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Review of Tom Tom for the iPhone

08.17.09 Posted in Hints and Tips by

Tom Tom have finally released their long awaited turn by turn GPS application for the Apple iPhone, and yours truly decided to splash out and grab a copy to see what it’s like. In short, if this software is as good as Tom Tom gets, I don’t know why anyone would buy a Tom Tom GPS.

The price tag, relative to buying a GPS, is pretty reasonable, at only $100 for the Australian version. You can get versions for other countries, which for some reason are all more expensive than the Aussie version, so I guess thats a win.

Right from the start, however, things were not good. I just bought and paid for an Australian GPS application, and yet the default voice was American, and the distances were being reported in miles. This oversight should be easily fixed, and Tom Tom should move quickly to do so.

A side note on the default American voice, is that it refers to things in the American vernacular, meaning I was told on several occasions to “drive through the rotary”.  After looking around for a rotary engine vehicle, and not seeing one, and thinking even if I did I wasn’t going to drive through it, I safely negotiated the roundabout and moved on with my day. :-)

The Aussie voice is much better, knowing what things are supposed to be called, using metres etc, my only complaint is that the voice sounds more like a bad Aussie accent done by an American, than a true Australian. I guess that’s just being picky though.

What disappointed me early in the day was the fact that the maps are so old. When I got my Garmin GPS, it had roads that were still in the early stages of development; In particular, the Tugan bypass was already in the GPS, despite being more than a year away from completion. While this was amusing at the time, it was great to know that I wouldn’t need to be updating maps too soon;

The Tom Tom, however, still has all the local main roads as they were a couple of years ago, and I was quite surprised to not see the future completed state of major upgrades such as the Centenary and Logan Motorways not there. Hopefully early adopters like myself will get a free map upgrade in a couple of months, although the real worry is that nobody seems to know if Tom Tom will be charging to update the maps in the future.

One thing that was mildly annoying was the way the software interrupts the audio you are playing; On many occasions, it would stop the audio, blurt out one word, then the audio would restart for a second before being cut off once more so the full direction could be given. Another area for improvement.

Zooming and panning the map is nowhere near as good as it is using Google Maps on the iPhone, its very jerky and keeps blanking the screen before refreshing the display post zoom; I think this is an area that Tom Tom could do some work on to make the app a lot more user friendly.

The software also features Night & Day colour schemes, much as my Garmin GPS does, with the exception that my Garmin GPS knows just when to change schemes, and does it automatically, while you have to do it manually on the Tom Tom iPhone app.

It is a bit of a pain that you have to exit the app to choose new music to play, especially if you are in the middle of a complicated navigation through city streets (okay, stopped at a red light during said navigation!), but I think that this is more the fault of the iPhone than the app, and as I have an FM transmitter charger, which has pause, foward and back buttons on it, I can at least do that without too much trouble.

Just before writing this review, I took a drive with the GPS running to get a few final thoughts, and I have to say, the directions are utterly woeful. For example, I was at this intersection (link should give you a google street view of it), and like the cars in the street view, I needed to turn right; For some reason, Tom Tom decided I should turn LEFT, drive off up the road, do a U Turn and come all the way back!

It also suggested I drive right past my house, down to the nearby roundabout, and come back to get home. All this weirdness left me wondering, until I remembered that it seemed to want me to drive around roundabouts anti clockwise; I have a sneaking suspicion the software hasn’t been told we drive on the left side of the road. Then again, I’ve had a close look at the directions to get me home tonight, and they show me driving on the left side, so now I have no idea!

As a final kicker, because I didn’t drive past my house and back again, the navigation had not completed despite me being at my destination; I still had the app open to check a few features and things as I wrote this review, then I put the iPhone to sleep and sat it on the table; While I was finalising the review, out of nowhere, a voice proclaimed “You have reached your destination”. Yeah, an hour ago mate. :-)

Assisted GPS Navigation is certainly a great leap foward for the iPhone platform, but the Tom Tom offering feels more like one small step. Here’s hoping Garmin or Google come out with an offering to add some competition to the market.

    Kevin

    August 17, 2009

    As an American, I have no idea what a Rotary is, but I do know what a roundabout is. It probably is an American doing a fake Aussie accent then making words up.

    CaffeinatedTech

    August 17, 2009

    Yeah it sound like its not ready for prime time. As the owner of TomTom’s flagship product (in AU anwyay) the Go 930, I can tell you that feature and performance wise, the iPhone app doesn’t live up to the name. It almost makes me embarrassed to say that I’m a TomTom fan.

    The TT device has none of the downfalls that you mentioned in the iPhone app. Well I can’t recall if the default voice was American or not, I think it was the UK one, but that’s a very small side note. Sending you in the wrong direction, or past your destination just to turn around and come back on it is ridiculous though.

    Mathew, your review saddens me. I was all excited when I first saw that TomTom were developing a navigation solution for the iPhone. I think I was equally excited over the mounting kit as I was over the app itself. But for now I can only hope that the mounting kit comes stand alone and that TomTom get a kick in the pants by reviews like this one, making them have a close look at their work. They’re not even first to the party, the least they could do is bring something worthwhile along with them.

    Sean

    August 17, 2009

    FWIW, we Americans don’t call roundabouts ‘rotaries.’ Over here we call them traffic circles. Dunno where TomTom is getting its language.

    Big Jock

    August 17, 2009

    It sounds like you are not really equipped with a sufficient level of knowledge to be reviewing IPhone apps. If you have your region setting as Australia, you get the Australian Ken voice, and the distance units are km. How did a rookie like you get to become a reviewer anyway? I downloaded the app this morning, and it blows Navigon out of the water. The UI is user friendly and far more intuitive than Navigon, once the tomtom cradle comes out with the GPS boost, this will truly be a PND replacement.

    Frank Tighe

    August 17, 2009

    Thank you for the review. I live in the US and I wish I had read your review before buying the app. By the way “rotary” is not a US term. i’m not sure where it is used but it is not used in the US.

    jj2005

    August 17, 2009

    I totally agree with most parts of this review, especially regarding the maps, it seems that Tele Atlas are still living in 2004, the app comes with a fairly new map but the reality is different, mine Western europe version V830.2305 are fairly new compared to V830.2307 which is the newest..

    To sum things up Navigon wins with Better maps, more precise positioning, UI(my opinion), but TomTom is much more stabil with keeping the GPS signal(Navigon keeps dropping, even when Google maps works), TomTom does not do this…

    Mike

    August 18, 2009

    I don’t think the accent and the terminology should be tied together. I sometimes prefer to hear a nice British or Aussie accent but would still want the words to be in the correct units for my location. Those should be separate settings (the way Garmin has it on the Nuvi line).

    I don’t know where they got the term “rotary”. In the United States we refer to them as “roundabouts” or “traffic circles.” Granted, there aren’t many of them here…

    Fanfoot

    August 18, 2009

    Obvious question given the performance comments… do you have an iPhone 3G or 3GS? If its a 3GS that’s disappointing.

    Big Jerry

    August 18, 2009

    Big Jock it sounds like you are not really equipped with a sufficient level of knowledge to be reviewing IPhone app reviews.
    1. If someone buys an application called TomTom Australia the default voice should be Australian not American.
    2. I believe he did a 6 month TAFE course in iPhone app reviewing.
    3. He never compared the TomTom app with the navigon app.
    4. How long have you worked for TomTom?

    I give your review of this review one out of five stars.

    XOX

    Big Jock

    August 18, 2009

    I was just saying that the application was smart enough to look at the IPhone settings, whereas the reviewer was not.

    Big Jock

    August 18, 2009

    3. He never compared the TomTom app with the navigon app.

    Maybe he should have, rather than comparing to a dedicated navigation device such as a Garmin. He cannot have paid much attention on his 6 month course.

    My experience so far has been superb, I have a 3GS, maybe that is why I am not experiencing the jerkiness mentioned in the review. I have done my daily trip from Dunblane to Perth with no issues, and tried out the contact functionality yesterday evening successfully.

    As soon as someone disagrees with a negative review based on their experience are they automatically a tomtom employee??

    Big Jerry went fishing and caught a Big Jock

    August 18, 2009

    Big Jock, It’s iPhone not IPhone

    Tadhg

    October 1, 2009

    I’ve got a TomTom GO 710 and a GO 720 (the 710 died the day we landed in Perth – bought the 720 so we wouldn’t be lost, got the 710 fixed under warranty later). The Aussie voice is actually a woman from Brisbane (she sang the national anthem at the Wallabies/Springboks game at Suncorp a few weeks ago). But I use a computer generated British voice. It reads street names, something the Aussie voice doesn’t do (not on my 720). This is good, as it gives you a chuckle at some of the pronunciations of Brisbane’s suburb’s names.

    On the mapping points… Expect to pay for new maps. A new map for my 710 is worth over A$110, one for my 720 is a little more than that (I’m not sure why, after all, it’s taken from the same Sensis map data). And don’t be surprised that if it doesn’t manage to keep up to date with the myriad of changes round here… Even if Map Sharing’s enabled.

    In terms of music and directions, I’ve used my GO 720 as a music player. It’s every bit as frustrating. It does the same stop-start rubbish (pause music – give direction – restart music – drive 200m – pause music – turn NOW – restart music, etc). So that’s no big surprise to me.

    Jamie Doe

    February 18, 2010

    had a Garmin GPS and thought I’d upgrade to a Tomtom Go 920! Boy was that a huge mistake! The mapping in it is so antiquated and not accurate at all. It takes me to vacant lots and says that is a shopping center!@ gets within two to three blocks of where I need to be on a consistant level. I paid $70 for a map upgrade and was assured that it would upgrade the names of the streets in my area. It didn’t and when I advised them of this, they said that there was nothing that they could do! I wanted bluetooth to hook up to my phone, that worked for about a month, then quit, it will still hook to my brother’s Tomtom 920, but not mine and they said it was the phone not the GPS. That’s so incredibly stupid that it didn’t even warrant an argument from me. I will either sell this on EBay or give it to the Salvation army and go and buy another Garmin. Tomtom sucks so bad! Only to be outdone by their service Department!

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