ALK Technologies Limited the developers of the CoPilot range of navigation apps currently have twelve apps within the iTunes store, ranging in price from free up to $84.99 with worldwide coverage from Australia and New Zealand to the Nordics We wanted to find out more about how these apps were created and how ALK have managed to be so successful in this competitive market. Read this exclusive interview to find out more.
Hi Devon, can you tell our readers how your app was originally thought of, what were your thoughts behind the marketplace, specifically?
CoPilot Live has actually been available for more than 10 years, running initially on laptops, then Windows Mobile PDAs, and now iPhone, Android and Windows Mobile smartphones. Our vision has always been to bring a full-featured navigation experience, comparable with that of a dedicated system, to the widest possible range of mobile devices. Our latest product, CoPilot Live Directions, makes full-featured GPS navigation for the iPhone more affordable, more flexible and more accessible than ever before, with 30 days totally free full voice-guided navigation across US and Canada.
Can you tell us how you came up with the colors and themes ideas, design?
We have spent a long time perfecting the user interface in CoPilot Live to make it easy for drivers to see the information they need at a glance. Our design philosophy is to ensure safety by providing the least amount of distraction possible. This goes deep into the UI. Our 2D or 3D maps displays show the route highlighted clearly, with a large turn arrow at each turn. Alternatively you can select our Driver Safety view to only display a map close to a turn. For clear guidance at complex intersections, our Lane Assistance feature shows you exactly what lane you need to be in while ClearTurn™ provides you a more realistic display of upcoming exits and intersections.
Who do you see as the main target market for this app?
The app is useful for everyone from the frequent traveler to the everyday commuter. CoPilot Live Directions provides all the benefits, features and quality mapping of a dedicated Personal Navigation System but conveniently stored on your iPhone. Detailed street maps of the US and Canada are stored on your phone, not downloaded each trip, so there’s no monthly fees to worry about and you’ll continue to receive reliable directions even when you hit a mobile coverage dead spot. So no matter where you are its ready to guide you with full spoken, turn-by-turn directions and useful real-time information along the way.
How long did it take from the original planning to the production process of your app?
You could say that it’s taken over 10 years to bring CoPilot to the iPhone – it’s the culmination of all the work we have done on various platforms to date. Creating the version for iPhone took approximately 6 months, although we are continually developing the app based on customer feedback and to incorporate additional iPhone-specific customization.
How do you view your sales, is there a good solid market for this style of app?
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. So yes there is definitely an appetite among GPS-enabled smartphone owners for premium voice-guided navigation software. In the first 6 months of launching our full version of the app, CoPilot Live v8 was downloaded by over 200,000 customers globally across all app-stores. And with this new free version, we’re increasingly offering an advanced GPS navigation solution to all types of iPhone users.
What has been the hardest obstacle you have had to overcome regarding this app development?
The greatest single obstacle to launching on iPhone was the terms of the iPhone SDK itself, which until the summer of 2009 prevented turn-by-turn navigation apps from being launched on the app store. Once that restriction was lifted, and we were able to launch the app, we then needed to cope with the iPhone’s inability to run multiple apps concurrently. It meant that navigation would close when you received a phone call. We have managed to get around this by re-launching CoPilot once the call is completed, and restoring the destination for a seamless experience.
Would you consider developing apps for third parties?
We do in fact have a successful and well-established white label business where we create apps for partners that are based on CoPilot’s core navigation technology. Our Software Development Kit is also becoming an industry standard for Enterprises who want to integrate GPS navigation within a handheld mobile workforce management solution.
What have you learnt from the App Store since you launched your app?
The app store distribution model has been transformation for us in many ways. If has allowed us to more easily market our full-featured CoPilot Live navigation software directly to customers on one of the leading GPS-enabled smartphones, the iPhone. The biggest benefit we’ve identified from the iPhone App Store is using the automatic software update facility to deliver improvements and innovations quickly and effectively in response to customer feedback.
Have Apple supported you well with your app?
Considering the huge number of developers that are active on the app store, we have been very appreciative of the support we have received from Apple. They provided us with some great advice and guidance about how to best launch on the AppStore, and have been helpful in answering various questions throughout the development cycle. We have also been featured on the iTunes home page from time to time, with banner ads and within the ‘What’s Hot’ section. It all makes makes a significant difference to us as a developer, and I don’t think we could really expect much more.
What next, are you developing another app? Would you go for the same genre again, if not which?
Location-based services and social networking are among the hottest sectors of the app market today. Smartphones these days are not just connected, but also location-aware, and we see a huge opportunity to take advantage of this to provide useful services to consumers and businesses. We have some great innovations coming to CoPilot which will further enhance the navigation experience. We also see a huge opportunity to leverage all sorts of useful location-specific community-generated content throughout our apps.
The Apple iPad – will you be developing apps for it – what impact will the iPad app market have on your app?
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.
Our Site and Support
What do you think of our site – http://www.iPhone.Maccreate.com – have we helped you market your app well – do you like our design – would you recommend us?
I think the site is a great tool for iPhone users to scope out apps and really get an idea of what the app is all about. With pieces like this interview they can really see what goes into developing the app and hopefully get a better idea of what it offers.