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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.