Bosch SoftTec – a division of the Bosch Group who are better known for white goods, car spares, and power tools – has staked a claim in the lucrative satellite navigation market by unveiling an iPhone app Bosch Navigation 1.5. We’re big fans of the Bosch brand and trust them to produce beautifully and robustly engineered products, and accept that there will be a price premium for this. With this in mind we view the Â£44.99 price as hefty, but probably acceptable for a premium sat nav app.
The first thing that we noticed is that it takes up a whopping 1.31GB, which is much more than the CoPilot’s 430MB; this is bad because we had to delete some songs from our iPhone just to fit it in. However, it also uses a lot less power than CoPilot, meaning that when we plug it into the car the iPhone’s battery actually gets charged; CoPilot is so juicy that the battery just maintains the status quo when you plug the phone in with it running.
All the usual features are there: turn-by-turn guidance; destination search by postcode, town, street, or co-ordinates; guidance from an address in your contact book; points of interest including the nearest fuel station; and an emergency feature that shows the closest hospital or police station. It works well, and is reasonably intuitive to operate. So far so good then.
The trouble is, that in an attempt to add as many features as possible – presumably to enrich the user-experience – it has forgotten to incorporate them neatly. The end result is an overly-fussy screen that is distracting – and that’s a shame, because some of the features, such as the artMap pictures that help you to orient yourself, are quite clever. Clever, but confusing because of the way that they’re presented.
Bosch has incorporated some neat tricks into the app though, including â€˜Driver Assistanceâ€™, an interesting feature that calculates the severity of an upcoming bend and suggests the best speed to tackle it. (I did say ‘interesting’ rather than ‘useful’, you’ll note…) This erred, of course, on the side of caution and suggested some very moderate speeds indeed. (Presumably Bosch will be able to link this to your car’s brakes sometime in the future and intervene if it senses that you are having too much fun.)
It also has an ‘Eco Navigationâ€™ setting that apparently helps to plot the most fuel efficient route. I remain unconvinced about that one too, but it does offer an insight into the target market, which probably isn’t a middle-aged motoring journalist.
Further proof of the intended end-user comes with the integration of links with Facebook and Twitter, enabling you to keep your friends and followers up to date with your journey’s progress. They are buried deep in the menu though, so you’d have to stop the car to use them – or ask a friend to do it for you.
The real trouble with the Bosch app – other than the clunky interface and unappealing graphics – is that it simply doesn’t do anything brilliantly or offer anything new. Bosch would, I think, be better off by targeting specific markets more accurately by tailoring their product to suit them. Miserable old so-and-sos like me want a simple, elegant interface that gets me from A-to-B with the minimum of fuss and warns me about speeds cameras. Younger drivers want easier access to their Twitter and Facebook feeds. Business drivers want routing around problem areas and traffic jams.
None of these problems are insurmountable, but even if Bosch tackles them successfully they will still face stiff competition in the form of ALK Technologies’ CoPilot, which is easier to use, clearer to view – and much, much cheaper. The Bosch Navigation app costs Â£44.99, while CoPilot costs Â£24.99. Both are available from the iTunes App Store.
In line with our editorial policy we will tell you that the Bosch Navigation app was supplied free of charge for review purposes and has now been deleted from our iPhone.