European GPS App Showdown: CoPilot vs Sygic vs TomTom
European GPS Travel Apps
CoPilot Premium Europe, by ALK Technologies $39.99
TomTom Western Europe, by TomTom $59.99
Sygic GPS Europe and Russia, by Sygic A.S. $74.99
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel to Europe for work, and while there I decided to try out some of the European GPS travel apps. A few years ago, I had reviewed a number of GPS apps, including Navigon, Sygic, and Magellan. However, I never reviewed TomTom, and I also wanted to see how these GPS apps had changed over the past six years. With these apps, I focused on a few different things – the cost, finding locations, map interface, quality of the directions, and “other” (my category for any other comments I might have). All three had most of the standard features, including allowing you to avoid toll roads, maps displays that include remaining time and distance, and lane change/exit assist features.
Figure 1. Standard features, like lane change assist, were includes in all apps.
First, the prices. CoPilot Premium Europe is $39.99 and covers over 40 European countries. TomTom Western Europe is $59.99, and covers 23 countries. Sygic Europe and Russia is $74.99, and covers 39 countries. Clearly CoPilot is the winner here, although I will point out that each of the companies offers cheaper alternatives. For example, if you don’t want all of Europe, you can buy TomTom D-A-CH (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) for $33.99. Even here, however, CoPilot comes out on top, as they offer a free version of their app where you can download one map region (such as DACH) for free, although you don’t get turn by turn directions for that level (you can buy them for $24.99, as well as buy additional maps). TomTom offers in-app purchases for traffic, different voices, and speed camera locations, but these (except the voices) are subscription based, so you need to keep buying them. Sygic offered in-app subscription purchases for traffic, speed cameras, but you could also buy a “heads up display” that reflects the information (at night) onto the windshield, in your line of sight. This sounds a little gimmicky to me, and I don’t know if it works or not.
Figure 2. Menus were pretty standard. CoPilot (the first image) included a feature for choosing a camper as a vehicle. Overall, I found TomTom (the last menu) the easiest to navigate.
When it comes to finding locations and interface, CoPilot was actually one of my least favorites. They have standard POI listed (hotel, restaurant, gas station) and the option to look through more categories. However, I found the interface for finding the directions to be the most cumbersome. I had the least success with CoPilot, and since my goal was to avoid using wifi, I didn’t want to use their integrated Google search, Wikipedia, or Yelp (although those may be beneficial for some people). TomTom , while taking the longest to load each time, had the best interface for finding locations/getting directions. Just tap anywhere on the map, and you get the menu screen which includes, right up at the top, “navigate to…”. You can choose the standard recent destinations, points of interest, coordinates, etc. All three apps actually had a new feature I had never seen – being able to find a location from the encoded information in a photograph. Sygic had a standard navigation menu and a very straightforward navigation menu, but it just didn’t seem as “friendly” as the TomTom one. So the overall winner was TomTom. The directions that were given by each of the apps were generally almost identical, with minor differences here and there.
Figure 3. Sygic did the best job with the speed limit indicators, as well as accurately reflecting local terrain (like driving into a valley between mountains). TomTom (on the right) only list your speed and the speed limit in small numbers in the lower left corner.
When driving, I mostly used Sygic and TomTom. They both had standards like the 3D display, nighttime options, and speed limits. Sygic had a very nicely displayed speed limit indicator, so it was very easy to determine when I was driving too fast. TomTom had a speed limit indicator, but it was not as visible. Basically, in the corner, your speed is listed compared (like a fraction) to the speed limit, so you can’t just glance and get an easy view of the speed limits. Sygic also included a little but more geographic information. For example, one time when driving through the Alps into a valley, Sygic actually showed the mountains on either side, and the app made the road look like it was going into the valley. Sometimes this led to odd situations where the map looked like it was flattened out or sideways. One problem was the Sygic app is that, ironically, they are very keep on warning you about things – upcoming speed changes, upcoming exits, lane changes, etc. This results in a cacophony of beeps and dings that come from the app – but half the time it is not easy to identify what the warning pertains to. So all of a sudden the app starts beeping at you, and you have no idea why! Overall, however, I would say I preferred the Sygic interface to TomTom.
Figure 4. One thing Sygic tried to do was warn you about things like upcoming speed limit changes. However, half the time I didn't know why it was beeping at me!
Other features. Each of the apps had some unique features built in Sygic, for example, had a “travel book” feature where you can look back to see what your previous travel consisted of. CoPilot had weather option, a music player, built-in facebook check in and nearby Wikipedia places (although both of the latter would require a data connection). CoPilot also let you specialize travel preferences (such as avoiding toll roads) depend in the kind of vehicle you were in (including a camper!). TomTom had a great advance planning and route preview option (so you can even see the turn by turn preview), as well as allowing automatic FourSquare and Facebook login. One feature that was both beneficial and a difficult was in Sygic. If Sygic lost the GPS signal (such as in a tunnel), the map keeps going basaed on the previous information about your travel speed and direction. So if you are in a tunnel, it looks like the signal is retained (this is especially important if you might lose a signal in a tunnel where you have an exit). However, the problem arises if you get stopped in the tunnel in traffic (as I did once) – the GPS keeps going, but you have stopped. Eventually if the signal is lost long enough, the GPS stops, but it can be confusing at firstOne thing that no app really had was an option for scenic driving. TomTom came close with a “winding road” option, but that really just meant not driving on highways). While “extra features” probably won’t be the deciding factor when choosing an app, TomTom and Sygic had features that I seemed to use the most.
Figure 5. Each app had some interesting unique features. All apps allowed you to use geocoded information in pictures for finding a location. Sygic (on the right) also even had a feature to continue navigation for a little bit if the GPS signal is lost.
So who is the winner? Well, the free version of CoPilot was used the least, mostly because the free version didn’t have the same features (including turn by turn) that they paid versions had. But if cost is a factor, then definitely the free CoPilot is the way to go. Between Sygic and TomTom, I used them both under different circumstances. With routes that were planned the day before, and with routes around cities, I used Sygic. For last minute routes, or when I wanted scenic routes (like through the Alps), I used TomTom. Overall, I liked both of the apps, but probably was leaning slightly towards TomTom (despite the better interface, the constant beeps and warnings from Sygic got annoying).
* = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
*** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
**** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.
Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating. Please comment on these reviews. All opinions expressed in this review are precisely that – opinions. You may agree or disagree. If you own the app, tell me what your opinion is. If the review prompted you to buy (or not buy) the app, let me know why. If you want more information about the app, go ahead and ask.