App Review: TomTom New Zealand

TomTom fo iPhone available now

TomTom for iPhone available now

Well, we’ve had a chance to put it through it’s paces and here it is, the first review of the TomTom iPhone App.

This app needs no introduction and  I would suggest that most people have heard of TomTom. They are quite the household name when it comes to Turn-by-Turn navigation and finally the wait is over, from what feels like such a long time ago when it was announced at WWDC in June.

First things first, price. TomTom for iPhone will set you back $119.99, that’s $35 more than it’s closest competitor Sygic, but are you just paying for a brand name or is it worth the extra money? The TomTom New Zealand app is just that, for your money you only get the New Zealand maps, if you want the Australian maps you are going to be stumping up an extra $104.99, totaling $225 for both sets of maps whereas Sygic will only set you back $84.99. Now if you are not a big traveler it might not make much difference to you, but for people who regularly visit Australia this could be a deal breaker.

When you first enter the app you are presented with a ‘Legal Notice’ which you must accept. This only appears the first time you load the app, subsequent times you are taken to the map, with either your current location or the previous route you had programmed in.

Main Menu

Main Menu

On the main menu there is the normal array of options – Navigate To.., Route Options, Mute/Enable Sound, Day/Night Colours, 2D/3D Map, Advanced Planning, Browse Map, Manage Favourites, Call POI, TomTom car kit and Change settings.

All of these settings are pretty self explanatory, the “TomTom car kit” option at the moment takes you to a page where you can sign up for more info as to when it is coming. We have spoken with MagnumMac and Dick Smith Electronics and neither have any information at the moment. As soon as we hear we will let you know.

Planning a route

Planning a route

Finding an address is pretty straight forward and works well. You can select Home, a POI (point of interest) to go to, a point on the map, an address you choose,  a recent destination or one of your contacts from your iPhone. Once you have selected your destination it takes you to the route summary page where you can set some more options or continue to the map.

When you first go into a map, if it doesn’t have a good reception you will have a ‘greyscale’ map with “Poor GPS Reception” at the bottom. After a few seconds if it finds a good GPS lock it will change to the normal, coloured map.

where for art thou?

where for art thou?

On the map itself you have an ‘i’ button which will take you to the route summary for the current route, a ‘+’ and ‘-’ for zooming, distance to next turn (with arrow), estimated time it will take and expected time of arrival, total distance and your speed shown as xx/xx (i.e 45/50 shows you’re doing 45kph in a 50kph zone).

On the road again...

On the road again...

When pressing the ‘i’ button you are given the route summary and more options for the route you are taking. If you want to go back to the general options tap anywhere else on the screen and you will be taken back to the main menu. When you do this the current navigation continues in the background, allowing you to edit options but retain your current route.

Hitting the 'i' button

Hitting the 'i' button

When entering the ‘i’  you are presented with information of your current route, a live preview map, which auto updates, and an options button. From here you can find an alternative route, view a demo of the route you have selected, clear the current route, view directions in a list and view the map of the route.

Under ‘Find Alternative’ you can Calculate an alternative, Re-calculate the original, avoid roadblocks, choose to “Travel via” (which allows you to add a point on the map) and you can avoid part of the route it has chosen.

Performance:

But how does it perform? Well, after driving around for a few hours this morning, taking wrong routes, listening to music, with cloudy skies above I thought it did pretty well.

It was very accurate, even without the TomTom holder, but on occasion it did “lose” me and told me I was in a field somewhere (still close by though). This happened after I went the wrong way to see what the re-calculation was like. When I stayed on route it had no issues, so this was possibly due to the fact it wasn’t sure what I had done and due to the fact that we had cloudy skies above. It re-calculated pretty quickly though and within a hundred metres or so it was back on track. This is pretty good really, I mean its not often that you will take a different route to the one suggested.

Talking of which, you can choose which route you want to take. By default the app use the “quickest” route. Now this may not be the route you would expect it to take, but it is using TomTom’s “IQ Routes”. IQ Routes calculates routes based on the real average speeds measured on roads every day compared to speed limits. It uses historical data that TomTom users have been adding to over the years and provides a much more accurate “quickest route”. If you select say the shortest route it actually advises you that this may not be your best option.

What, no KITT?

What, no KITT?

You can choose a myriad of voices including ‘Paul’ and ‘Katrina’ from New Zealand, although Katrina sounds a bit scary and robitic in comparison to Paul. My personal favourite would have to be Irish Kathy: you can’t beat a female Irish accent, although I was worried it was gonna send me the wrong way :P

The Voice direction is good, but doesn’t announce street names which is a bit of a shame, although some names around NZ wouldn’t sound right I’d imagine, it would have been a nice option to have.

You can adjust the volume of the voice by tapping the bar at the bottom of the screen. This will bring up a volume slider so you can adjust it to your liking.

Too loud?

Too loud?

The maps themselves are a bit out of date, and considering that this is TomTom I would have expected them to be up to date, especially given the price you pay. This hasn’t posed an issue for me yet but I am sure that for those in some areas, such as the “Te Rapa by Pass” (as noted by psychrn) it will be an annoyance.

Turning corners still has the same issue as Sygic in that it ‘stutters’ and I also noticed when sitting at an intersection it went a bit crazy, but as soon as I started moving again it was fine. It also advised me to “get in the left lane” at one point suggesting it can correctly identify this, although the red line doesn’t show the two lanes in enough detail.

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to use the compass. This to me is a huge let down for the time it has taken to deliver the app and for the fact that it is by such a big GPS company.

What I like possibly the most over Sygic is the fact that when the direction announcements are made it pauses any music you are playing and then starts it again straight after. It doesn’t dim the music it just stops it. This is fine with me, although again it should be an option within the settings as some people may prefer it to continue playing music. You can switch the voice off and in doing so the music will continue playing.

TomTom have also made good use of the accelerometer in that you can use the app when the dock port is on the left or the right. So many apps only let you use the app  one way horizontally.

In terms of getting a GPS lock, it is pretty quick. I would say, in my experience so far, it is quicker than Sygic, but to be honest I never really had an issue with the time Sygic took.

When driving along the GPS lock was accurate and had my location down to a tee (i.e distances from intersections and so forth). The speed limits seem to be accurate from what I can see and on occasion where a road changes from say 50kph to 60kph it got this correct, whereas Sygic gets it wrong occassionally.

Say CHEESE!

Say CHEESE!

The POIs built in are extensive and has everything from airports to embassies, beaches to vets, but I can’t see a place to ‘add your own’ POI which is a shame.  I also like the speed camera warning, it gave me 200 metres warning and alerted me with a beeping sound. As I got closer it continued to warn me and showed me on the map where it was.

Apparently this is what night looks like in Tomtom Land

Apparently this is what night looks like in TomTom Land

You can change the day/night colours the app uses, so if you don’t like the dark blue’s and black’s you could change to ‘Africa’ which turns them green. Personally I like to use ‘Astra’ for night settings which is red and ‘America’ for Day (although the day ones aren’t as big in difference)

My Favourite Night View - Astra

My Favourite Night View - Astra

Overall the TomTom iPhone App has a very good UI, easy to use and (in my opinion) the GPS is more accurate than it’s competitor. This coupled with the “could-be-brilliant” cradle coming soon makes it a huge competitor. Yes, it has some quirks but I like it. Is it worth 120 of your hard earned dollars? Yes. Is it worth it in comparison to Sygic? I still say yes, even though you only get the New Zealand maps. It’s a good all round GPS app that will replace any other GPS Navigation device you have, which will have cost you more than $120.

Hit up the link below to purchase it. If you’ve already done so let us know what you think of it in the comments.

Appstore – New Zealand; $119.99
Appstore – U.S. & Canada; $124.99
Appstore – Western Europe (including UK); $179.99
Appstore – Australia; $104.99

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25 Comments

  1. an@rchos says:

    Many thanks for the early review! Probably among the first in the world!

    I’ve left a link in the MacRumors forum. Expect lots of traffic soon! ;)

    (an@rchos has made 15 comments)

  2. an@rchos says:

    1 question:

    What happens when you receive a call while the app is on?

    (an@rchos has made 15 comments)

  3. psychrn says:

    I agree with the review.

    I havnt used the competitor so I can't comment on that !!

    Wonder how often we will get updates and we will need to find a way to let tomtom know about map updates for instance .

    (psychrn has made 131 comments)

  4. Daniel Burgess says:

    It comes out of the app as normal and then takes you back in where you left off.

  5. rohan says:

    so i wonder if the tom tom mount is just a mount or if it's got any app specific features. otherwise it might be cheaper to get the sygic app and the tom tom mount…

    (rohan has made 6 comments)

  6. aidanhill says:

    I'll be interested to see what comments get left here and on itunes regarding this product. I paid for the Sygic mobile GPS and it certainly needs a update, whether or not I then pay for the TomTom is another thing. I know Sygic is doing an update and if they are small will release it now! Regarding mounts and I don't work for this company, but I got this:

    http://www.hands-free.co.nz/product_info.php?prod…

    Its brilliant, sticks on the dash on my BMW and is just the ticket for the iphone. Check it out.

    (aidanhill has made 21 comments)

  7. kpatton says:

    @aidanhill, you use the tomtom with that? just to confirm;)

    (kpatton has made 5 comments)

  8. Daniel Burgess says:

    @ iPhonewzealand we use the DLO VentMount which is available from MagnumMac stores

    http://www.iphonewzealand.co.nz/2009/all/review-dlo-vent-mount/

  9. kpatton says:

    erm, doesn't actually work? bought it last night, drove from meadowbank to ponsonby, locked on then didn't get a signal the whole way, tried restarting and full power down and off. Using latest iphone 3GS with 3.0.1 firmware. i didn't expect it to fail quite as badly as this…

    (kpatton has made 5 comments)

  10. Steve Lawrence says:

    Hmmm kpatton that's odd. The device is just using your iPhone's existing GPS capabilities, it is not responsible for the lock. Did you possibly have it sat somewhere where it wasn't getting good line of site to the sky? Also – sounds weird, but make sure you don't have wifi set to 'off' – I have found that GPS is not very accurate with wifi set to 'off' (rather than just not connected). Don't know why.

    (Steve Lawrence has made 648 comments)

  11. kpatton says:

    google maps and compass working fine. Everything is on (wifi and 3g etc.) and tomtom cannot find gps.

    (kpatton has made 5 comments)

  12. kpatton says:

    all i get are 'Waiting for GPS Signal' flashing constantly, very occasionally it locks on but it's very intermittment.

    (kpatton has made 5 comments)

  13. Steve Lawrence says:

    That is very weird… I would contact TomTom support here: http://us.support.tomtom.com/cgi-bin/tomtom_us.cf…

    (Steve Lawrence has made 648 comments)

  14. Steve Lawrence says:

    Hmmm on second thoughts…. most of the info on that support site seems to be about other platforms, despite specifying that you're talking about TomTom for iPhone.

    (Steve Lawrence has made 648 comments)

  15. Roger says:

    kpatton most gps problems have to do with position of your iphone. It MUST have a good view of the sky. Best is on your front windscreen. If its down on your console the metal roof will block it. Good luck Roger.

    (Roger has made 4 comments)

  16. kpatton says:

    ok, to clarify i realised iphone holder http://is.gd/2lULG appears to nullify the gps, works fine with it in my lap even inside car, but when i place back in the holder no good. so not tomtom's fault after all! What holders are you guys using, any recommendations?

    (kpatton has made 5 comments)

  17. aidanhill says:

    kpatton, take a look at this one, I use it, very good

    http://www.hands-free.co.nz/product_info.php?prod…

    (aidanhill has made 21 comments)

  18. aidanhill says:

    No the Sygic Maps, but same princpal

    (aidanhill has made 21 comments)

  19. psychrn says:

    I use the DLO Vent as well and no problems with GPS lock. Occassional lose position but no very often. Have you tried a reset and or restore??
    Another thing is to get a good fix 1st-ie stand in one place for a while.
    But if your main map app is ok then its prob not this issue

    (psychrn has made 131 comments)

  20. Ford says:

    I gotta say i am a little ticked off with this APP…everything works great but the maps are about a year and a half out of date…loads of roadworks were done in my area of Auckland well over a year ago now and all are still shown in there old states.

    Still a useful app but to release this with out of date maps and still charge over $100 is pretty low…we better get free map upgrades!

    (Ford has made 1 comment)

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