First Look: TomTom Navigation App for U.S. and Canada

Discussion in 'iOS Blog Discussion' started by MacRumors, Aug 24, 2009.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    TomTom's highly-anticipated GPS app for the iPhone finally made it to the App Store last week. First announced WWDC on June 8, TomTom's demo video during the event promised a slick app that mimicked the look of its standalone-GPS products and applications for other smartphone platforms while promising an appropriately iPhone-esque interface. We've had a chance to put the app through some initial paces to see how it performs.

    Download and set-up

    The TomTom app for the U.S. and Canada takes some time to download given its 1.21 GB size. The size of the app is attributed mostly to the map data it holds, carrying street-level data for the all of the U.S. and Canada, including points of interest (POIs). It can be installed on to iPhone 3GS and 3G models, though would not install on a first-generation iPhone.

    Opening the app for the first time prompts a legal advisory to pop up, which must be acknowledged in order to proceed. After this, you are free to roam about and explore the app, with no settings prompts or "getting started" information shown. The voice is set to "Lori," a female American English voice by default. If you want to change the voice, you have a whopping 75 from which to choose in languages from Afrikaans to Vlaams. There are 11 voice selections that speak English available, though none of these are computerized voices capable of pronouncing street names. Changing the voice guidance language does not change the language of the app's English interface.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    First trips

    On our first trips out using the TomTom app to navigate, getting a GPS fix in suburban Boston under clear skies took under 30 seconds. Relative to well-known surroundings, the app showed an accurate location most of the time, with only a couple of moments when the icon representing our location appeared off to the side of the current road. The graphics are sharp and professional, though tracking is just a wee bit jumpy on the 32GB iPhone 3GS used for testing, though this does not hamper navigation in any way. Switching between landscape and portrait mode is smooth when the iPhone's orientation is changed.


    The volume of voice guidance is loud enough to be heard over music playing at a low volume through the car's stereo. Adjusting the voice's volume can be accomplished using the iPhone's volume rocker though you must do this while the voice is speaking, otherwise you'll only adjust the ringer volume. If you tap on the lower left corner of the information pane at the bottom where navigation information is shown, you'll get an on-screen volume slider that will adjust the voice's volume directly.


    Music from the iPod application can be played during navigation, though it stops instantly when voice guidance is given, and then starts playing again right after. This is a pretty abrupt way to handle voice guidance and a fade-in/out effect would be less startling and easier on the ears.

    When a call is received, navigation guidance stops and the standard iPhone incoming call screen is shown. If the call is accepted, the phone app takes precedence, displaying the standard in-call screen. Once the call has ended or an incoming call is rejected, Tomtom opens up on its own immediately, and navigation resumes once it obtains a GPS fix. The same behavior is exhibited if a call is initiated via a Bluetooth accessory, such as a car kit.

    Unscientific eyeballing of the iPhone's built-in battery percentage meter showed about a 5% drop for every 10 minutes of guidance with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on and connected to the car's Bluetooth system. Turning Wi-Fi and Bluetooth off should improve battery life during navigation, but connecting your iPhone to a power source would be wise to avoid a dead battery in the middle of navigating an unfamiliar place for all but the shortest trips.

    Interface and features

    The TomTom app offers an interface that will be very familiar to anyone who has ever used a TomTom stand-alone device or app on another smartphone or PDA platform before. The ability to change the day and night color schemes is present, although a setting to allow the app to automatically switch between day and night color schemes using the iPhone's ambient light sensor seems to be missing. At first glance, POI data appears to be robust, allowing us to easily find retail store chain and government office locations. Many POIs have phone numbers, which can automatically be called through a shortcut button in the POI summary view.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Also included is IQ Routes, a relatively recent offering from TomTom that promises to provide optimal route guidance based on historical traffic information for the route you need to travel. Looking at other features offered on their stand-alone units, the TomTom iPhone app has not inherited text-to-speech voice guidance nor live traffic information.


    Initial thoughts

    So far, the TomTom app shows promise, though it has some heavy competition from Navigon, Sygic, CoPilot and many others. Currently priced at $99, TomTom is the most expensive navigation app available for the U.S., coming in at over $60 more than the least expensive full-featured GPS app that covers the U.S. and Canada, CoPilot Live, which is priced at $34.99.

    The accessory cradle, which will have its own GPS chip, a loudspeaker, and ports for charging and audio output, is not yet available nor is its price known though unconfirmed information points to a possible price of £99 + VAT for the cradle and app together and compatibility with the iPod touch. TomTom put out a new video of the cradle a few days ago, highlighting its features, which can be viewed here.

    The upcoming main review of the TomTom app will include more information about the app's settings, customization options, POI database, as well as a more in-depth look at the app's performance on the road and its advance planning features.

    The TomTom app for the U.S. and Canada can be found here (link opens iTunes) and costs $99.

    Article Link: First Look: TomTom Navigation App for U.S. and Canada
  2. Diode macrumors 68020


    Apr 15, 2004
    Washington DC
    I've personally found TomTom a bit buggy with POI's.

    Once such incident had me arrive at a POI only to find it non existent. Launching Navigon revealed I was several blocks away from the actual location (and Navigon got me there just fine).

    Haven't tried many other POI's so I'm not sure if that was the only one.

    It has great potential but seems a bit rushed out the door. Also no TTS makes this app lukewarm at the moment.
  3. SpaceKitty macrumors 68040


    Nov 9, 2008
    Fort Collins Colorado
    No GPS app or standalone GPS will be 100% accurate. I used my Garmin one day to go to a BestBuy about 45 minutes away that I had never been to before and it told me I had arrived at the BestBuy about three blocks before I actually did. Same with a BestBuy at another location.
  4. NightCastle macrumors member

    Jul 18, 2007
    Best Buy is always further away than you thought.
  5. megapopular macrumors 6502a

    Aug 21, 2007

    Am I missing something or did Macrumors totally snub Navigon's iphone app by not giving them a "First Look" as they so graciously have given TomTom? Not that they really need it cause they seem to be doing very well without it but I found it odd. I am aware that Macrumors can't check out every app that's out there but I'd imagine that Navigon's should have gotten similar limelight.
  6. jfruh macrumors member

    Jul 17, 2002
    My wife and I were on vacation this week with my brother-in-law, who downloaded this for his iPhone as soon as it came out, and we did a bit of navigation with it and were seriously unimpressed.

    I haven't had much experience with GPSes but those that we've used with rental cars in the past have all spoken street names aloud. The TomTom doesn't do this. Instead, you just get prompts like "In five hundred yards turn left." This isn't very helpful if you don't have a good sense of how far 500 yards is, or if you're in an area with a relatively tight street grid.

    In addition, it took quite a while for the TomTom to figure out where we were once we activiated it. We were just ouside Ithaca, NY, which is admittedly off the beaten track and didn't have the greatest AT&T reception, but my understanding was that GPS was sattelite-based, so I didn't think this would depend on the on-the-ground infrastructure -- perhaps I'm wrong?

    Overall, I could see this being somewhat helpful, if a bit frustrating, if you're in a car by yourself. But I was doing a better job of navigating from the passenger seat with Google Maps than the TomTom was.
  7. BC2009 macrumors 68000


    Jul 1, 2009
    TomTom vs Navigon Feature Questions

    I'm planning on buying one off these GPS apps soon -- used to love using Garmin Mobile XT on my Palm Treo 680 when I had that, so I'm excited. Two features I am concerned about and wondering who does a better job:

    1) Which of these apps offer the ability to shut off the voice prompts while keeping the music playing AS WELL AS other audio warnings. On family trips the voice prompts tend to wake the children in the back seat or interrupt conversations between me and my wife. I want to be able to shut them off while getting an alternative pleasant audio tone to remind me to look at the screen because something is coming. How do these apps address this sort of thing? (Screen shots of settings screens would be a big help here)

    2) Which of these apps does live traffic data and traffic avoidance? My Garmin did traffic avoidance but it wasn't so great because it did not let me set a threshold average speed at which I would want to avoid a road. Historical traffic data with IQ Routes may or may not be useful in the instaneous case of a 12-car pile-up ahead. How do these apps handle traffic data and/or traffic avoidance? Again, screen shots on settings for this would rock.

    Any help here would be great especially since TomTom has no trial version and the Navigon trial version does not have the settings screen and has not been updated since it was released.
  8. SFStateStudent macrumors 604


    Aug 28, 2007
    San Francisco California, USA
    Yeah, I'm in the same boat when it comes to the iPhone app; saw a nice TomTom navigation device for under $100 and decided to pick that up and save some money. Maybe down the road, I'll consider getting the app, but I'm not impressed with all the bugs.....:(
  9. maknik macrumors regular

    May 17, 2006
    TomTom when I tried it was almost unusably jumpy. Not only did the marker frequently jump off the road I was on, it not infrequently jumped onto nearby roads and recalculated the route from there (and then jumped back). What's odd is that it doesn't seem to have the basic assume-you're-on-the-nearest-road algorithms that most of the others (even the cheap ones) have; the marker keeps appearing on nearby non-road areas. I know that's what the GPS is saying, but almost every other GPS navigator in the iPhone just assumes you are on the same road, going the same speed (Navigon is especially smooth at this; and I think iGO shows a tiny dot where the GPS signal currently is, but keeps your car icon on the proper road). Also annoying, though not as problematic, is that every time you stop at a light, the road, instead of sitting still, twitches constantly -- clearly just a bug, but bizarre to have made it even into a 1.0 product. But the real problem with such erratic placement is that, often as not, one is passed an intersection by the time TomTom tells you to turn; that is not merely annoying, but makes it fairly unusable. As far as I can guess, perhaps TomTom wants the GPS placement to be tetchy, so they can sell you the GPS kit for greater "accuracy." But Navigon, and even some of the other cheaper ones, does a perfectly fine job with the erratic GPS signal. TomTom's implementation is just poor.

    BTW, @BC2009, none of them have traffic yet (I don't know about the music functionality). For a good comparison of features, try:
  10. Diode macrumors 68020


    Apr 15, 2004
    Washington DC
    Yea but to be directed to the wrong street and address is an entirely different problem and one in which I experienced.

    It wasn't the GPS being inaccurate - just not having accurate information.

    Not to mention the POI database being just being difficult to go through.
  11. Napsju macrumors newbie

    Nov 3, 2006
    Nieuwegein, The Netherlands

    Vlaams is not a language, it's a Dutch dialect. :)
  12. forty2j macrumors 68030


    Jul 11, 2008
    This seems like it has more to do with the iPhone's GPS chip (which often reports me to be in the wrong zip code where I live - I'm about half a mile from the border) than the software itself. Other software may be more accommodating, but sometimes that's an issue as well - like, it won't realize you've taken a wrong exit until well past the best opportunity to correct it.

    I have to reserve judgement on TT for iPhone until I hear how it works with the mount.

    These are both fairly normal experiences for GPSs.. our standalone TT1 can take up to 3 minutes to find the satellites some days. And TTS isn't really required - often, the street signs are invisible anyway - just a quick glance at the on-screen map in comparison to the road is sufficient to figure out where you're going. I haven't missed TTS on my TT1.
  13. TwoBytes macrumors 68020


    Jun 2, 2008
    Agree. Although... tomtom was so highly anticipated that i guess MR had to. Every other thread is 'when is tomtom out?' or 'i'm a retard, shall i get a referb or a BNIB iphone'

    ilounge posted reviews of all the nav apps and ratings

    P.S. I find navigon WAY better than tomtom. Wait until 1.3 of navigon ;)
  14. jfruh macrumors member

    Jul 17, 2002
    Your mileage may vary, I guess. It definitely made it less useful for us. I'd prefer to be able to keep eyes on the road whenever possible.
  15. maknik macrumors regular

    May 17, 2006
    I agree, the iPhone's GPS chip (plus antenna, etc) is fairly poor. Nevertheless, some navigation apps deal with that gracefully, and some poorly. Not only does Navigon strike a better balance between smoothing the noise and (say) failing to notice when you've made a wrong turn, but in fact most of the other GPS guidance apps do a better job than TomTom. Because their location is constantly jumping around, it's much more likely to miss the time to tell you when to turn than the more corrective apps. But that's theoretical; the practical observation is just that Navigon does a much better job staying on your course and announcing a turn at the right moment than TomTom -- and indeed, a number of other GPS apps I've tried do better than TomTom too.
  16. theBB macrumors 68020


    Jan 3, 2006
    The review was a bit too barebones. Could somebody add some more information:

    Does it allow the user to set waypoints instead just one destination? How does it handle detours if you want to avoid part of a freeway with a big accident?
  17. countrydweller macrumors 6502


    Jul 16, 2009
    Yes, they have a find alternative, then travel via, or avoid certain parts and such.
    Here are some pics.

    Attached Files:

  18. gzfelix macrumors member

    Jun 14, 2007
    Charlottetown, PE
    Yes, TT app allows to set `via points'. And it also has a `Final alternative route' function to find another route. I haven't tested this feature very thoroughly though.
  19. r6girl Administrator/Editor


    Staff Member

    Sep 6, 2003
    Thanks for the post - the following was truncated when this thread was created from the full article and has since been added:

    The upcoming main review of the TomTom app will include more information about the app's settings, customization options, POI database, as well as a more in-depth look at the app's performance on the road and its advance planning features.​
  20. GutBomb macrumors regular

    Jul 19, 2002
    Outside Boston
    TomTom sucks at getting addresses from contacts. If you have an apartment number in the second address line it doesn't understand the address and makes you enter it manually.
  21. Illusion986 macrumors 6502


    Mar 12, 2009
    TomTom = SucksSucks

    I used this app few times, more like tried to use it. I really didn't like it. Address book didn't work, POI's were outdated, did not speak street names, kept calling freeways "motor-ways" ...... I was really looking forward on buying this app, but I'm glad i got to try it before i had a chance to get it...... Looks like ill be getting Garmin Nuvi after all, but for now Google Maps will do.
  22. fpnc macrumors 68000

    Oct 30, 2002
    San Diego, CA
    For comparison, below is a link to a review I did on the $35 CoPilot Live GPS app for the iPhone. Since I wrote this review I've had some more experience with CoPilot in a completely different location (another state) and given this added experience I continue to stand by my original assessment. Briefly stated, CoPilot works and it can provide useful assistance while on the road. However, don't expect it to be perfect nor should you expect it to find every address or location that exists within your locale (i.e. the map data can be incomplete which isn't surprising since I seriously doubt that any GPS solution will be 100% accurate or offer every street and address).

    Here is the link to my review:

    Given the price differential between CoPilot and TomTom ($35 versus $100) I'd have to say that TomTom would have to be TRULY great to warrant such a price premium over CoPilot. Frankly, the only significant worry I have about CoPilot is its lack of map coverage in some areas (that's pretty basic, but probably a concern or failing with every GPS solution). However, the map coverage in CoPilot seems at least okay, perhaps even fairly good, judging from the several cities and two states where I've used the app. In any case, I can't really see how one could make a valid map comparison between two competing GPS solutions without a VERY LARGE number of usage examples (something that would be impossible to accomplish from a singe user review).
  23. coolbreeze macrumors 68000

    Jan 20, 2003
    Definitely a slant in favor of the holy grail TomTom app. People are going gaga over TomTom for some reason. Is it the yet-to-be-released dock? Name recognition? Personally, I love Navigon and have no plans at all to buy TomTom. Lane assist is reason enough. It's saved me from making some crazy mistakes thus far.

    Navigon is the much better value, IMO.

    -but TomTom is the media darling... :rolleyes:
  24. m3coolpix macrumors 6502a


    Dec 24, 2007
    Agree with that.

    TomTom in our area advertises CONSTANTLY on the radio stations for the traffic reports. Actually to the point of annoying. That is why the media loves them, IMHO.
  25. chimerical macrumors regular

    Jan 22, 2004
    Does the TomTom car kit also mount to the dash? The video only shows it adjusting as a windshield suction cup. The rest of it looks promising. I'll reserve positive and negative judgment until I get to actually try one.

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