TomTom iPhone App
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.
I’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.