Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
TomTom Australia iPhone app
The iPhone version of TomTom's popular navigation software is a good effort
- IQ Routes, extensive language and accent support, user-friendly interface, widescreen support, speed and red light camera warnings
- Voice commands are delivered too late, no text-to-speech, no traffic warnings, no lane guidance, lacks support for iPhone gestures, no speed limit warnings
TomTom's iPhone app offers an extremely user-friendly navigation experience with support for the company's proprietary IQ Routes technology. However, it lacks the features that would make it a sufficient replacement for mid-range and even some budget standalone GPS units.
Price$ 99.99 (AUD)
TomTom has long been a popular GPS manufacturer and is no stranger to mobile platforms either, offering its navigation software on the Symbian S60 and Windows Mobile platforms. TomTom Australia is the third iPhone GPS app for Australia to offer turn-by-turn navigation.
The TomTom Australia iPhone app competes with similar apps from Sygic and Navigon, which are powered by Whereis and Navteq maps, respectively. TomTom uses its own maps for the app, making for an extremely simple layout that will be instantly familiar to anyone who has ever used a TomTom GPS device. Even if you are a stranger to TomTom or GPS devices in general, the app is a user friendly-introduction to both.
The app is able to find a GPS signal within 10 seconds. Touching anywhere on the map will summon the menu, from which you can change settings, pick an alternative route and enter your destination. Tapping the left portion of a bar along the bottom allows you to change the volume, while tapping the right portion brings up the route summary menu. This is nearly identical to the traditional TomTom user interface. However, the control method means you can't use iPhone gestures like pinching to zoom in or out on the map. Instead, you have to use two small buttons in the top corners of the screen. All facets of TomTom Australia including maps work in both portrait and widescreen modes, making full use of the iPhone's 3.5in display.
Destinations are searched first by Australian suburbs/cities and then a street address. Unlike Sygic's Mobile Maps, TomTom Australia uses the standard iPhone soft keyboard for input, so entering your desired address is easy. Alternatively, you can also navigate to an address in your iPhone's contacts list, but the app brings up the entire list regardless of whether an address is attached.
TomTom Australia has many of the features you would expect from a dedicated GPS app including turn-by-turn voice navigation, 3D and 2D maps, and points of interest (POIs). The iPhone app also provides TomTom's Safety Cameras feature, which provides an alert when you are close to a speed or red light camera. Unfortunately, it lacks text-to-speech and lane guidance; Navigon's MobileNavigator offers, or will offer in the near future, both of these features. Compatibility with the SUNA Traffic Message Channel (TMC) isn't included either; this is yet to be included in any of the iPhone's turn-by-turn navigation apps.
One of the key advantages the TomTom Australia iPhone app has over competitors is IQ Routes, a feature found in the ONE 140 IQ Routes Edition. IQ Routes utilises a database of speed measurements from user data rather than road speed limits, which TomTom claims can result in a faster route 35 per cent of the time. The route can be limited so that TomTom Australia avoids toll roads, ferry crossings, unpaved roads and carpooling lanes.
Voice navigation is implemented well in TomTom Australia, with the ability to choose from 16 languages and 75 accents. Without text-to-speech, voice commands are quite general such as "turn left." While this is sufficient for most uses, TomTom Australia only specifies the distance before an action 800m in advance. Warnings closer than this are also often given too late and can cause the driver to miss a turn or exit. The iPhone's GPS receiver may be responsible — TomTom's forthcoming car kit accessory should fix this — but TomTom Australia iPhone app's failure to compensate for this sometimes makes directions difficult to follow.
Along with the contact list, TomTom Australia integrates with the iPhone's iPod app, allowing you to play music while navigating; the app simply interrupts the music when it issues a voice command, and then resumes it again. Incoming phone calls force TomTom Australia to close, but it automatically resumes navigation from the last known location once the call has ended.
TomTom Australia weighs in at 157MB, a reasonable space requirement on even 8GB iPhone models. TomTom also offers the iPhone app with maps for New Zealand ($119.99), Western Europe ($169.99) and North America ($119.99). Though the New Zealand maps only weigh in at 85.6MB, North American and Western European maps will command significantly more disk space at 1.2GB and 1.4GB, respectively.
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