TomTom Car Kit for iPhone review

When TomTom first launched its £59.99 iPhone app in August 2009 we were disappointed. While the iPhone 3G and 3GS feature GPS, the integrated chip just doesn’t cut it when it comes to the level of accuracy needed for turn-by-turn directions in a navigation app like TomTom.

The TomTom app would often throw up “Poor GPS reception” notifications. Worse, it would frequently get confused and place us on a road close to the one we were on. Clearly the app needed a GPS boost to be useable.

Luckily, that boost is now available in the form of the £99.95 TomTom Car Kit for iPhone. The Car Kit comes with a SiRFstar III GPS receiver chipset and the result is much improved performance.

The iPhone slots into the Car Kit dock. You’ll then need to pair the iPhone with the dock via Bluetooth. Once paired, the Car Kit the app works flawlessly.

Hooking up to the Car Kit has other benefits. There are integrated speakers, which makes for louder and clearer instructions. However, the volume control is on the left of the device and not accessible when driving.

The Car Kit plugs into the 12V power supply in your car (cigarette lighter) to keep the power flowing. This is of particular benefit because the TomTom app is a power hog and will drain your battery quickly.

The TomTom app compares pretty favourably with standard sat nav devices. As well as turn-by-turn navigation, 2D and 3D maps and points of interest (POIs), the app offers lane-change guidance when approaching complicated junctions.

TomTom offers one key advantage over much of the competition: IQ Routes. IQ Routes is based on historical speed measurements calculated from the actual experiences of millions of TomTom drivers. Thanks to this data the app is able to tell you the best route to take for the time of day.

However, while IQ routes means the TomTom app (with the Car Kit) compares favourably with other sat navs, does it compare favourably with a typical standalone TomTom? Sadly, it does not, purely from the perspective of cost. The iPhone app costs £60 and the Car Kit will set you back another £100. Since the iPhone app doesn’t work well without the Car Kit, you’ll need to pay the full £160. Considering you can buy a dedicated TomTom with IQ Routes for £129, and you won’t be tying up your iPhone, a dedicated device seems a more logical option.

OUR VERDICT

The TomTom app is a handy addition to your iPhone, as long as you fork out for the Car Kit too. However, at £160 for both essential parts of the set up, you might as well invest in a TomTom One, and keep your iPhone handy for phone calls.

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