GPS in Ireland… on Your Smart Phone with CoPilot Live
I resisted using GPS in Ireland for years… I told myself that getting lost was half the fun! That can be true, but the romance of aimlessly wandering Ireland wears off when you find yourself stranded on a lonely road in the middle of the night in the rain.
Today, I mix it up a bit. For touring, I avoid turning on the GPS, and savor those moments when I’m not quite sure where I am. But when I need to get somewhere… especially at the end of the day, I like to punch in the coordinates and spend more time in a cozy pub or warm bed.
Alternative to Rental Car GPS Devices
Car rental companies in Ireland DO offer GPS devices. They generally cost €10-15 a day plus VAT (tax). On a two-week rental, that can add up to well over $225.
This summer I test drove an alternative… CoPilot Live UK & Ireland on my smart phone. The app is available for iPhone and Android phones for $32.99 and uses the device’s built in GPS to guide travelers.
Best of all, every bit of data is sent through the GPS and uses no cell phone data. For those who have used their smart phones internationally, you know that tapping the international data network can be pricey, so this feature solves that problem.
How Does It Perform?
The interface and features are much like a basic GPS device. The map shows your route and location, it speaks turn-by-turn directions (in your choice of voices and accents), you can change your route preference to avoid highways and toll roads… pretty much all the standard features… plus some extras my GPS at home doesn’t even have.
I found the routes on par with other GPS devices and it did an excellent job of finding even the small towns (provided I spelled them correctly). Since most of Ireland does not not use house numbers, it’s always helpful to get the coordinates of your destination (many B&Bs and attractions include them on their websites)… doing a random search for a business name wasn’t entirely reliable… and unfortunately, two B&Bs I was staying at had inaccurate GPS locations listed on their sites – thank goodness the Irish are a friendly lot who are happy to give directions – even if they aren’t as reliable as GPS 😉
The Highlights and Shortfalls
Overall, the app performs as promised with many of the limitations coming from the device rather than the software. Below I’ve outlined a few things I noticed using both an iPhone 3G and an iPhone 3GS.
- CoPilot Live performed as promised with decent routes and current maps.
- Although the main features appear prominently on the screen and are easy to locate, finding some of the submenus to change the settings was sometimes confusing.
- The screen on my phone was smaller than many GPS devices. The software tries to accommodate this by offering collapsible info panels.
- It’s important to consider where you will place the phone in your car. Without bringing along a mounting bracket, I balanced the phone on the open ashtray drawer which meant I had to constantly look down to view the device, and it was prone to sliding and bouncing.
- It’s important to have your phone plugged into the charger as having the GPS and screen functioning constantly drains the battery quickly (a North American charger works in Ireland). For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend it for use as pedestrian device.
- The Points of Interest feature did not offer a complete list of offerings, but I’m not sure if that was based on the region I was in or if that’s the case across the board.
- When I asked the device to avoid main roads, it seemed to choose extremely rural routes… bordering on “this is a route than NO ONE ever takes” and “if this road gets any rougher, my car might not make it out in one piece.”
- From time to time, my iPhone’s GPS would get confused (it does this in the Google Maps app as well) and would place me on a different road… so I’d spend about 30-seconds with the app barking directions back to the main route.
- The software works even when data roaming is turned off (which guarantees that no international data is being used).
- The software is sluggish on the 3G model especially at start up and at times when recalculating a route (sometimes lagging for over a minute). The app crashed once or twice a day on me on the 3G as well. As a result, I would only recommend it for the iPhone 3GS and 4 models… however, it does work on the 3G.
- For the price, it’s a great value for anyone who doesn’t want to invest in a GPS device and the corresponding maps.
Use this link to download the app from the iTunes Store, and a portion of your purchase price will go to the Irish Fireside. Information and prices were accurate at the time of publishing. I was offered a complimentary user code to test this app.