TomTom on the iPhone

August 24, 2009 at 6:47 pm Leave a comment

I picked up TomTom for my iPhone this weekend and tried it out today.  A few observations.  First, the bad:

1.  The battery gets seriously drained using TomTom.  After using it on the way to work (15-20 minute trip), my battery was down to under 50% (probably started around 70-75% of a full charge).  Lightly using my iPhone for phone calls, web surfing, etc and I was down to 20%.  Using TomTom when driving home put my down to almost nothing.
2. It doesn’t make the GPS tracking built into the iPhone any better.  It occasionally showed me hopping to adjacent roads, which started it recalculating the route.  It also seems to assume that I’m continuing on forward sometimes when I have come to a stop light, which also causes re-routing to occur.
3. Listening to a podcast interfered with the driving directions.  I could hear the podcast and it would pause when TomTom should have been giving me driving directions, but there were no directions.  The podcast then continued after a few moments, abruptly.
4. It doesn’t speak the road names.  Not a super-big deal to me, but I’ve never used a GPS that does, so perhaps I don’t know what I’m missing.

The Good:

1. Selection of voices is nice.  I was a bit shocked to see just how many you had to pick from that spoke English.  I wouldn’t be surprised if TomTom comes out with Voice Packs that you can buy and install from within the application itself.
2. Speed Limits – It has a database of speed limits and lets you know (by lighting up a small portion of the display in red) if you are speeding.  Unfortunately, a stretch of road I was travelling today had the speed limits changed about a  year or so ago, and TomTom still thought the old limits were in effect.  This is a very nice feature though!
3. Easy to Navigate the app – It seems pretty straight forward to use.  Rotating the view works well.
4. POI Database seems pretty up-to-date (not that I’ve used it extensively yet).  The ability to call a POI from directly within the app is a nice touch too.

Jury is still out:

1. IQ Routes – Sounds like a really good feature.  I can’t say whether it’s any good yet or not, as I seem to have IQ Routes built into my brain.  (It basically suggested the same way I already drive to get to and from work, but then I go there every day)
2. Map data – I was disappointed that the map data for the I-95/I-10 interchange wasn’t completely up-to-date.  To be fair, though, it is still under construction, but it is such a major interchange, I’d think they’d keep it very updated.  They do have a major mall that was put in within about the last two years, so they aren’t too badly out-of-date.  Can’t say if this is bad or good yet.  I don’t know how the competition lines up here, since I’ve only tried G-Map.  I also don’t know if TomTom is planning to put out Map updates on a regular basis as free updates, or if they plan to put a “store” within the TomTom app to let you buy updates.

So, I think my #1 and #2 Bad issues, battery life and GPS tracking, will probably be addressed by the TomTom accessory, and #3 and #4 should be able to be addressed in software.  Honestly, though, I don’t see how any software can compensate for the relatively poor GPS chip that’s built into the phone, so this is probably one area that TomTom has their competitors beat, as I’ve not heard of any other GPS maker that is planning a hardware accessory to address this issue.  If TomTom can just get this unit shipping at a price that doesn’t break the bank!

Personally, I think that TomTom would best benefit from getting out of the standalone unit business.  As more and more people see that you can get basic GPS with an application on a phone, fewer people are likely to be interested in the standalone hardware.  Not to mention that they probably make more profit selling an iPhone app (even after Apple’s 30% cut) than they make from selling a $129 standalone GPS unit.

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Entry filed under: iPhone.

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