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TomTom for iPhone/iPad review

Verdict

The quality of TomTom’s route calculation and traffic avoidance makes it our favourite satnav app, despite the high price

Review Date: 22 Jun 2012

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: £42 (£50 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Performance
6 stars out of 6

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TomTom's iPhone and iPad apps have a lot of competition these days. The number of paid-for, free and innovative alternatives is steadily on the rise, and the improving quality of the crowdsourced OpenStreetMap means that upward curve is likely to continue.

And TomTom does have one major point against it: £50, plus another £27 for the HD Traffic services, and a further £27 for the speed camera alerts, is an awful lot to expect anyone to spend on an app.

As our road tests prove, however, you get what you pay for, and those seeking the very best in navigation and guidance would be foolish to discount TomTom for its price.

TomTom satnav app on iPhone

In our standard road test, winding through the highways and byways of north-east London and its suburbs, the app put in an almost flawless performance. On each leg of our journey the chosen route was quick and made complete sense, avoiding traffic black spots such as Gants Hill roundabout and Barkingside High Street.

Here, TomTom’s IQ Routes feature comes in handy, as it not only considers posted speed limits, but also real-world average traffic speeds, when calculating every route.

Voice instructions were issued in perfect time – never too early or late, and always clear and sensible. The TomTom app lacks an alternative route feature (where it presents alternatives up front) like CoPilot or Navigon, but since it rarely gets the choice of original route wrong, that’s no great loss.

When it comes to traffic avoidance, TomTom simply crushes the competition. It spots traffic jams with such accuracy that not only the position of the jam but also where it starts is marked on the map, correct to within a few hundred metres.

Critically, TomTom communicates what’s going on with the traffic situation highly effectively, never announcing traffic problems out of context of the current route. If an upcoming jam means a five-minute delay, it says so, but it won’t offer an alternative unless the delay makes potential alternatives quicker.

Searching for destinations was the only area we found fault with during testing, but even this wasn’t entirely TomTom’s fault. Online POI searches are restricted to Google, which on our route has Redbridge Museum incorrectly positioned on a residential street close by its real location.

TomTom satnav app on iPad

With full postcode search, and an extensive built-in database of POIs, however, we tracked down the rest of our destinations without a hitch – even the tricky Stapleford Airfield.

TomTom’s app isn’t flawless. Its maps aren’t the most attractive to look at, with a rather dull red-and-beige colour scheme. And although no separate purchase is needed to get iPad-specific customisations – which allow menus to be viewed, settings changed and location searches to be carried out without exiting the main map screen – there’s still work to do.

On the iPad, button sizes vary wildly, giving the app an inconsistent feel, and the driving view makes poor use of the larger screen.

Perhaps more seriously, TomTom continues to ignore Android phones and tablets. That’s unfortunate, but for anyone owning an iOS device, the superb route finding and traffic avoidance make TomTom well worth the asking price.

Author: Jonathan Bray

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User comments

How does it compare...

to a full TomTom Satnav or other contempories?

My iPhone came with free Navigon software (T-Mobile edition - which they also bundle with Android and Windows Phone devices). The one time I used it, the battery was dead after about 1.5 hours of driving.

Given the additional costs of the mounting bracket and a charging cable for the car, the iPhone solution looks expensive, compared to the 98€ for a TomTom XL2, for example, which includes both in the box.

By big_D on 3 Jul 2012

TomTom

It's largely the same as standalone TomToms, big_D (and the best of any satnav app in my opinion). There are some interface differences, but it has the same maps and the same routing engine, which are the important elements.

In terms of the standalone XL2, that's a slightly different matter. The XL2 doesn't, as far as I'm aware, support TomTom HD Traffic, which sends traffic alerts to the phone over 3G and beats all other traffic alert systems hands down. Plus it's far more convenient to download mapshare updates.

As far as battery life is concerned, that's down to the individual phone model of course (and the in-car charger you use). But personally, I always have my satnav or phone plugged in while driving because the GPS radio is so darned power hungry it'll eat through any phone's battery like a mouse in a cheese shop.

Jonathan Bray
Reviews editor
PC Pro

By JonBray on 3 Jul 2012

I have just completed a drive from the north of UK to southern Europe having my Garmin Zumo 550 and my iPhone TomTom on at the same time. The TomTom was more accurate hands down.

I've done the same with the free nav produtcs recently on the iPhone and found the same, the TomTom on the iPhone is worth the money.

By phodgson13 on 3 Jul 2012

Thanks Jon

that helps.

The XL2 has IQ Routes and TMC for traffic jams etc. which works very well over here (Germany).

To be honest, I don't use a nav system much, twice in the last 5 years, so the free version of Navigon or the Google navigation app have been enough to get me the last couple of hundred metres to my destination.

My step daughter just turned 18 and is getting a car so she can drive to her apprenticeship, so we gave her an XL2 as a birthday present.

By big_D on 3 Jul 2012

half a review

what even is HD Traffic? how is it different from IQ Routes?

By gavmeister on 3 Jul 2012

Inaccurate destinations

Interesting that the latest & greatest TomTom s/w still has the same problem as my my 6-year old Go 300. You put in a postcode as the destination and it lands you on the street next to it or behind it, even with the latest map. Not great when you're trying to find a retail park and it drops you somewhere residential instead!

I switched from TomTom to CoPilot about 3 years ago (& subsequently Navigon) as the latter 2 use NavTeq maps which have always been more accurate.

Shame that with all their clever routing and traffic info, they still can't get destinations spot-on.

By mrmmm on 4 Jul 2012

CoPilot

Ive always found CoPilot's routing better and with free traffic -which also only re-routes you when a quicker route is available, it is cheaper and better looking than TomTom.

By confucious on 5 Jul 2012

One MAJOR problem with TomTom

The disadvantage of such tests is that you only use the product for a short time. Any longer use, and you would start wondering if the interface designer actually has ever used the product him/herself. The TomTom user interface requires a truly excessive amount of interaction (often asking for unnecessary confirmation) which seems to be almost designed to distract you from driving. Some functions you simply need when on the move, but the need to confirm so many things (on having to scroll down because of the ill-advised addition of social media buttons to a menu) is simply BAD. Lose that, please.

By nuclear_glow on 7 Jul 2012

Check out the reviews on Amazon before buying...

I would suggest that people wanting to purchase this device take a look at the Amazon reviews. It truly is an awful thing....

1. The traffic updates hang. I spent a 112 mile journey with not a single traffic update, just a rotating icon. The solution to this according to Tom Tom is to reset the device. This clears all your personal settings and favourites. So far I have reset the thing a good 20 times since Xmas. Sick to death of it.

2. The GPS also freezes, again a factory reset is required to clear. This I have only happen once, but seems a fairly common issue looking at other reviews.

3. Accessories, such as the gooseneck extension are ridiculously flimsy. It does not adhere to the screen very well, the satnav having landed in my lap several times. Also there is a small round disk at the back of the adaptor. This falls off (it is only glued on, and not very well), and the small spring inside goes walkabout. This also renders the accessory useless.

4. Aftersales support is woeful. After emailing the faults to the support desk, their suggestion - factory reset the damned thing. If it didn't work last time, why the hell is it going to work when they ask?

I came from co-pilot, where the traffic information is not quite as good, but is very reliable.

Avoid this device like the plague or go in with your eyes open.

By shl23 on 31 Jan 2013

Check out the reviews on Amazon before buying...

I would suggest that people wanting to purchase this device take a look at the Amazon reviews. It truly is an awful thing....

1. The traffic updates hang. I spent a 112 mile journey with not a single traffic update, just a rotating icon. The solution to this according to Tom Tom is to reset the device. This clears all your personal settings and favourites. So far I have reset the thing a good 20 times since Xmas. Sick to death of it.

2. The GPS also freezes, again a factory reset is required to clear. This I have only happen once, but seems a fairly common issue looking at other reviews.

3. Accessories, such as the gooseneck extension are ridiculously flimsy. It does not adhere to the screen very well, the satnav having landed in my lap several times. Also there is a small round disk at the back of the adaptor. This falls off (it is only glued on, and not very well), and the small spring inside goes walkabout. This also renders the accessory useless.

4. Aftersales support is woeful. After emailing the faults to the support desk, their suggestion - factory reset the damned thing. If it didn't work last time, why the hell is it going to work when they ask?

I came from co-pilot, where the traffic information is not quite as good, but is very reliable.

Avoid this device like the plague or go in with your eyes open.

By shl23 on 31 Jan 2013

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