TomTom’s Car Kit for iPhone – A Jack of All Trades

November 10, 2009 at 9:50 pm Leave a comment

I picked up a TomTom Car Kit tonight at my local Apple store.  It’s truly a Jack of All Trades, combining the functions of a mount, a charger, a hands-free bluetooth speakerphone, and an enhanced GPS chip.  One thing it is not:  Cheap.

I’ve been waiting for over a year to get a hands-free solution for my car.  I’ve looked at several bluetooth headsets, but have held off buying them because they each had some sort of shortcoming.

I’ve read that the JawBone, for example, works great, but there are sometimes fit issues, plus the idea of having to charge the headset seemed less than optimal since I wanted to use it pretty much exclusively in my car.  That, and the price tag seemed a bit steep.

I’ve looked at the various Parrot brand car kits as well.  They are supposed to be great units, but require some hard wiring, and are pricey.  The low end unit attaches to the cigarette lighter and has it’s own speaker, but it’s reported to be fairly low quality, while retaining about an $80 price tag.

I have an iGo charger and tip for my iPhone.  I think the tip for the iPhone was about $10.  I don’t recall the cost of the cable itself, but it was probably $5 to $10.

For a trip that I recently went on, we bought a Griffin Window Seat.  This is basically a mount with attachments to work with an original iPhone, an iPod Touch, or a iPhone 3G (or 3GS, since the body shape is the same).  It has no charging capability, and you can’t use any sort of case with it.  (It was fine for our trip, since it was almost solely used with an iPod Touch to play Sesame Street for our 20 month old when he started getting cranky, which can happen on a 13 hour drive.)  This mount is on the clunky side, but works.  It runs about $30.

We mostly used Navigon’s iPhone app on our trip.  We used it pretty much daily to get around the Washington DC area.  It performed pretty well, but occasionally we’d lose GPS lock.  Fortunately, this never happened at a time that we needed to turn.  Sometimes we’d come to a stop light and, while waiting for the light to change, it would adjust our position backwards, then it presumed we had turned around.  I believe our most common issue was that it would jump from the road we were driving on to a neighboring road.  In both of these last two cases, it would attempt to re-route us until it realized where we really were, which sometimes took far longer than you’d expect.  In familiar areas, this re-routing isn’t a big deal, but it is when you are very unaware of the local roads.

In my initial quick test of the TomTom Car Kit, I used it for a phone call and was happy with the speaker volume.  I was not at highway speed, though, so this may yet have issues.  I’m impressed with the GPS tracking in my limited testing.  I only used it for a short trip, but it tracked my position with much better accuracy than my iPhone alone.  It seemed to tell me to turn sooner than my iPhone alone, and reacted faster when I intentionally turned opposite to the directions Navigon gave me.  I’ll try to use it over the next few days and plan to post again with any issues I run into, if I run into any.  Oh – Note that I’m using it with Navigon, not the TomTom application.  It appears that the iPhone will prefer the TomTom GPS chip over it’s own.

At any rate, it’s not cheap, but considering that it provides similar functionality to a $30 mount, an $80 speakerphone car kit, a $15-$20 charger, and enhanced GPS (don’t have a comparable dollar value), I’d say it’s a reasonable deal if you want all this functionality wrapped up in one device.


Entry filed under: iPhone.

Mac OS X, Flash Games, and non-admin accounts TomTom Car kit update

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