a large market for the dedicated device among the less “tech-eager” which will surely remain for several years to come.
Can a smartphone with an app do everything a dedicated GPS unit can do?

David Quin: In many ways, the smartphone is actually a better platform for GPS navigation thanks to its in-built mobile Internet connectivity, which can provide seamless access to useful real-time information when on the move like traffic updates, most advantageous gas prices or local Internet search. These services are available on some high-end dedicated systems, but they usually require an additional mobile connection subscription, which turns many people off.

Smartphones offer other more obvious benefits as well. Being more portable than a dedicated system makes them suitable for use when you’re on foot to find your way around an unfamiliar city. There’s also the benefit of combining tasks into a single device—there’s really no need to buy that extra device anymore, and smartphone navigation is much less expensive too.
Given that there are now several smartphone operating systems, does this make new challenges when it comes to creating GPS apps?

David Quin:
Until fairly recently, supporting multiple operating systems was an on-going challenge for us. However, since CoPilot Live 7 [we are currently on version 8] we have used our own flexible graphics ‘engine,’ which makes coping with different screen resolutions and sizes much easier.

Right now we support iPhone, all Windows phones and all popular Android smartphones. Occasionally a new device will launch where we have to make minor adjustments to the app, for example with the Google Nexus One and the Motorola Milestone (Europe’s version of Motorola Droid). However we can usually react and release an updated version of the app within just a few days.
Will CoPilot Live, at some point, be available for the multitude of smartphones out there?

David Quin:
CoPilot Live already runs on many of the most popular smartphones, and we are continually looking to support as many as possible. Our approach to navigation is to provide CoPilot Live’s maps ‘on-board’ the phone (as opposed to downloaded each trip). The phone itself needs to have a reasonable amount of processing power and storage capacity to run CoPilot Live, so we are unlikely to be supporting the lower-end ‘feature phones’ any time soon. However, we are seeing a huge growth in sales of iPhone and Android smartphones, almost all of which are compatible with CoPilot Live. Location-based software is also becoming more affordable and many developers are providing apps for just a few dollars as well. Does this bring down the perceived value of GPS apps in turn?

David Quin:
There are a huge number of low-cost apps of all types available on the iPhone app store, Android Market and other app stores. Price is clearly a hugely important factor in people’s purchasing decisions. According to many of the product’s reviewers, CoPilot Live offers great value for the money considering its advanced full-featured navigation experience. This distinguishing feature has been one of our objectives as well. Compared with a dedicated system it’s a bargain!

However, we know that we need to continue to justify our ‘premium’ app pricing and we are continually working to bring innovative and useful new features to the app that make people’s journeys easier and more predictable.
You are now providing location-sharing options for Facebook, so do you see social media as becoming the next big thing for GPS apps? And are there dangers of making too much known about ourselves on such sites?

David Quin:
We have offered location-sharing in CoPilot Live for over eight years in fact, with customers able to allow others to view their locations in real-time on an Internet map. It’s been a pretty popular way to let people know exactly when you’ll arrive without having to call them throughout the journey.

At the same time, there’s been a huge rise in the popularity of social networking sites like Facebook. The trend to let your friends know what you are doing ‘now’ and ‘where’ has become part of everyday life for many. It makes sense for us to allow CoPilot Live users to share information about their journeys with their social network and we think this will become an increasingly popular – and even expected – feature of any connected navigation system.

Of course, we take personal privacy very seriously, and so customers will always be able to control when and how they share their location information using our products. Lastly, do you see GPS as an important feature or function with tablet market?

David Quin:
Many people might be surprised to know that we have supported tablet computers for a number of years with our CoPilot Live Laptop product – the world’s first laptop navigation system, launched over 12 years ago. We can certainly support both Windows and Apple tablet computer operating systems, and coupled with in-built GPS, there’s the potential for a fantastic large-screen navigation experience. There are additional considerations through which will probably determine just how important GPS navigation will be for tablet users, not least how to mount the device in-car and whether the screen might, in fact, be too large and prove a distraction to a driver.

Thanks to David Quin for taking the time to chat with us.