Hands on with TomTom iPhone Australia

Yesterday I bought an early Father’s Day present to myself – TomTom on the iPhone!

Splashscreen

It brings voice navigation GPS to the iPhone – making the iPhone replace yet another device! Yep, family members – you don’t need to buy me a dedicated GPS for Christmas/Birthday/etc anymore 🙂 And I don’t need to hire one from car rental companies anywhere in Australia either now.

So, what’s it like?

Standard Functionality

Firstly I was worried that having an iPhone 3G (and not the 3GS with the digital compass) will mean its accuracy will not be as good. However, it seemed to pick up the direction I was facing very well, except once when I was stopped at a corner and the mapped kind of rotated around and then back to my original orientation a few times.

The voice turn by turn navigation works just like any other GPS. I loved playing around with the different languages and accents – I think I might switch to French to improve on my fluency. Unfortunately, you don’t get spoken street names. But having voice navigation is a huge step up from using Google Maps on the iPhone. I don’t see myself using Google Maps for driving navigation anymore.

The touch navigation of menus works with no problems and the display is very clear.

Menu screen

There is some rudimentary lane information, but I don’t think it’s advanced as some dedicated GPS units. For example, it did tell me to stay on the left lane when on the Graham Farmer freeway this morning so I could take the next exit.

Getting off the freeway

The routing also seemed to find one of my “secret” shortcuts to get to the kids’ school this morning. It didn’t know about another one I use to bypass a traffic light, but when I took it, it re-routed very quickly.

Found my shortcut

I can also vouch that the red light camera functionality works. My iPhone beeped at me when I was approaching one. I don’t see the need to have Trapster on my phone anymore!

Nice iPhone touches

I like how they’ve incorporate the iPhone’s multi-touch pinch zooming when you choose to navigate to a point on the map.

I also like being able to play music from my iPhone at the same time. My music continued to play, and then was faded out to silence whenever TomTom needed to speak a direction.

Controlling iPod

A few tips:

  • Start up your music in the iPod before starting the TomTom Maps application. Your music will continue to play in the background.
  • If you want to change tracks, then you can double click the home button for the mini-navigation. But if you click iPod, you will switch to the iPod application and then have to relaunch the TomTom Maps application again.

(Un)fortunately I haven’t had anyone ring me whilst I was driving, but I’ve read that your call takes priority and the navigation will continue once your call has ended.

They’ve also linked up the TomTom application with your iPhone contacts, so you can “navigate to” the address of any of your contacts. Nice 🙂   But it would be even nicer to link up the “navigate to” with the camera on the iPhone so that I can click on the photo of where I want to go.

Lastly, the TomTom application recognises the orientation of your iPhone, so you can use it in horizontal or vertical mode.

 Horizontal

 

Summary

I’ve only used it for a day, but already I’m yearning for the official TomTom iPhone cradle. I think I’ll have a look around eBay today to see if I can get a cheap one, but so far I’ve been using cup holders in my car to hold it. Knowing how quickly the GPS drains the iPhone battery, a cradle with a dock that powers the iPhone seems necessary.

The only other thing I’m missing (but this is really an iPhone limitation) is background applications support – the ability to switch between multiple running applications. But in the end, it takes about 9 seconds for me the application to start and show where I am.

In my opinion, the price is pretty reasonable. Unlike Google Maps which requires a data connection to download the maps around you to the iPhone, with TomTom all the maps are stored on your phone. This should mean it will work where there is no mobile reception at all (like country driving). 

I just like having all my functionality in one device. I can now check Facebook, Twitter, my emails, have my personal and work calendars at my finger tips, as well as an iPod, a web browser (and 3G connection for my laptop), handheld games and now a voice GPS – all in my pocket.

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