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TomTom iPhone App

Note: You can now read our review of the TomTom iPhone App. This is an older archived news story.

We’ve done a lot of speculating about an app from TomTom for the iPhone. Today we find out that it is indeed real. They will also sell an optional accessory as a car mount that looks quite a bit like the current EasyPort mount. The Car Kit for the iPhone provides a microphone and speaker, as well as a 1/8″ line out jack to send audio from your iPhone to your car stereo. You will be able to get it with both national and international maps later this summer.

So what do we know about this app so far? TomTom is not commenting publicly about any features not shown in the demos quite yet. But there is quite a bit that we do know, and a bit else we will speculate about. First, here is a little teaser TomTom put together.

tomtom-iphone-appI’m pretty glad that the Car Kit uses a line-out and not an FM Transmitter. While the latter works without wires, and not all vehicles can accept line-in, FM transmitters are typically junk. The Car Kit will also have its own speaker to out-power the iPhone’s own speaker as well as a microphone to handle hands-free calling. The Car Kit is not a requirement however, the app will work fine without it.

The app will also presumably be very “iPhone-like”. The map can be zoomed in or out on by the standard iPhone “pinch” gestures, menus will swipe, and double taps are contextually recognized.

Unlike many other mobile phone based applications, the iPhone’s maps will be “on board” and not served “over the air”. So if you are out in the boonies without phone reception, you will still have maps. Map updates will also be made available, however the pricing and method of receiving those updates have not yet been disclosed. But TomTom will still need to work within the structure of the App Store’s update model. So we can make some guesses about how that might work.

My guess… and this is only a guess… is that you might purchase the application by “year” and routine application updates as well as one year of map updates will be included in the price. Down the road if you wanted to update the app or the maps you would purchase a new version of the application. In other words it might be difficult for them to deliver application updates for bug fixes independently of map updates, rather than forcing the user to purchase a separate application. Again… this is purely speculation on my part.

Other features like Text To Speech (TTS) have not been confirmed if they are in or if they are out. However the live demo used the voice “Laurie” which is not a TTS voice. Perhaps this was done because the non-TTS voices are clearer, or perhaps the feature will not be included. We shall wait and see.

We also don’t know yet if the application will take advantage of the iPhone’s data connection for things like MapShare updates, traffic reports, or updated fuel prices. There are lots of possibilities here including using iPhones running the app as probe data for the TomTom Traffic product.

TomTom doesn’t appear to have been given access to any additional APIs that are not available to other iPhone developers. Therefore we can make some assumptions about how certain features might work. For example in the current OS you can pull up a tune from the iPod application, play it, then continue using other applications. If you pull up another application with audio, then two different things can happen depending on the app. Pull up something with video and the iPod audio stops. But some apps like games allow background audio (from the iPod) to override and continue playing… I suspect that is what will happen.

The same goes for incoming calls while navigating. TomTom doesn’t appear to have any special access to undocumented APIs, so you can expect the same thing to happen as when a call comes in and you are using another app. The app will ask if you want to take the call (which exits the app) or if you want to deny the call and continue using the app. If you take the call, you can typically return to the app while on the call at which point the TomTom iPhone app would presumably recalculate the route and resume navigation.

The list of seemingly confirmed features are the basic TomTom features. Night colors, 2D/3D maps, advanced planning, calling POIs, favorites, route types for fastest, shortest, avoid highways, bicycle routes, and walking routes. The walking routes feature could be particularly useful, although the iPhone’s built in Maps application does that as well.

And of course… pricing and a release date are yet to be confirmed as well. My best guess? I’d say the application would be around $49-$59 if no map updates are included. If you get one year of maps then perhaps $79-$99 for the app. As to the Car Kit, my guess would be around $79-$99. But this is just a wild guess on my part and with many features without confirmation it is difficult to predict.

44 Responses

  1. The car dock looks like it might actually work with certain iPhone cases, very exciting. There has been a real lack of support for car docks and cables that do both charging and audio line. This one will do that and more – microphone too!

    R Grace - June 10th, 2009
    • I don’t think this will replace true GPS yet, because the iPhone uses towers to triangulate your position, like the way Lowran A and C used to for boaters, whereas GPS uses Satellites and REPLACED Lowran.
      As a matter of fact, a friend and I saw just how flawed the iphone is, when we were up in Montauk on Sunday. It lost the bottom, third tower’s signal, and was only pulling from Connecticut towers, and Rhode Island. So it though we were in Stonington, CT, rather than right next to the light house!

      Long Islander - August 18th, 2009
      • “Long Islander” — see our policy about names. Your comment isn’t correct. The iPhone does use tower triangulation to help assist with first determining your location, however it does primarily connect with the GPS satellites for position information. Want to test it? Take your iPhone to a location where there is no cell service. The GPS functions on the iPhone will continue to work fine.

        Tim - August 18th, 2009
  2. According to Apple, this will work with the iPod touch as well as the iPhone (including the original iPhone) and will extend the capability of the built in core location manager. This will allow all location aware apps to use the accurate GPS location from the TomTom hardware. This confirms rumors of this prior to WWDC which indicated that there is support in the iPhone OS 3.0 for the TomTom and a few other GPS receivers.

    Mark - June 12th, 2009
  3. I think we can forget about text-to-speech on this release. That is a huge selling point for GPS devices, and TomTom would have touted that without a doubt if had been a feature of their app.
    You are “pretty glad that the Car Kit uses a line-out and not an FM Transmitter”? I would be “pretty glad” if it used a quality FM transmitter – they do exist. The line-out configuration means that I (and many other drivers) have no reason to even consider buying TomTom’s accessory.
    People keep talking about a $50 app. What I worry may happen is that $50 will be the price for the app only, and maps will be extra. TomTom’s website right now sells the North America map for $90. How is it that they will sell the app for less than the price of a map?
    As far as on-board maps go, those things are 2gb! That’s quite a chunk of memory for anyone with a 8 or 16gb device. I hope TomTom has learned from xGPS. Their (free) jail-break GPS program allows you to download only the maps you need to your device. So if you are in Houston, you can just keep southeast TX maps on your device. If traveling from Houston to LA, you can just download TX, NM, AZ, and CA, or even just the 100 miles of map on either side of your planned route. Hopefully TomTom has taken memory into account.

    Michael Sanchez - June 14th, 2009
    • I think there are a lot of features TomTom is considering and working on that were not shown in the demo… Things like traffic services, fuel prices, etc all make sense on this platform.

      As to the FM transmitter, most of the time they don’t work extremely well. Having a line-out gives you to the option of adding one if you would like. If you don’t want to use the line out to an FM transmitter or don’t want to use the line out then the speaker in the Car Kit will still work.

      The price you quoted for a map update is for a single map update. If you purchase them quarterly they are as cheap as $9.85 per map. Also consider that the TomTom ONE 125 is $99 from many retailers and the most expensive part of a GPS package is the touch screen.

      Tim - June 15th, 2009
      • I disagree. I have the monster FM transmitter and it works great. Not to say that many FM transmitters are not crap, but they do not HAVE to be. A number of them work quite well and are the only “universal” way to work in all cars.

        vividvew - July 19th, 2009
  4. @Mark You said TomTom hardware. Did you mean software, or are you saying that the iPhone would actually be able to exchange data with a TomTom device? I know that the new OS will restore the iPhone’s BT capabilities (really restoring them to what they were before Apple disabled most BT features shortly after iPhone 2.0 was released – don’t be fooled people, you are buying your stolen stuff back from the pawn shop). I wonder if the new OS will allow data connections with existing TomTom devices.

    Michael - June 14th, 2009
  5. Even though at this point price discussion is pure guesswork, there is GPS software for PocketPC phones from Garmin, that may indicate some sort of pricing sturucture. The Garmin XT software is actually a free download, and you pay for teh maps, whcih can be found for around $80 for Nrth America. This software does bring up one of teh shortcomings of the iPhone, no external memory card. If it had a swappable MicroSD, you could put all of north America on a 16GB and still have loads of additional space, without tying up memory that you may use for more frequent uses than GPS.

    scott - June 15th, 2009
  6. Two things I wanted to point out:

    iPhone OS 3.0 brings changes to the way the App Store works, it now supports the ability to purchase additional content from within the application, i.e. purchasing new levels for a game, or, in this case, maps!

    Also, I suspect that this iPhone dock from TomTom does NOT contain a GPS receiver at all, but rather that the “enhanced GPS performance” they refer to is simply marketing speak for “hey, turns out you get better reception when your iPhone is plastered to your windshield, rather than buried in your back pocket.”

    Carl - June 16th, 2009
    • Carl, good point about the differences in how the App Store works under 3.0. I’d forgot about that and you are correct– that would provide some interesting ways of purchasing maps as well as things like traffic services and fuel prices.

      As to the dock and the GPS chip, TomTom has said to me that there is in fact an actual GPS chip inside the Car Kit. They said that when docked, the app will pretty much exclusively use the chip inside the car kit for position information and largely ignore the location information coming from the iPhone.

      Tim - June 16th, 2009
  7. The apps coming out for the iPhone are exciting.
    I have a dilemma though, I have a head unit in my car that will play my itunes library from an iPod or iphone, Its also bluetooth handsfree so i can get my phone calls while driving.
    Now i would really like the Tom Tom app on my iphone but will it all work together?….the answer is no im guessing.
    Now I could probably use the new iPhone with bluetooth with my hands free kit (finally hope it works) and still have the tom tom app running nicely, but i would still have to have an ipod unit in my car to have the music i want.
    So i am resigned to still having 3 devices in my car for the time being a phone with bluetooth that works a Tom Tom sat nav and an ipod in the dash.
    Oh well i guess it’s the though that counts….lol.

    Zach Shaw - June 17th, 2009
    • I thought that the Tom Tom “kit” had a microphone for hands free calling, and the iPhone would mute the GPS volume for an incomong or outgoing call. I also think you might just be able to use the Tom Tom software, without the kit, and your bluetooth headset and iPod/iPhone music connection for all three uses from just the iPhone (or at least theoretically).

      scott - June 17th, 2009
      • I’m not sure TomTom has really spelled out how all of that will work, but you are correct Scott that the Car Kit does have a microphone.

        I’ve had more questions about things like map updates, fuel price subscriptions, etc. My guess is to think about it like this. One of the new features available in iPhone OS 3.0 is for application developers to do what is called “in-app” purchasing. In other words you could perhaps get a free program like the Amazon Kindle app and then purchase supplemental products for that app from within the app– and not be bypassing the App Store purchasing system which is against the rules.

        So I’d say there is a very strong possibility that you will get the TomTom app first. Then, within the TomTom app you would then purchase things like maps, possibly fuel price subscriptions, or map updates.

        That wouldn’t have been possible before the iPhone 3.0 OS release, but will be available now. The supplemental “in-app” purchases still go through the App Store, and extend the capabilities of the app.

        Tim - June 17th, 2009
  8. Absolutely your bluetooth device should work if it has the A2DP bluetooth profile. That is one of the features included in 3.0. It will allow all sound (music, calls, application sounds) to be transmitted wirelessly through bluetooth to any capable stereo bluetooth device, such as bluetooth enabled car stereos and headphones like the Motorola S9. It should be just the same as if it were plugged in to the headphone jack. In fact, A2DP will allow compatible devices to work as a remote – answering and ending calls, pausing, fast forward, rewind, forward and backward track skipping, even redial. And for people with the iPhone 3gs (not just 3.0 software), in theory they should be able to push a button on the S9 headphones allowing them to make voice command calls.

    It bears repeating that A2DP is not and advanced feature, nor is it new. Windows devices (even the old-school original Blackjack) and mobile phones (like the first Motorola Razr) have been capable of all the features above (except voice control of music – voice dial worked great) for several years. In fact, you can use A2DP to make calls and type texts from your Mac wirelessly connected to a A2DP phone. Of course, the iPhone was not compatible (?!).

    Here’s the best part. A2DP was a functional feature of iPhone 2.0 software. Apple disabled it during the first firmware update. That is like buying a truck with 4 wheel drive, taking it in for service, and leaving with 2 wheel drive. The service writer says “oh yea, Ford doesn’t support 4wd on that truck any more. But we are coming out with a new truck next year that will have it! You should buy that one!”

    Michael - June 17th, 2009
  9. Dumbfounded.
    A2DP is crippled in OS3.0. Absolutely stripped. Stereo sound works. But no control of music except volume (and so listening to music in TomTom app is going to be affected). As before, every time you want to change tracks while jogging, you will still have to take your iPhone out of your arm band and put your sweaty little hands all over it, dirtying up the screen and activating the moisture detection device. And oh yea, the iPhone is still not compatible with the OSX bluetooth. That’s right, our sexy little future-phones aren’t capable of doing things that mobile phones have been doing for years.
    And as for the lack voice command for iPhone 3G devices, it is not processor speed as Apple claims. There are $49 flip phones with voice control.

    Apple AMAZES me. They have the potential to be a great brand, but they sabotage themselves every time. Do they not see that it’s possible to be cool AND practical?

    Michael - June 18th, 2009
    • “9.Dumbfounded.
      A2DP is crippled in OS3.0. Absolutely stripped. Stereo sound works. But no control of music except volume”

      Really? It works fine with my car sound system. I can skip tracks etc directly from the cars touchscreen interface. Play, pause etc., about the only thing I can’t do is adjust the volume via the iphone. I’m of to check it out with OSX now! In what way is it stripped down Michael?

      Andy - June 29th, 2009
  10. @Michael

    Again, according to a slide at Apple’s presentation on Core Location at WWDC and consistent with information extracted from the 3.0 firmware prior to the conference, the TomTom GPS hardware will enhance Core Location’s accuracy. This is what they mean by “enhanced” GPS. If Core Location is more accurate, that will allow all Apple and third party applications to be more accurate as well. The TomTom connects to the iPhone via the standard dock connector so I fully expect this to work with all current iPhones and iPod Touches.

    Mark - June 22nd, 2009
  11. It is my understanding that the doc does not have a gps chip but a gps antenna to improve the signal.

    Wuh - June 22nd, 2009
  12. “Apple AMAZES me. They have the potential to be a great brand, but they sabotage themselves every time.”

    The potential? Are you serious? Apple IS a great brand, even their products are greatbrands in and of themselves: Mac, iPod and iPhone. You can’t deny their branding, it’s extremely well executed. So much so, that despite shortcomings, they sell iPods and iPhones by the millions. THAT is what it means to have a great brand.

    mike - June 23rd, 2009
  13. I am currently using the Navgon app on my iPhone and it works quite well but no where near as smooth as i have seen TomTom work on my friends windows mobile. Wish TomTom would hurry up with this release, they have known for months when the 3.0 update would be out so how have they managed to let themselves be beaten to the punch?

    John - June 24th, 2009
  14. I appreciate we are only speculating but……So in a nutshell will I be able to kick off a music playlist, then go to Tomtom and listen to both my music and hear Tomtom announcements as I drive. If so this will actually be a good selling point, and will make me buy one over a dedicated device. It will mean an end to messing around with my iphone as I drive – changing tracks, which is not safe (as its going to be harder to change tracks etc). So a safety feature for me. But if it won’t do music and Tomtom at the same time, I need to drop the idea of the ipod Tomtom.

    Jol Spencer - July 20th, 2009
    • Yes, I think it is a very safe bet to say that you will be able to play music from a playlist, then fire up the TomTom app and drive along and the voice prompts will interrupt the music when applicable.

      Tim - July 20th, 2009
      • Thanks Tim.

        Jol Spencer - July 20th, 2009
  15. Hi, tomtom out in the appstore now, just wondering if anyone has purchased it and what there first thoughts are. I have a tomtom one xl, and am loathed to ditch it for the iphone. though the idea of the iphone being able to do all that is pretty good. past experience of the gps capabilities of the iphone 3gs are not very good, on several occasaions it has put me about 3 miles away from where i was. i actually tried this on two 3gs iphones, side by side, and the result was the same.. suggests to me then that it could have been the google maps app that was not playing ball.. has anyone else had similar experiences.. sorry i am UK based.


    Yurov - August 17th, 2009
  16. $99 is way too expensive for an iphone app. At that price, it should include the car accessory kit. I’ll wait for the price to go down, or for a competitor to release a comparable app at a more reasonable price.

    Karen - August 17th, 2009
  17. You can now read our review of the TomTom iPhone App.

    Tim - August 17th, 2009
  18. This is so cool!! I’ve been waiting for the TomTom app for so long; wonder how soon I can purchase the car kit for it? I have to say – I really feel the iPhone has become THE go-to device for me.

    Rob Brennan - August 17th, 2009
  19. Looks like they have some bugs to work out.


    Rick - August 19th, 2009
    • That is a horrible test. First, all of the iPhone apps use the same hardware (the iPhone 3G or 3Gs) and use the same location APIs made available from Apple. So there is virtually nothing one app developer can do to get a faster, or more accurate signal versus any other developer.

      Second, the guy started from a cold app boot. GPS can take a minute or so to get a good satellite fix which he didn’t let happen. Third, the guy immediately started driving– GPS works better at getting an accurate signal when you wait a few seconds before driving off. It has a harder initially finding your correct position while you are moving. Third, he was surrounded by tall buildings which introduces multipath errors and can make it harder to find your correct position, especially with the weaker chipset in the iPhone.

      Every iPhone app (and even many traditional PNDs) will exhibit the same behavior under those conditions. I’ve seen a similar thing happen as in that video with the TomTom app just as I’ve seen the same thing happen with the Navigon app, iGo app, etc. The TomTom application itself isn’t at fault for what was shown in that video.

      Tim - August 20th, 2009
      • Yesterdays experience from the Tomtom Application was very much like Rick’s for me. Except I had my older brother with me in the car giving me a hard time for being a sucker for bying this. However, before I try to get my money back, I will try to give Tim’s advice above a fair chance to take effect today.
        I also wonder if there i some sort of “signalenhancer” to buy (as you probably can tell, I’m a beginner at using the GPS).

        Stefan - October 16th, 2009
        • Yes, the TomTom “Car Kit” has its own full-fledged GPS chip inside the mount that provides a much better signal to the phone than the phone’s internal GPS chip.

          Tim - October 16th, 2009
  20. Hi, I’ve just purchased TomTom’s Apple app. I am using Jailbroken Iphone 3G and after 2 days of testing I am quite happy with TomTom. Route planner works very quickly and accurate, graphics are good, intuitive and user friendly interface 🙂 ! There are of course some buts …
    1. Route planner shows car position from few seconds earlier, which in normal city traffic means appr. 100-200 meters late. It’s not a big deal , but irritating and requires some training.
    2. When entering street number it is not possible to enter letters i.e 154 E is not an address to be found and located … well 154 is close enough.
    3. It takes some time to start the app – again not a big problem but ..
    4. Car kit is not yet available – I see it as great advantage to get better gps positioning as well as a hands-free car solution and of course … iPhone music in car stereo – Spotify app !
    I’ve tried 3 other GPS apps for iPhone and TomTom is by far the best and the most expensive one :-), but cost saving is on roaming charges – TomTom maps are downloaded to the iPhone.

    Raf - September 10th, 2009
  21. I have recently been working away over much of the uk, i purchased the iphone app tomtom thinking it would easily cope with my needs, i have never used such a waste of time app in my life the tomtom app could hardly ever give me an accurate position sometimes as much as 50- 100 metres away on a completely different road, in towns and tree lined roads then forget it, it didn’t have a clue where i was. tried it outside and not in car just the same,hardly any signal very dissapointed going to try to get my money back from Apple selling an app that is useless, maybe works with car kit that isn’t released yet, won’t pair up to a bluetooth holux gps reciever at all, going back to my trusty wm6 device that even works indoors with tomtom

    sean - September 11th, 2009
  22. I have Question i just got this app , using my j/Break iphone 3G i don’t have Data on my iphone , is my tom tom still works ?/
    i know this is really stupid question but if someone tell me .,
    Thank you in Advance
    email reply please please

    CareFull - September 11th, 2009
  23. I am from Hong Kong and using iphone now. I wonder if I purchase this Tomtom GPS app and buy the map, can I bring my iphone and use the GPS in North America? Will it charge in roaming or talk minute? I always travel to US, Canada and Europe. It is a great app if it can use when I travel. Please reply. Thank you in advance.

    Joey - December 1st, 2009
    • I live here in the states and from my understanding, you won’t incur roaming charges for using the TomTom app since it works by using the map in the app and GPS device in the iPhone. In other words, it works offline, like a regular GPS device. you can use wifi if you need to update your map and you don’t wish to incur roaming charges from this or any other app.

      Israel - February 13th, 2010
  24. I just got the tomtom app for my iphone. I have been playing with it to see how it all works. Now I have a bunch of recent destinations that it saved and I cannot figure out how to erase them. Can anyone help me?

    mark - December 7th, 2009
  25. I bought the TomTom for the iPhone 3G in August 2009 (version 1.0) and have upgraded to version 1.2. I have had problems getting a strong enough GPS signal – even when outside in clear area WALKING. The Goggle Maps application has no problem getting a good signal. I called TomTom and their statement was “get the TomTom car kit – it doesn’t work well unless you have the car kit.”

    I don’t want a car kit while walking around. The price would be too high for both the TomTom app and the car kit – far more than a better stand-alone GPS. I can’t recommend it (and I tried for many months!).

    Jerry - December 16th, 2009
  26. i have the iphone 3gs and i purchase the tom tom nav for my phone and it keep saying poor gps reception and it did not worked since i purchased it what can i do

    david ware - January 25th, 2010
  27. Does the app not work without GPRS connection!!!???
    I fell cheated!!! Wasted money on an app that does not work!!!

    Daniel - August 16th, 2010
    • Works fine for me without a GPRS connection.

      Tim - August 16th, 2010
  28. The app has been great! It does everything advertised. Question, in the future will you be able to create trips and then download them to the Iphone

    Curt - January 5th, 2011
    • You would have to ask TomTom, but I suspect they will just say that they don’t comment on future features.

      Tim - January 12th, 2011

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