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TomTom App, iPhone Road Test

Aug
17
2009

Probably one of the most highly anticipated GPS releases of the year, we now know the answer to two of the hottest questions surrounding the TomTom iPhone app. 1) When? Now. 2) How much? $99. Now that those two questions are answered, is it any good? After a late night download fiasco (I guess technically it was AM) and some heavy duty driving through this morning here is what we’ve discovered.

User Interface

tomtom-iphone-app-menuWhile the user interface of a GPS rarely matters much beyond “is it easy to use?”, when you start working on the iPhone platform it somehow becomes a bigger deal. TomTom got it right with the user interface. They followed many iPhone conventions rather than building custom controls like many other apps do. The app “feels” like an iPhone app yet at the same time the interface and icons will be very familiar to TomTom users.

The TomTom app is huge– weighing in at 1.25 GB. While this isn’t uncommon for a typical navigation system it is larger than many iPhone users are used to. So be prepared for longer download and installation times when you purchase the app. And for the most part this is a good thing. All of the maps are “on-board” rather than being delivered “over the air”. This means when you are out in the boonies or otherwise don’t have a network connection you should have no fear– the maps are already on your device.

Startup Time

Typically not something to consider, but the app starts up very fast. A few of the other navigation apps out there like Navigon Mobile Navigator are horribly slow to launch. The TomTom app isn’t as fast as most other apps, but is much faster than most of the other navigation apps and starts within about 7 seconds total.

Picking a Destination

tomtom-iphone-app-contactWhen building a route, you can enter addresses, save favorites, pick POIs, or tap somewhere on the map– all of the standard fare. You can also select an address from your contacts to navigate to. Unfortunately, this function was hit or miss for me. While I’m a pretty “geo-aware” kind of person and take care to properly format addresses in my Contacts list, the application had a hard time understanding several of them. It seemed to have trouble with any city or street name with multiple words or abbreviations. I can imagine that people who enter addresses a little more sloppily might have even more trouble than I did.

The POI database contains about six million entries, and most every location I looked up was found. This still begs the question though… why no internet based lookup of POIs through something like Google Local? Sure I can pull up the maps app, search for a location, save it to my contacts, then open up the iPhone app, select the contact, and build the route… but that is just more steps than I should have to take.

The POI search works just as well as, and has the same limitations as a typical TomTom PND. You can do cool things like search for POIs near your current location, near your destination, or along your route. And just like the TomTom PND devices you can’t break down restaurants by category. (Back to the Maps app you go for searches like that.)

Route Planning

tomtom-iphone-app-route-typesRoute planning functions available on most TomTom hardware also makes it to the iPhone. You can pick from fastest, shortest, avoid highways, walking routes, bicycle routes, and limited speed routes. Preferences are also available for toll roads, ferry crossings, HOV lanes, and unpaved roads. Other preferences include day/night modes and the ability to switch between a 3D and 2D map.

IQ Routes

Also included is a super-fantastic feature called IQ Routes. Rather than relying in road classifications, or a portion of speed limits to derive ETAs and pick routes, this TomTom technology uses averages of the average time other drivers took driving on that same stretch of road, on the same day of week, and same 15 minute time increment of the day. And how well does it work?

tomtom-iphone-app-iq-routesTomTom IQ Routes is simply the best new GPS technology of the past 12 months. If you are looking for a reason to spend a few more bucks (as of today) on the TomTom app over the Navigon app– this is it. The routes picked are about as good as you can get and the ETAs are laser-accurate.

Car Kit

TomTom says the TomTom Car Kit is still “coming soon”. Pricing and availability are still unknown. However if the kit does what it is supposed to it will probably be worth it to purchase. Having a better speaker, better microphone for hands-free calls, having power going to the iPhone, and perhaps best of all having augmentation of the GPS signal performance will all help. Those are all weak areas of the iPhone in general that can only be overcome with that type of a hardware design.

Navigation

tomtom-iphone-app-map-display-portraitWhile out navigating the app feels just like a 3.5″ TomTom PND. The map features are easy to read and understand. The next turn arrow stands out prominently. While an issue with the AT&T Navigator (TeleNav) app, the map refresh rate is fast and smooth– though not quite as good as a PND. Navigation, and the entire app itself, work in both portrait and landscape views. You simply rotate the phone and the display changes accordingly. The screen adjust quickly– quicker than the Navigon app.

While the TomTom app looks as it should, it didn’t sound as it should. In fact I had no voice prompts whatsoever. Now in talking around with dozens of other folks who have purchased the app, nobody else experienced this issue. My phone wasn’t in vibrate mode, I checked the hardware volume button and it was all the way up, I tapped the bottom bar of the app and moved the slider around, I made sure I wasn’t on mute– yet nothing. No voice prompts at all. I made sure a voice was selected, and the voice samples played just fine. But so far I haven’t been able to get the app to speak to me one voice prompt. I have rebooted the phone a few times and that hasn’t helped. I have not yet tried to reinstall the app. (Takes too long. :))

Update

I’m not sure what (if anything) changed, however shortly after writing this voice prompts did start working. They are as loud and clear as you can probably make using the iPhone’s internal speaker. Not nearly as good as that coming from a PND, but as good as I’ve seen on an iPhone GPS app. And of course the optional Car Kit is designed to really address the issue.

tomtom-iphone-app-map-display-landscapeEven for those who do get voice prompts, you will hear the voice speak out instructions like “in 500 feet, turn right” but you don’t get Text To Speech. I was a bit surprised this feature was nowhere to be found.

Something we missed from the Navigon app was having speed limit information for virtually every road. The TomTom (via the Tele Atlas underlying map) has very limited speed limit data compared to the competitive Navteq data. About the only time we saw speed limit data was for major highways.

Phone Calls, Music

tomtom-iphone-app-call-poiYou can startup a playlist or audiobook from the iTunes app, then open up the TomTom app and navigate away. The music will pause when navigation instructions come in. (Or in my case when they should come in.) When a call comes in you can ignore the call and continue navigation or take the call and wind up in the ‘Phone’ application. While in the phone app you can hit the home button and then startup the TomTom app– the call and navigation will resume. Not quite as slick as the interaction between a phone and a PND via Bluetooth, but probably as good as you can make it within the Apple APIs and restrictions.

You can also use the phone numbers associated with POIs to place calls. I wish there was a quick access “call destination” button you could access from the navigation map that would call the POI or a contact– perhaps we might get something like that later.

The optional Car Kit will also feature an “audio out” patch so you could pipe audio (but not phone call audio) through your car’s stereo system.

Map Updates, Missing Features

tomtom-iphone-app-map-versionWhile the app works wonderfully for basic navigation and is simple to operate, I’ve left feeling a but underwhelmed with the TomTom app. Don’t get me wrong– it works great and will be a tough contender in the iPhone navigation race, but quite a bit feels missing from other TomTom products. No traffic services? No local fuel price lookups? No integrated Google Local search? Come on… we’re talking a smartphone here which is just ripe for these technologies. We’ve got the data connection, let’s use it! What about MapShare? Text-to-speech? Active Lane Guidance?

And speaking of these things, I think many potential customers might still hold back not knowing the price and availability date of the Car Kit. Customers are also wondering about things like map updates… How much and how often? I expect we will get answers to those questions soon and I also expect many of these “missing” features will appear as add-ons soon too. But for now despite the app being available for sale there are still almost as many questions as there were before it was released.

Final Fix

tomtom-iphone-app-startupThis is not a bad map by any stretch of the imagination. It performed equally well to the Navigon app, plus you get the addition of the spectacular IQ Routes technology. That alone might make the app worth the extra cost over the Navigon app. Perhaps this is a good thing. TomTom doesn’t come to mind first when thinking about the “most stable” and “bug free” GPS devices. They have historically pushed innovation and often drive industry trends. But sometimes at the sacrifice of stability.

While I came across an issue with voice prompts (that nobody else is reporting and has since started working) and navigating to a contact was hit or miss, the app experienced no crashes, was fast, and everything mostly performed as designed. Perhaps this signals a change in philosophy at TomTom and while it is nice to be first with innovation, there is something also to be said for getting it right the first time. For what TomTom produced they nailed it– but it also left me wanting more.

114 Responses


  1. You are right. For those of us that already have a PND, where’s the beef?No connectivity – on a phone? I also need to see how much the mount will cost and what exactly it does (word on the street is it can be used for 3rd party apps)

    Dburr10085 - August 17th, 2009
    • TomTom is targeting “end of Summer” for the Car Kit. So it sounds like approximately four weeks from now.

      Tim - August 17th, 2009
      • UK TomTom just said that Dutch HO had suggested Sept/Oct.

        Steve - August 20th, 2009
  2. Tim, how does this compare with the Navigon one as far os legibility of street names and route info? As you mentioned in your review of Navigon I also find those difficult to read. That’s probably my major complaint. As to the start up time of the app, I’ve read the complaints about Navigon, but honestly if you count the time my TomTom device ( 930 ) takes to activate and go to a navigation screen and get a signal lock I don’t see much difference. Also if you happen to have the AP mobile news app on your phone, that really takes a long time to launch and update! So I don’t really have a complaint there. I am using it on a 3GS so that could make a difference.

    John - August 17th, 2009
    • There is more contrast in the colors of the street names and the “ground” background, so the info is a bit easier to read. I wish some of the text was a little bigger, and perhaps with a transparent background to not take up as much map space, but I find it a little easier to read than the Navigon.

      Tim - August 17th, 2009
  3. Having already installed a charging connector to my car, that allows me to select and play music through my radio, I’m very keen to see this in action. I have a PND, but will replace it if the app is any good so that I only have to worry about the one device. It’s great news that the music will carry on working, and of course the navigation directions should play through the radio.

    Compared to the TomTom adaptor, the only loss is the augmented GPS signal. I’d strongly suggest people consider a proper radio harness before getting a bolt-on loudspeaker from TomTom.

    Elliot - August 17th, 2009
  4. So what’s your initial take? Go with Navigon, or TomTom? Especially knowing that it looks like the kit will be able to be used with other apps?

    Matt - August 17th, 2009
    • The Navigon is $20 cheaper, today. It also has nearly full speed limit data which I personally really like. The advantage of the TomTom app is IQ Routes. That’s how I look at the scene today.

      However I think TomTom is banking more of their future in this type of technology, and I think one year from now their offering will be clearly superior to what Navigon is offering. The upgrade paths are not clear at this time however, which makes it a bit difficult to speculate how much more you might need to pay for more features down the road.

      But I think TomTom has a more innovative pipeline of products to offer down the line than Navigon does.

      Tim - August 17th, 2009
      • Thanks for the info on the comparisons! I’m still torn. Hopefully maybe TomTom will offer a discount to those who purchase the app first when it comes time to sell the car kit. I doubt it though. :-) Has there been any word on why TT hasn’t even updated their site yet about the release of the app? Thanks!

        Matt - August 17th, 2009
        • Yes, it is strange that they haven’t updated their website nor emailed people who signed up to be notified of the release. They did send out a press release though, so I know they are aware the app was approved. 😉

          Tim - August 17th, 2009
      • I think the choice comes down to whether you will use the phone and the app as your only navigation device or if, as I will be doing, use them to complement your existing navigation device for those times when you’re without the device. If you’re supplementing and not planning to use this every day then IQ routes become a little less important. From the reviews the Navigon app seems to have more of the important features with a polished UI. I chose it for those reasons and have also found the road speed limit info to be superior to my TT 930, and rerouting is actually faster. However when I know that I definitely will need navigation assistance beforehand such as for a planned trip, it will be my TT that I will be using.

        John - August 18th, 2009
      • Tim is clearly biased towards Tom Tom (“TomTom has a more innovative pipeline of products”, “I find it a little easier to read than the Navigon”, “The advantage of the TomTom app is IQ Routes” etc.) . The question is what is the best app now and not what will be the best app in an unknown future timeframe with unknown future products. Till a few days ago it was a tossup but with the Text To Speech and iPod controls, and the cheaper price tag. Navigon should call their “shortest” route something like “Intelligent Mapping” and suddenly they would have what TT has! Neither has realtime traffic yet which is a dent to both of them as on a phone with an always on connection within the service area it should have been figured out by both these companies by now.

        James - September 13th, 2009
        • James, you obviously don’t have a grasp of the facts at hand so let’s tackle them one at a time. You didn’t even use a real email address, but I’ll go ahead and address your issues anyway.

          Tim is clearly biased towards Tom Tom

          Funny, since other people said I was bashing TomTom when I said this:
          “I’ve left feeling a but underwhelmed with the TomTom app”, “quite a bit feels missing from other TomTom products”, “No traffic services? No local fuel price lookups? No integrated Google Local search? Come on… we’re talking a smartphone here which is just ripe for these technologies. We’ve got the data connection, let’s use it! What about MapShare? Text-to-speech? Active Lane Guidance?”

          “TomTom has a more innovative pipeline of products”.

          As evidenced below, you obviosly don’t understand the technology that TomTom (or Navigon) does have now. As someone who has a full time job analyzing the navigation systems of various systems I think I’m qualified to make predictions about what future products each company has.

          “I find it a little easier to read than the Navigon”

          Yes, I do. Compare this navigon image with this tomtom image. The question was how easy it is to read street names. I think the answer is pretty clear.

          The question is what is the best app now and not what will be the best app in an unknown future timeframe with unknown future products

          That might be yourquestion– but it isn’t everyones. We all know each app will get better. People only want to buy one app so if one will pull ahead of the other down the road then that is a question people considering both apps will have. People want to know they are making a solid investment not just in what the product offers now, but what it will offer a few months down the road too.

          “Till a few days ago it was a tossup but with the Text To Speech and iPod controls, and the cheaper price tag.”

          You can dig through our forums and listen to what other people have said about the Navigon update with Text-to-speech. While it is a nice feature other people have said they switched back to the recorded voice because the TTS voice wasn’t clear enough to hear through the weak iPhone speaker. That is their opinion, I haven’t had a chance to try it yet.

          Navigon should call their “shortest” route something like “Intelligent Mapping” and suddenly they would have what TT has!

          No, it wouldn’t be. You obviously don’t understand what IQ Routes is. It is not simply a marketing name. TomTom annoymously collects data from hundreds of thousands of drivers driving billions of miles of roads and calculates the average transit time for the average driver at any 15 minute time increment on any day of the weeek and then uses that data to figure out the best route and ETA. Navigon has no such data and isn’t collecting that kind of data. Istead of using actual driving times they are simply looking at road classifications and making estimates of speeds.

          Tim - September 13th, 2009
          • Thanks for the response Tim. But I don think that this particular post was too pro Tom Tom and an initial post more along the breakdown that you gave would have given greater perspective.

            James - September 13th, 2009
  5. I’ve had a few people ask how I was able to take a call and resume navigation. While the instructions are in the review, I’ll expand here.

    You are navigating and a call comes in with the accept/deny buttons. Accept the call (1 tap). Now click on the home button below the display… the physical round button (2nd tap). This takes you back to your ‘home’ screen, tap on the TomTom app icon (3rd tap, assuming it is on page 1) and your call continues while you are navigating.

    Tim - August 17th, 2009
  6. Hey Tim,
    Thanks for the quick review. I’ve been waiting for a decent smart phone GPS solution to hauling and protecting two devices around ever since my Garmin 660 was stolen. Have you tested the Telenav navigator on the Google G1? Also is Garmin ever coming out with the Nuvifone or at least an app like this one from TomTom for the iphone and hopefully the G1? A holder that boosts and charges the phone is essential. I’m also interested in how these apps work through a bluetooth headset since I prefer getting the directions that way.
    Thanks,
    Tim E.

    TimE - August 17th, 2009
    • I haven’t used TeleNav on the G1, but I have used TeleNav on the iPhone. While I haven’t tried, I don’t think you can send the voice prompts to a Bluetooth headset on the iPhone.

      Tim - August 18th, 2009
  7. Great review! I’ve also had the opportunity to test drive both programs and I feel the Tom Tom is much more polished. The IQ Routing is amazing technology and it works well in the NYC area. When I go on a three or four mile jaunt to an unfamiliar location I just used the short method. Another nice thing is that the TT has the familiar text listing of all the turns etc you’ll be making during your journey. That is missing in the Navigon. The voice prompts on my 3G are excellent and blow away the sexy smoker lady on Navigon. NOTE TO TIM: How do you set up the unit so that it alerts you of red light cameras? Is that functionality there? Thanks!

    David - August 17th, 2009
    • David, there isn’t a red light camera system on the USA & Canada app at this time.

      Tim - August 18th, 2009
    • According to purchasers, you cannot set up 3rd party poi warnings, so don’t bother with trying to add red light camera poi’s that don’t come directly from TomTom. You can see the poi icon on screen, but unless you’re constantly looking, it really wouldn’t have any benefit without an audible warning.

      gatorguy - August 18th, 2009
  8. Tim, once the call and nav are then active how do you end the call? By hitting the home button again-or…?

    Thanks,
    Mike

    Mike - August 18th, 2009
    • When you are on a call and in another app, the top bar which contains the signal strength, time, battery life, etc will turn green with a note “tap to return to call”. Tapping on that button will return you to the phone app where you can then tap the end call button.

      Tim - August 18th, 2009
    • Or you can wait for the other guy to hang up! It should end your call too (at least it does here in Europe).

      Elliot - August 18th, 2009
      • It does in the US too… so long as you are not “talking” to something automated like voicemail. :)

        Tim - August 18th, 2009
  9. Can anybody verify whether audio prompts will play through a paired bluetooth headset? I loved this feature on my LG phone running VZ Navigator; it didn’t matter how poor the phone speaker was or whether there was music or conversation going on inside my car; the directions were piped right into my ear.

    Now that I’ve got my iPhone, I’m looking to buy the first navigation app that can manage this.

    *though it just occurred to me that Apple may have limited this functionality…

    Riker - August 18th, 2009
    • Hi. The TT voice guidance comes straight through to my paired Jabra BT530. Hope that helps.

      James - August 18th, 2009
      • Thanks very much! Off to find a hundred dollars…

        Riker - August 18th, 2009
        • Can you confirm that the prompts do indeed come through the bluetooth interface? I have the Navigon and can barely hear the prompts through the internal speakers. Navigon has no support for prompts through bluetooth – wish I could get a refund.

          Alan - October 23rd, 2009
  10. Sounds like a useful app. No one is going to be buying GPS units anymore.

    Sezer - August 18th, 2009
    • In the long term I agree– a typical PND has a limited life. But in the near term I think they are here to stay as they still offer more features and conveniences for some people. But yeah– 10 years from now I don’t think we will see many PNDs being sold. Everything will be phone based and in-dash.

      Tim - August 18th, 2009
  11. Quite an excellent user review Tim. You’re exactly correct to point our TT’s single advantage to all the other mobile solutions. . . IQR. While others may have more features, or perhaps offer more information, none of the others can offer IQR. Now perhaps that may change soon with the roll-out of Navteq Traffic Patterns, but for now the most reliable routing will likely come from TomTom. I did note that our Aussie friends don’t have that feature available to them and routing complaints highlight how beneficial IQR2 can be for North America and Europe.

    gatorguy - August 18th, 2009
  12. I have a suspicion that you can only adjust the volume while TomTom is actually playing out a spoken command – might that explain how it has suddenly started working for you despite your previous attempts? If so, it’s a bizarre feature – perhaps when there are no TomTom commands the volume adjustment is for the iPod?

    By the way, don’t dismiss Co-Pilot – it beats TomTom and Navigon, IMHO.

    Bruce Davies - August 18th, 2009
    • You are almost right. I was checking out some of the Apple API’s regarding audio and they are not taking advantage of a call that would allow audio adjustment (as opposed to ringer volume adjustment) when audio is not playing. So when no TomTom audio is playing and you hit the volume buttons it just adjusts the ringer volume. (The graphic says “ringer” while adjusting.) When a navigation instruction is playing it will adjust the regular (not ringer) volume. It is very tricky. Another navigation app (iGo) has the same issue I discovered.

      Tim - August 18th, 2009
      • Hmm… Not the *most* user friendly approach!

        Bruce Davies - August 18th, 2009
        • Actually, you can tap the bottom of the screen to reveal the voice volume buttons, even if the voice isn’t speaking, at any time.

          Cody Wright - August 19th, 2009
    • Copilot does look great, and is a fantastic price. The only thing that put me off was that there didn’t appear to be a continent-wide map, only one of the UK (despite mention of a continental one on their website).

      Elliot - August 18th, 2009
      • The Co-Pilot European offering did go up, but has since come down. According to the Co-Pilot Twitter feed, a European edition is back with Apple for approval, so hopefully that’ll be there soon.

        Bruce Davies - August 18th, 2009
        • Excellent news. It’ll be interesting to see the two compared. Certainly, unless TomTom improves over time (which it no doubt will, with many expensive upgrades) Copilot looks like a good contender.

          Elliot - August 18th, 2009
  13. Tim,

    Dig the review and agree with you….You might want to include that this app DOES NOT work with all existing 3rd party charger/FM transmitters. I own the Belkin TuneBase FM (which has been great up until today) which I use with my 3GS everyday, that I had planned on using in conjunction with the TomTom app to charge and send audio via 3.5mm jack to my car stereo. It wasn’t until today on my way to work I found that TomTom will not acquire a strong enough signal while docked in that cradle….Bummer. If I un-dock it, it acquires a signal almost instantly, if I start it out of the cradle then dock it – the signal will degrade to the point of “Poor GPS Signal”, and not work…

    Beware if you have a dock that you planned to use, it might not work properly…..

    Dev

    Devlin - August 18th, 2009
    • Good catch there Dev! Bummer also if this is endemic.

      Mike DeQuardo - August 18th, 2009
    • Can you not put it nearer the screen, and still use your connectors, but with a different dock?

      I was about to purchase a dash-cradle for my dock! Thanks for the advice!

      Elliot - August 18th, 2009
      • Elliot,

        What do you mean

        “Can you not put it nearer the screen, and still use your connectors, but with a different dock?

        I was about to purchase a dash-cradle for my dock! Thanks for the advice!”

        Not sure if I follow….

        Dev

        Devlin - August 18th, 2009
        • Sorry. Essentially, I am asking whether you have a single integrated dock/connector. In my case, I have a cable that runs from the glovebox to the iPhone, and then I am free to keep the iPhone wherever I need – so I can use a dash-mounted dock or a windscreen sucker.

          The point of my question really is whether you thought the cradle was the problem, or the fact that the iPhone is electrically connected to something. Do you think continuing to use the current cable, but mounting the phone on the screen would fix the GPS problem?

          Elliot - August 18th, 2009
          • This dock/cradle connects to my car lighter, and another cable runs from the 3.5mm jack to the stereo Aux input.

            I have tried running the app with the audio cable disconnected, but the iPhone docked in the cradle still (Connected to the 12V car outlet). Under this config, the app still does not work. When I pull the power on the dock connector I get a GPS signal.

            Dev

            Devlin - August 18th, 2009
  14. Oh yes. Ooops!

    Elliot - August 18th, 2009
    • This was supposed to be in response to this:

      “It does in the US too… so long as you are not “talking” to something automated like voicemail. :)” by Tim.

      Elliot - August 18th, 2009
  15. There’s a link to the App store on the dedicated http://www.iphone.tomtom.com site, and support has a number of iPhone-specific questions answered, so I guess they’re very much aware… just can’t be bothered (probably!)

    Bruce Davies - August 18th, 2009
  16. Has there been any scuttlebutt as to when the Car Kit might get released? In doing research on the Net last night, I think I read something that a TT spokesperson said they’re still hoping to have it out this month, but it just “wasn’t ready yet” in time for the app release? Kind of sounding like TT may be the way to go, but I still may hold out till the Navigon sale deadline gets closer to see if either comes out with any additional updates.

    Matt - August 18th, 2009
    • Matt, see my reply to question #1.

      Tim - August 18th, 2009
  17. Does this app require a 3G/EDGE data connection? Or does it navigate solely using the built-in GPS? Or both?

    Thanks

    Matt - August 18th, 2009
    • It requires just a GPS signal – like any stand alone GPS unit would. It stores all maps locally so it doesn’t need to build maps ‘on-the-fly’ using an active network connection (like “Maps” would for example.

      I’m not sure if TomTom took advantage of the fact that the iPhone can “zero” on your location by first looking for WIFI triangulation, then tighter using cellular towers to, lastly using the GPS for the tightest location….This is how Maps would locate a person’s location in a timely fashion…

      Dev

      Devlin - August 18th, 2009
  18. Tim,

    Nice review. Thanks for all the details.
    Having just purchased a 140S device, I won’t be buying the app, mainly for 3 reasons. (1) missing text-to-speech (2) no advanced lane guidance (3) pricing. Hopefully, TomTom figures out a way to incentivise current device owners…

    Lou - August 18th, 2009
  19. You know, now that I’ve had time to think it over the idea of boosting the GPS antenna strength with an extra one in the cradle is a really great idea. I wonder what other phones if any, will be graced with similar charging mounts from Garmin and TT. It’s certainly motivating me to look more seriously at the iphone and is why I’ve been trying to have the patience to wait for the nuvifone. The key to making a cell phone work in place of a dedicated PND is to have a charging cradle device to easily place the phone into and out of.

    TimE - August 18th, 2009
    • The external antenna/chip will certainly be a big help. Without it the GPS occasionally wanders around or skates sideways. It happens with all of the iPhone GPS apps. That happened to me a couple of times today while driving around Boston. I imagine the 3Gs handles it a little bit better with the electronic compass.

      Tim - August 18th, 2009
  20. I have an in-Car blutooth kit that allows me to pair the radio to my Itunes via blueooth as well as make calls via bluetooth. Will the TT App allow me to continue to use my car bluetooth kit to make calls and hear directions?

    Dav - August 18th, 2009
    • I too would like to know this. I have an iPod hooked into my system. When the phone rings the music from the iPod is put on hold and I can answer the call on the iPhone. I wonder how this would work with the navigation voice? Other that that the app sounds great!

      Ken - August 22nd, 2009
  21. I’m thinking the external GPS chip in the cradle will also save the heat and battery drain issues. The TomTom app will probably turn off the iPhone GPS and just use the external GPS in the cradle.

    David - August 19th, 2009
    • Maybe, but if the phone itself has native issues with heat I don’t see how a mount that exposes it to even more via the windshield will help.

      Mike DeQuardo - August 19th, 2009
      • The iPhone gets very hot when the GPS chip is in constant use. If the Car Kit supplies the GPS signal and turns off the phone’s internal GPS chip as David said then the iPhone will probably run a little cooler.

        Tim - August 19th, 2009
  22. I agree about the benefits of IQR. Problem is, if you value IQR, what’s the point without real time traffic? IQR only functions retrospectively – the current traffic conditions have as much of a bearing.

    Bruce Davies - August 19th, 2009
    • I guess it depends on the type of driving you do. Almost all of the traffic I run into is predictable (by IQ Routes) and it is rare that I encounter traffic that is based on some sort of accident or incident that IQ routes couldn’t predict. In short IQ Routes has pretty much eliminated my need for a traffic receiver– your driving patterns may be different.

      Tim - August 19th, 2009
  23. Tim: Did you ever figure out what caused the voice to disappear and ultimately reappear? I just encountered the same problem. Voice volume is up, voice samples play fine, phone not on mute, etc., but the voice doesn’t speak during navigation. I’d love a tip on this!

    Cody Wright - August 19th, 2009
  24. Good article! I’m wondering does this have the safety cameras in the software / mapping where as some other tomtom devices have?

    Glenn - August 19th, 2009
    • According to Tim’s earlier comment, in the US it does not. Also, at least for now, you cannot add a 3rd party file with audible warning.

      gatorguy - August 19th, 2009
  25. I just read that the tomtom car kit will work with the ipod touch and other 3rd party navigation apps such as navigon. What do you all think about that

    John - August 19th, 2009
    • I don’t think that’s confirmed. Obviously no mount is available to the public to check. But it is assumed by several people that the iPod will also fit. Tim will correct me if I’m wrong.

      gatorguy - August 19th, 2009
    • Yes, John. It is pretty much confirmed that when the Car Kit becomes available (probably 4 weeks, my guess) that it will support the Touch. I’m not quite as certain… but still pretty sure… that the Car Kit will work with other navigation apps. Opening up the app to iPod Touch owners could be a nice boost for the app.

      Tim - August 20th, 2009
  26. Just a quick note to say.. I own the Griffin WindowSeat and the reception was perfect whilst using the TomTom app and this cradle. It sticks to the windscreen with a suction mount and is also pretty configurable depending on how long you want it etc. whereas the TomTom one looks pretty fixed. Obviously its JUST a mount and doesn’t include all the TomTom mount extras althought it does include an aux in cable.

    Steve - August 19th, 2009
  27. Does the Tom Tom app integrate Skyhook (WiFi assistance) along w/ GPS to improve geolocation? If so, this would be useful in areas dense cities where satellite signal quality may be weak.

    I’m not sure if any of the GPS apps incorporate Skyhook, but if one does I’d likely pay a little more for the improved accuracy in cities.

    Does anyone know?

    Miraa - August 19th, 2009
    • Miraa, yes, if any additional location data is available it will be fed to the application. Inside my office I can’t get the GPS chip in the phone alone to give me a fix, however when connected to my marked wifi location it will show my position. Keep in mind though that the wifi positioning technology isn’t a silver bullet and while it helps– it is probably only marginally in the situation you describe.

      Tim - August 20th, 2009
  28. Is this a ‘power-hungry’ app?
    I’m thinking of battery life – any estimates of the sort of time you could get using this app when away from mains/car power?

    Steve Dellow - August 20th, 2009
    • On a full charge I drove for about 3 hours with the app running, spent 3 hours on “standby” and then got the 20% battery remaining warning on the phone.

      Tim - August 20th, 2009
      • That’s pretty impressive, Tim. I think it important to reflect if 3G or 3GS, and if 3G, how old the device (and thus the battery) is. Still impressive either way, and I’m led to believe that TomTom is at the higher end of the power consuming scale when it comes to Nav apps.

        Bruce - August 20th, 2009
        • Sorry– I was going to mention those items but got distracted. It is a 3G that I got just a couple days after they were released last year. So it is about 14 months old and no electronic compass.

          Tim - August 20th, 2009
  29. I think I just figured something out regarding the app’s frequent inability to parse addresses from Contacts. If the address you pick from within a contact is in a state that is different than the last state you created a route to, the automatic parsing appears to fail 100% of the time. If the contact you pick is in the same state as your last destination then it works better– not perfect but it is fairly reliable.

    Tim - August 20th, 2009
    • Apologies, but for us Brits can I clarify that by state you mean one of the 50 US states? Doesn’t explain the same issue here in the UK!

      Isn’t this more about the way data from contacts information is parsed differently between PC and Mac systems? I know migrating contacts from one OS to another is a total pain!

      Bruce - August 20th, 2009
      • Correct, my only experience with the app is in the States. I wouldn’t think Mac versus PC parsing would have much to do with it as the data is stored the same way on the iPhone.

        Tim - August 20th, 2009
  30. I’ve just learned that TomTom had a car cradle for the HTC Touch Cruise cell phone since 2007 with a GPS application and both items sold with the phone. Where have I been? I really wish more cell phones would be sold with a car cradle/charger/gps booster and installed full navigation software from Garmin, TomTom, or Co-pilot or someone. I don’t think I’m the only one who wants this.

    TimE - August 20th, 2009
  31. Sigh I am so conflicted on whether to get tomtom or navigon. At the moment navigons app is better than the tomtom one, but I am worried that in the near future tomtom will come out with some killer updates that will blow away any navigon updates. It is good to hear that Navigon will probably work with the car kit though. How do you guys feel about this issue?

    Johhn - August 22nd, 2009
    • Johhn, did you check out thread #4 above?

      Tim - August 22nd, 2009
  32. Yea I read thread 4, but now with the conformation that navigon can be partnered with the car kit I am somewhat on the fence. This will be my first ever gps purchase so I just dont want to make the wrong decision. So Tim which would you chose, I know you said that navigon is better now but tomtom has a more innovative pipeline of products. So based on that would u bank on the future and go with tomtom or go with navigon for what they offer now.

    John - August 22nd, 2009
    • I’ve had the opportunity at length to compare both APPs and I strongly suggest you go with the Tom Tom. Navigon briefly entered the US market with their portable devices but has abandoned the market due to over saturation by the major players. That to me indicates that Navigon might abandon the smart phone market if they don’t gain enough market share. Why support an app with a less than stellar installed base of customers? That said, it is fair to say that Tom Tom will devote their extensive resources to R & D and continue to improve an APP which at ver 1.0 is pretty bug free. I’ve been using it for over a week and I like the fact that it loads fast and tenaciously holds on to a gps signal. The Navigon would always periodically lose a signal even with unobstructed views of the horizon. The Tom Tom has a more iphone like UI and gives you a text listing of turn by turn for the route. On Navigon 1.0 that feature is a dumb omission on their part. How can you not include such a feature? On Tom Tom the voice is clearer and the prompts more frequent. I also have a feeling that those that like different voice prompts will be able to port them over to the APP via SSH. Overall, it is a great program so go with Tom Tom

      David W - August 23rd, 2009
      • From the number of positive reviews, quite a bit more than the TT app at this time, and the sheer number of downloads of the Navigon app I’d say there are no worries there. I liken it to Amazon with their Kindle book reader. Far more of the app have been downloaded than Kindles sold and they sell far more books through the iphone app than the reader itself. I think Navigon is and will do fairly well with this app. In the U.S. I believe Garmin is the leading seller of stand alone devices but TT and Navigon seem to pretty much own the app market. I don’t think Garmin’s Nuviphone will even be noticed.

        Right now the Navigon app is more polished and useful. I’m making these comparisons with my TomTom 930. The lane guidance for instance is actually superior for me on the app. The signal for me has not been a problem either indoors or out, never dropped yet. The Navigon app has already been updated once and if you check this link out you’ll see an example of the next update. I love my 930 but this is quickly becoming my go to gps.

        John - August 23rd, 2009
  33. I have the navigon on my iphone right now and not happy (bad routes and missing info on screen – cannot set custom sounds for poi warnings etc…)

    I loved my TTnavigator on pda. I could add my own made voices and warnings. Is this possible with TT for Iphone? Cant seem to find any info about this on the net.

    Thanks

    Kjewbee - August 23rd, 2009
    • There are no custom voices or custom POI features at this time.

      Tim - August 23rd, 2009
  34. Hi Tim,

    What about custom POIs? Can one import custom POI files into iPhone/TomTom or iPhone/Navigon?

    Jim - August 24th, 2009
    • Not at this time.

      Tim - August 24th, 2009
  35. Excellent article. Can you please provide more information on the GPS signal during testing with Tomtom. I do not want to
    mount a device on the windscreen. I have a HTC dia
    ond and get a signal when the phone is on the seat. Will this work on the Iphone?

    Peter - August 25th, 2009
  36. Hey guys any word on the car kit? It should be coming soon since it was just approved by the FCC I hope.

    John - September 1st, 2009
    • I suspect it is about three weeks away from being released.

      Tim - September 1st, 2009
  37. TomTom now says the Car Kit has been delayed a couple of weeks and will be available in October. Looks like we’ve got approx 6 weeks to go.

    Tim - September 3rd, 2009
  38. I understand that at Apple’s insistence, the car kit will be made compatible with all navigation apps in the AppStore. Is that correct?

    gatorguy - September 3rd, 2009
    • I’m not sure, gatorguy. It might be unchartered waters– I can’t think of any other hardware accessories sold that are dependent on an application for functionality. Most iPhone/iPod hardware accessories are generic and work with any application that supports whatever it is the hardware does. Perhaps Apple doesn’t want confusion. Either way, I’d see it is neutral from TomTom’s perspective– while they would like people using their app, people purchasing their hardware for any use might be welcome by them too.

      But it would almost have to work independently of the app– if you take a call while in the app and go back to the phone app then the Bluetooth/speaker/mic would still need to function.

      So conceivably you might be able to purchase an iPod Touch (without any cellular networking nor GPS), purchase the Navigon app, and purchase the TomTom Car Kit and the whole thing would presumably work.

      Tim - September 3rd, 2009
      • I get the sense that Tomtom and Apple had a falling out of sorts. In their financial call, they couldn’t commit to selling the mount in Apple Stores, just on the tomtom.com site. And now they are just selling it on the tomtom.com site. Given that it is a pure bluetooth-connected mount with no patented apple connectors, perhaps Tomtom will find a way to restrict the hardware to the Tomtom app.

        There are probably bitter battles going on behind the scenes about map updating fees, commissions, methods, etc. And similar sharing of fees on traffic subscriptions. Apple likes to have tight controls (along with commissions) over the purchase process, and that’s a departure from how Tomtom runs the rest of its subscription business.

        mvl - September 4th, 2009
        • The mount has the patented apple connector. If you check a picture of the mount, you can see it in the at the bottom. This is how it is also charging the phone.

          David - September 9th, 2009
  39. Believe it or not, the main selling point for TomTom to me has always been (through my Palm and WinMo phones) the fact that it’s John Cleese giving me directions. Most of the voices just annoy me, I’m not a fan of the one in Navigon, but give me Cleese and I’m happy.

    I really hope that they put out some voice packs for this app.

    fnord - September 4th, 2009
  40. Hi folks. I am going to be Mr. Switzerland as I have both of these apps on my iPhone. I prefer to use the Tom Tom because in my situation it doesn’t lose the signal as much as the Navigon does. I also love the iQ routes. The TT uses less memory (not disk space) than the Navigon so with my jail broken iPhone I’m able to minimize TT and use other apps. I’ve had difficulty doing that with Navigon. I also like the ease of modifying the route with TT. If I want to avoid a part of the route, it is very easy to do. Not so with Navigon. I do think that we’re seeing a horse race here and Navigon has certainly taken an early lead. Over the long run, I do think TT will have TTS and a better overall interface. For now though, I prefer the TT but Navigon really does have a beautiful screen and icons and fluidness too. I just can’t hear the directions and I find the flexibility with TT much easier. For me, when I do need navigation, I click on the TT icon and not Navigon. That may change in the future. Definitely tough decisions. It is truly a shame they can’t design these programs so they have an expiration date so that you can demo them. They do that with software online. I guess it may have something to do with the revenue sharing scheme they have with Apple that prevents demos and such.

    Dave Windsor - September 13th, 2009
  41. FWIW, Navigon has released free update 1.2 which added TTS among some other features. It’s reported to be very understandable and a bit louder by users.

    gatorguy - September 14th, 2009
    • I use the Navigon app and feel that Tim’s assessments are fair. With the 1.2 upgrade the ipod control and TTS that many people have wanted are there. I’ve found that with TTS turned on the voice volume is not as loud and the voice is quite different. I’ve tried it bot ways and realize I prefer it with TTS off. The standard voice directions are timely enough that I generally don’t need the street name. A quick glance at the screen will also give you that street name. I compare this app to my stand alone TT 930 and it compares very well, even doing some things better. My one complaint is that street names and icons can be hard to read, but so many other things work so well that it’s just an annoyance. On my 930 the screen is not as bright as I’ve seen Garmins to be. That’s a similar annoyance for me.

      The IQ routes from TT are certainly a nice feature but there are many devices in use out there without this and I believe most people are happy with what they have. For me Navigon’s app has been so useful that I’m quite satisfied with it as it is and only a traffic service would make it more useful.

      John P - September 14th, 2009
  42. TomTom Car Kit Availability

    Tim - September 24th, 2009
  43. TomTom iPhone App 1.1 has been released.

    Tim - October 16th, 2009
  44. Hi I have tomtom iphone app plus the tomtom car kit does anyone know how to test for signal strength using the car kit as it does not seem to make any difference ( i may have a faulty one) thanks

    tim - October 26th, 2009
  45. The new version of the TomTom iPhone app includes iPod Touch compatibility.

    Tim - November 18th, 2009
  46. So far so good. I downloaded the iphone app v1.2 last night and tried it today. Everything worked well. I do wish I had a car adapter to mount my iphone but I am waiting for the new Magellan mount to come out since it looks to adjust to the phone. Hopefully next month!

    Voice prompts work well, Advanced Lane Giudance looks good. My only issue is I lost the signal twice since I had to keep it on my seat for now.

    Great product!

    Dave - November 19th, 2009
  47. TomTom App
    I have a iPhone 3G bought in February 2009. Bought TomTom US and Canada when it first came out and have been using the turn by turn through my car speakers while listening to the iPod. Wed 11/18/08 TomTom updated their app. Now my TomTom App no longer works. Had I known the App would stop working I never would have updated it. Their car kit is out, I’m I being forced to buy the car kit. My phone has GPS Chip and doesn’t come under their warning. I don’t understand what’s going on. I did re-download the app and reboot the phone. Now that it’s Thanksgiving week and I need the GPS for travel, it no longer works, what’s up with that. Please advise potential consumers to hold off purchasing TomTom App until this problems has been resolved.
    “Cheryl”

    Cheryl - November 20th, 2009
    • The update that came out this week has worked fine for me. Try deleting the app from your phone, rebooting the phone, and then resyncing the app from iTunes. Why are you “forced” to buy the car kit?

      Tim - November 20th, 2009
    • Cheryl,

      I just downloaded the new app on 11/18 as well. This was a new purchase. I have had no issues with it (iphone 3GS). As Tim mentioed, try to delete it and reload it to your phone.

      You do not need the car kit to use this. I personally wish I did have one just for convenience, but you can just leave your iphone on the seat next to you also.

      The updates give a lot better functionality. You will love it!

      Dave - November 20th, 2009
  48. Hello, For those of you who were previous owners of the TomTom App for iPhone, and received the update on or around 11/18/09, I was able to document with Apple that the App was unable to reset itself causing the booting issue/ timing out/ App unable to open. I went into the Apple store and had them take a look at the problem. If you had a problem booting the App after the update to the current V.1.2, version 8,150 North America English. Try these steps to reset the App.
    Go the settings on the iPhone 3G, General, international, regional format, select another country, tap home button, go back to settings, general, international and reselect united States, tap the home button, this should reset the App. My App is working as it should now. I’m relieved.

    Cheryl - November 21st, 2009
  49. Can I listen to the radio or the NPR app while using the TT app with the input through my radio or will the car kit make the phone loud enough to listen without the car radio

    amy - March 21st, 2010
  50. This app just came out with an update that added Google search like you were talking about. SO MUCH BETTER. You may want to update. I got the app with $30 off during christmas, and it has definitely been worth it. Driving around in LA, it’ll bug out at times, and send me in the wrong direction, but its rare, and quickly corrects itself. But for the price, its great at getting me from point A to point B. Iphone 3gs

    carlos - April 27th, 2010
  51. I am heading to europe in a couple of weeks. If I download the tomtom app for my iphone, do I need a data plan to have full functionality, or does the system work without a data plan. Does the gps on the phone track my position on the downloaded maps without internet connection (data plan)

    thanks

    Gus - August 4th, 2010
  52. Yes it will work w/o a data plan using the GPS chip inherent to the HW.

    Mike DeQuardo - August 4th, 2010
  53. I bought the Tom Tom iPhone app in November of 2010 to run on my iPhone 4, because PC Magazine had awarded it the Editor’s Choice (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2362385,00.asp). I don’t know anything about other iPhone GPS apps, so the Tom Tom may well be the best one, but I have pretty much reverted to using Google Maps instead.

    Some shortcomings of the Tom Tom iPhone app as it now stands ( v1.6, February, 2011):

    1. The display purports to include the name of the street you will next turn onto and the distance until that turn, but in fact, it often does not. At apparently random times, it decides you need to “turn” (really a kind of jog) onto the same road you are already on. This kind of turn really just means to not leave the road you are on. Combined with the distance provided, the meaning of such a jog (not actually written out or spoken this way) is something like “do not exit this freeway in 2.6 miles.” So what the display tells you is that the street you will next turn onto is the one you are already on, and the distance to that turn, in this example, would be 2.6 miles. If you want to know what comes after that, it takes several menu selections on the screen. Then you can view a screen containing the directions in list form. This marginally helpful screen lists all these little jogs onto the same road as turns you need to make, and the list does not provide distances from your current location, only from the previous turn. So you have to add up all the “jog” distances to figure out how far one turn is from the next actual turn, and you have no way of knowing how far that turn is from where you are at the moment.

    2. The voice guidance does not include street names, just “turn right in 400 yards,” or, later, “turn right.” Or, worse: “Ahead, keep left, then keep right and get on the left lane.” This vague type of guidance creates uncertainty, difficulties in traffic, and wrong turns.

    3. You cannot scroll the map displayed during guidance. You can zoom out or in, but in order to get to a map you can actually scroll, for example to see what the route ahead looks like, you need another several selections on the screen to bring up a scrollable map.

    4. Real time traffic reporting costs extra with the Tom Tom but is free in Google Maps (which is entirely free).

    Maybe these would not be problems for you, but for me it means the GPS is useless without another person to consult and interpret it while I drive, and even then it’s a constant struggle to figure out what I really need to know on the fly—much more so than using Google Maps, which isn’t even really a GPS system and admittedly has its own serious shortcomings. But Google Maps doesn’t claim to be a GPS—and it’s free, anyway. As I said, maybe the Tom Tom really is the best iPhone GPS app available–I can’t say–but it doesn’t work for me.

    Mel Raff - February 5th, 2011
    • 1. I haven’t seen that happen myself, I see the next street name.

      2. Make sure you have selected a voice labeled “computer”, otherwise you won’t get TTS.

      4. However you just see the colors on the Google map, it doesn’t tell you what the time delay is nor will it alter the route based on the traffic. That is what you get by paying for it… auto re-routing based on the estimated delays to find the fastest route.

      Tim - February 7th, 2011



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