This turn-by-turn app, from the brand that popularised the sat nav, is the most expensive around by a country mile. The cynic in us thinks this might be because TomTom can see the lucrative market for GPS hardware disappearing before its very eyes, as touchscreen smartphones become dominant. The company promises that its range of apps boast the most accurate, fastest, and most frequently updated, driving routes and maps around.
It also works only on iPhones, running on iOS 4.0 platforms, where there is no Android version available, so it’s actually got a limited market. The latest 1.9 version of the software is optimised for an iPad display too, and the imminent 1.10 will exclude iPhone 3G phones. This will be from features such as navigation to places, events and friends using a Facebook account – as well as the ability to share your destination and arrival time on Twitter, Facebook, email and text.
There’s plenty of flexibility in the current version, and so there should be – it’s a massive initial download of 1.64 GB. This had us busy deleting music and photos, just to make room. Both the cost and the data can quickly mount up; HD Traffic, TomTom’s complex live traffic information service that also builds-in speed camera alerts, will cost you a further £3.99 per month as an in-app purchase, for £26.99 for a year. In-app purchases of celebrity voices cost £3.49 each (Homer, Marge, Mr Burns, Yoda, C3PO, Darth Vader and Han Solo).
TomTom’s basic GUI is idiotically simple, but in a good way. It is searchable by keyword, name, category as well as the not-always-to-hand postcode. Even by using a GPS tag on a photo, based on your smartphone. We managed to find a few addresses and plotted routes, in under 20 seconds. Once you’ve set your home address, and driven away, hitting ‘home’ when ready to return, is very handy.
What we also liked was the ability to multi-task. It’s possible to use other apps on the phone while ‘Daniel’ or ‘Jane’ spits-out perfectly enunciated instructions, and even make and receive a phone call. TomTom’s own Google-powered GUI for finding places and services ‘near me’, ‘in city’ and ‘near home’ is a slight time-saver in terms of repeated data entry. We suppose (especially given the limited capabilities of Siri on an iPhone 4S outside of the US.), but it’s something an iPhone can already do. The TomTom is better when it’s using, not replicating, the iPhone’s built-in abilities. Once a route is plotted it can be emailed (though not texted, not yet anyway) via the native Mail app. Though plotting a course, to a contact on your iPhone doesn’t work and you just end-up in a dead-end, on someone’s address details.
Dive into the settings and tweaks to the app’s navigational performance are never-ending: routes can be plotted to always avoid motorways, toll roads and even ferry crossings and unpaved roads, or specially plotted for either cycling or walking (it proved thoroughly effective in a city, but it’s useless for walks in the country).
Favourite destinations can be stored and accessed in one-touch, while the displaying of street names, points of interest and even the symbol for your own car can all be changed (fancy being a red Ferrari or, err, a blue hatchback?).
In operation it never gets complicated; whatever duties you’ve asked the app to perform, you only have to tap the screen for it to return to its core duty and present full-screen navigation. Another tap takes you back to the home screen where route options (for calculating alternatives, or clearing data and starting from scratch) and route map browsing are but a tap away. All the while there’s an icon, on the navigation screen, showing the remaining battery life of your phone, as well as the predicted time of arrival.
Other versions of this app, content-wise, include a cheaper UK & Ireland (£49.99), Europe (£79.99), US & Canada (£39.99), Southern Africa (£39.99) and Middle East (£69.99), among many others.
- Multitasking; route can be emailed from iPhone; one-touch operation; reliable mapping.
- Poor integration with iPhone’s contacts; expensive to maintain; some replication of core iPhone features.
Clever, fast, fully-featured and endlessly customisable, TomTom has left few stones unturned in its thoroughly comprehensive iPhone app. It’s thoroughly reliable and with some nifty integration with an iPhone's other features, it's expensive both to buy and maintain; the lack of an Android version does seem an oversight.