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August 18, 2009 – Comments (9)



The Tech Blog

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, 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?


9 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On August 18, 2009 at 10:37 AM, miteycasey (28.94) wrote:

Why not use mapquest or google maps???

its' free!!!

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#2) On August 18, 2009 at 10:47 AM, madcowmonkey (< 20) wrote:

I tried to get my wife to get a new iPhone, just for this capability. I like devices that combine like this. Phone, camera, internet, email, GPS maps, and so forth. She has her fertility calendar on my phone for goodness sake. What is with that?

Portability is the key feature. You can't rip the in dash unit out and take it in another car, but the iPhone is easily capable of this. 

I haven't tried the TomTom, because I prefer to get lost, but the wife is in need of this feature. She is horrible with directions. She can't even get back from the DTW airport that is 45 minutes from her house. Unbelievable. 

I can't imagine any key feature the iPhone wouldn't be able to duplicate. Not off hand anyway. If I could just get a fishfinder app, then it would be settled:)

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#3) On August 18, 2009 at 11:35 AM, cthomas1017 (98.65) wrote:


Can't get back from DTW?  Is that because she gets lost or because they blew up the bridge at 9 Mile & 75?  Lord knows you don't want her getting lost on Second Street!

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#4) On August 18, 2009 at 11:58 AM, lemoneater (57.41) wrote:

There will probably always be a market for a stand alone GPS for those of us who glaze over if a product has too many features available. Sometimes simple is good:). 

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#5) On August 18, 2009 at 2:28 PM, TMFJoker (86.20) wrote:

I agree with both madcowmonkey and lemoneater. I am the former type who  likes devices that can do lots of different things. I'm a techie though and I know plenty of people who want single-function devices because they're simpler and easier to use (to them). They're the ones who say "why can't a cell phone just be a phone?"

So, the point is there will always be a market for both. Some people won't like the fact that you probably can't use your iPhone for phone calls or texting while it's mounted to your windshield.

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#6) On August 18, 2009 at 2:57 PM, catoismymotor (< 20) wrote:

I like that you can buy the digital equivalent to a swiss army knife. All those wonderful applications are fun and handy. My concern has to do with having all your eggs in one digital basket. If your phone konks out then you are SOL: No phone, camera, GPS, mobile internet, music player or pinball machine. Then again my phone does not even have a built in camera, so what am I really worried for?

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#7) On August 18, 2009 at 3:23 PM, madcowmonkey (< 20) wrote:

cthomas- She takes 696 to woodward. I will have to tell her to take southfield now. I heard about that bridge and wrote something on here about it. Didn't they put money into that thing the year before?

Joker- the only do it all device I don't like is the fax, scanner, copier. I have yet to find one that really works efficiently or correctly for that matter. 

catois- SOL:) Don''t forget the cigarette lighter that they installed on the iPhone when it first came out.

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#8) On August 18, 2009 at 3:51 PM, TMFMarlowe (59.61) wrote:

My first reaction: It's about $70 too expensive, and after the first wave of buyers fades, I expect some bigtime price cuts. I really expected them to do it for $30-$40ish for the app and maybe $20 more for the little car charger/mounting thing. But at $99, it's the biggest argument for jaibreaking your iPhone (and getting xGPS) yet presented.

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#9) On August 18, 2009 at 4:04 PM, TMFJoker (86.20) wrote:

Considering that Garmin charges $69.99 for individual map updates (and $119.99 for a lifetime subscription) on its GPS units (and that's after you spend $200+ on the device in the first place) the $99 isn't so bad.

Yeah, the price will come down as Garmin, Navteq and others inevitably follow suit with their own offerings.

Third party vendors have already created car mounting kits ( so TomTom isn't likely to make much money there.

To me the more interesting questions is when will Android catch up? Google already has a site set up for Android apps ( and you can be sure xGPS or some variation will pop up sooner rather than later since Android explicitly has Google Maps support built-in.

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