∞ Hands On: TomTom GPS navigation for the iPhone

I’ll admit, I love GPS navigation units. Strange, I know, but I like to test out the units to see how they differ, what I like and don’t like. Tonight, I tried out TomTom’s navigation app for the iPhone. TomTomTomTom for the iPhone just got released on the App Store tonight, I downloaded it and immediately set everything up. I have other navigation apps and have used plenty of in-car systems, but I was really looking forward to using TomTom.

The iPhone app has a really nice menu system, with some elegant fades. It really shows you that they spent some time designing it. The side scrolling menus behave just the iPod, so everything is familiar right away.

The large icons used in the app made it even easier to navigate your way through, allowing you to easily choose what you wanted to do. The number of ways that you can actually plan a trip is better than any other iPhone app I’ve seen.

For instance, you can choose a Point of Interest (POI) that is near your current position, in a city, near your home, along the route you are taking or near the destination. That’s quite a few options for you to choose from.

TomTomTomTom also keeps track of your recent destinations and allows you to choose a destination from your contacts.

There is an abundance of settings that allow you to personalize how TomTom will take you on your route, down to the voice that gives you directions. Speaking of the voice — it is the most realistic that I’ve heard on any GPS system, in-car or on the iPhone.

TomTom will re-route you if you make a wrong turn, so getting lost or not making it to your destination isn’t an option with this app.

However, there are a couple of important things that I didn’t like.

First, it was slow to pick up when I was driving. This can cause some problems when you are relying on the device to take you somewhere. By the time TomTom told me to turn, I was already past the designated street. By the time it caught up and gave me enough time to turn I was three streets past where I should be.

The app was also off by a couple of hundred yards on my POIs, which isn’t that bad considering the distance you can travel, but I haven’t had that with other systems.

TomTom also lost the connection quite a bit. This is also very frustrating. I was around my town and out on the highway and it lost the GPS signal numerous times — it didn’t seem to matter where I was.


I thought maybe it was the weather (It’s night, but really warm), or perhaps my iPhone.

The only problem with that is that I used Navigon and re-did the route. It didn’t lose the connection at all.

I do like TomTom for the iPhone and I will give it a another try tomorrow to see if it performs better, but I would hate to see all the hard work on the app go to waste because it keeps losing the GPS signal.

  • Eric Ullman

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with the TomTom, Jim. I have a question: Isn’t the car kit going to have it’s own GPS receiver to mitigate the poor accuracy inherent in the iPhone’s internal unit?

  • Jim Dalrymple

    True Eric, but my big question is why did TomTom lose the signal when the other one didn’t. Seems strange to me. I’m going to give it another try today and see what happens.

  • Eric

    At $99 that’s a bit high unless the hardware kit isn’t that expensive. Looking forward to your next test. I’m not paying $99 for an app that’s slow and loses connections.

  • snowy

    You can’t rely on two separate tests each done a single time to come up with a conclusion about either of the apps. There is no validity in that. You should run the two apps at the same time and make notes of which is dropping the connection and when.

  • Jim, Didn’t read if you were testing it on iPhone Classic, 3G or 3GS. This could be important. Look forward to your next report on same. Steve

    • Jim Dalrymple

      It was a new 3GS

      • D Hahn


        Could you try it out on a 3G for those of us that don’t have a 3GS? That could make another difference in the purchasing decision.

  • S R Khan

    I tried Tom Tom on iPhone 3g and works like charm. I used this fir last 4 hrs in San Francisco traffic and it was ver accurate. Need to wait for others to report in other us cities. Thx

  • Will A

    I have bought this – generally good. However, the link with contacts seems to be v hit and miss. It only recognises about 1 in 10 contacts which is v disappointing!

    • Jim Dalrymple

      That’s interesting Will. Does it say anything or does it just sit there waiting for you?

  • Jim Mahoney

    I’ve had the same problem with G-Maps Northeast on both the iPhone 3G and my new 3Gs, where it would just decide to lose the signal for no apparent reason. Now I can see if I was in the city with lots of tall buildings or bad weather, but this is just driving along on a suburban highway in good weather and no overhead obstructions. I bought a dash mount that gets the phone out under the windshield to see if that would help and it did a little.

    The signal loss happens often enough that I feel like I can’t rely on G-Maps only to get me to a strange location. So far when it has cut out on me I’ve known where I was driving. I am awaiting G-Maps new version update to see if the situation improves. plus I will be most interested to see your review of the car kit.

  • Will A

    It just says: “The address for this contact cannot be understood.”

  • NilsP

    I had the same issues as you regarding the loss of signal. I have the 3G. I lost the signals in good weather and with no overhead obstructions too. Tomtom was showing me where I had been, not where I should go. At work I found a spot where Tomtom reported no signal. One of my co-workers, also with a 3G, started Navigator and had signals… Is Tomtom forcing us to buy the whole car kit?

  • Guest

    Tom Tom doesn´t work well without Phone (E/3g signal) coverage… very frustrating!