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TomTom's $99 iPhone GPS app: End of the road for standalone GPS devices?
Mon Aug 17, 2009 3:14PM EDT
The 800-pound gorilla of GPS apps for the iPhone has arrived, and at a whopping $99, it's one of the most expensive mainstream items in the entire App Store. But while early reviews are mixed, some already believe that TomTom's new iPhone app could mean the "beginning of the end" for traditional standalone GPS devices.
Announced back in June and available now in the App Store, TomTom for the iPhone comes loaded with map for both the United States and Canada (separate versions are available for Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand) and boasts voice-enabled turn-by-turn directions, "Tap and Go" (which lets you "tap your way from A to B," complete with multitouch zooming and pinching on TomTom's on-screen maps), one-touch navigation for contacts in the iPhone's address book, thousands of "points of interest" (such as restaurants, gas stations, and ATMs), and "IQ Routes," which figure out "the smartest, most efficient route" based on "the driving experiences of millions of drivers" and "actual road speed data."
Of course, there are already a handful of other GPS programs on the App Store with turn-by-turn directions, such as Navigon's MobileNavigator ($69), CoPilot Live ($34), AT&T Navigator (free, but $10/month on your phone bill), and Network in Motion's Gokivo (also $10 a month) but the TomTom app will be the first with hardware support—specifically, a car windshield mount with its own speaker, GPS booster, and charger, all designed to make you forget that you're using an iPhone to find your way from here to there. (The TomTom car mount is due later this year; no pricing info just yet.)
OK, so how good is the TomTom iPhone app compared to the competition? Sadly, I don't have a car to test it out in (I'm a Brooklynite, after all), but early reviews are (as SlashGear notes) a mixed bag. On the one hand, you've got Andrew Lim for Recombu.com, who (in a video review) called the TomTom app "really, really impressive," with performance that was "almost identical" to his standalone TomTom GPS device. Meanwhile, Shift Solution in Australia was disappointed with the dated maps, the "jerky" performance of multitouch gestures, and "utterly woeful" directions (although the Shift Solutions reviewer wonders if this isn't because the TomTom app "hasn't been told" that Australian motorists drive on the left side of the road).
Despite the reservations and the $99 price tag, the TomTom app for the U.S. and Canada was already the No. 2 most popular paid GPS application in the App Store as of Monday afternoon, and it's only a matter of time before TomTom starts releasing updates to iron out the kinks.
Indeed, David Coursey at PC World is already speculating that TomTom's iPhone app might mean "the end for standalone GPS ... at least on dashboards, where a smartphone can now do everything a GPS can do and cost less than purchasing both." And besides the value proposition in buying a smartphone/GPS combo, the TomTom iPhone app has another key advantage over traditional GPS devices, Coursey writes: its "live, interactive connection back to TomTom" that "uses information from other users to create better routing" via the IQ Routes feature.
Well, maybe so, but I'm curious what you hard-core drivers think (especially since I haven't been behind the wheel of a car since my last Zipcar rental in June). Would you happily trade in your standalone, dash-mounted GPS device for TomTom's iPhone app and its car mount? What are the key GPS features that (in your opinion) the iPhone (or another smartphone) won't be able to replicate?
And finally: Who out there's actually had a chance to try the TomTom iPhone app in the field?