Review: TomTom Satnav App For iOS

28 May

Most of us need or use SatNav assistance at some point, whether it’s a “I wish I had a SatNav” due to being stuck in traffic and not knowing the back route to escape the jam or more of a general “I’m always getting lost” plea, it’s hard to ignore the benefits of these handy little devices.  With the ability to have your SatNav on your phone you eliminate the need for two devices.

A bit of background about me: I don’t drive but have friends and relatives that do and I’m very often made proxy navigator due to me being the only other person in the car.

You may have gathered from this site that I love tech and it’s associated hardware and software so when I had the chance to test TomTom’s iPhone SatNav offering I jumped at the chance (many thanks go to Julien at Starfish communication for this).

In the past I’ve used Google maps, and the iPhone versions of CoPilot Live and it’s variants, and also Navigon to guide me. Google maps is fine for planning but does not offer live audio turn by turn prompts. I originally opted for the least expensive quality offering and chose CoPilot. This seemed ok but was not perfect, and with each successive update, for me anyway, became increasingly unreliable.

After much to’ing and fro’ing I extracted a refund out of Apple (on the grounds the app was not fit for purpose) and I switched to Navigon which I found to be much better.

So, I approach TomTom’s UK SatNav with a lot of personal experience in using iPhone based Satelittle navigation apps.

TomTom for iPhone loads quickly, this is a big plus. Time is of the essence, the last thing you need is a long wait for your SatNav to load. Options for choosing your route are plentiful and comprehensive. I found the guidance given clear, concise and very easy to understand and to follow. A particular plus for me was the way in which the directions and guidance was phrased and presented. Much more akin to the way a friend or helpful passerby would direct you: Go over the roundabout and take the 2nd left, turn left and then a right turn head”.

This format of guidance makes it much easier to follow, advance warnings prepare you for the current turn or lane change and then let you know what’s coming next, clear information is given regarding lanes and whether you should bear left or right.  Should you deviate from the nominated route, either accidentally or deliberately the recalculation of the amended route is automatic, fast, and without fuss.

It was a pleasant surprise to discover that TomTom for iPhone comes with a wide selection of natural language voices, some of which handle text-to-speech (TTS) guidance allowing the  speaking of road names and road numbers, a really useful and very helpful feature. Whilst TTS spoken navigation is nothing new it’s implementation by TomTom has to be commended.  The TTS voices available sounds great and are true to life. If you don’t want a TTS voice then there are many other standard voices to choose from, in many languages and accents. Finally there is a novelty voices online store where you can buy a handful of comic voices in the style of various well known characters (not the actual character voices themselves). After previewing the comedy voices I decided to steer well clear – they’d drive me nuts very quickly. However, if well known actors with clearly identifiable voices were available in their natural state I may be tempted – who wouldn’t what say, Patrick Stewart, to guide you through your journey… to boldly go …

During one of my journeys I got stuck in traffic, I used the avoid roads feature and TomTom re-routed me and I avoided the traffic jam – that’s just what you have a SatNav for. I knew the alternative route but in the heat of the moment could not recall it. Being stuck in a traffic jam is never nice especially when you are frustrated, and in situations where you have to act now (otherwise you’ll be gridlocked) it’s great to be able to rely on your TomTom, for me in this situation it was a real positive help. By estimating your current driving speed alerts can be set if you breach the particular speed limit in force (hopefully avoiding speeding tickets).  Alerts can be are given when approaching know speed camera locations (in-app purchase required).

Overall I found the application a pleasure to use, any waiting time during route calculations etc was minimal and the layout intuitive and the maps clear and easy to understand. The audio was exceptionally clear and the voices simply lovely. My only slight complaint was I could have done with the voices being louder. Not a show stopper by any means but still al little niggle nonetheless.

If you can afford the £49.99 then TomTom is a safe bet and comes highly recommended. Whilst not the cheapest SatNav app for the iPhone, in my opinion, it’s most certainly the best.

[Further features such as live Traffic and Speed Camera modes are also available but have not yet been tested, once done so this review will be updated]