TomTom for Android with hands-free kit review
A step in the right direction?
A TomTom satnav app has been available for iOS since 2009 and its success has not just been due to the software but also to the bespoke iPhone windshield mount. Android users have now been let in on the deal thanks to the launch of an Android app and a generic smartphone version of the screen mount.
Smart move: TomTom's Navigation app for Android
TomTom has often been criticised for the cost of the windshield mount and at nearly £80 it’s certainly not cheap but you do get a versatile bit of kit for your money. To start with it has a very capable built-in 2W speaker together with a microphone featuring active noise cancellation and echo reduction.
Not only does this mean you can hear navigation prompts far more clearly than if you were relying on your phone’s loudspeaker but it also lets you make hands-free telephone calls, even at high speed, without having to shout.
There's more to this hands-free kit than just a phone holder
Usefully the mic is attached to a cable rather than being built into the mount. TomTom provides a 1.5m extension lead, so as well as clipping it to the dock you can attach it to any convenient part of the car closer to your cakehole.
Thanks to the USB/microUSB pass-through charger you can power the dock from either your car’s 12V socket or a domestic mains USB adapter. This means you can also use the dock as a desktop hands-free charge cradle, a role it performs very well. This flexibility should not be overlooked.
Portrait or landscape: whatever works
The mount itself is a solid bit of kit with a very flexible ball and socket assembly while the turn-collar suction cup works a treat. By dint of a clever rotating mechanism the handset cradle can hold phones in either landscape or portrait by gripping the top and bottom or the sides. No matter how big your phone or where the microUSB socket it should fit.
Next page: Cradle snatching
Re: Why Bother?
Two key selling points - it works even without a phone (data) signal and it has speed camera warnings. But at £50 pa for the latter (including UK maps), I'm not convinced.
@ Lee Dowling
Re: Why Bother?
TomTom's IQ routes is actually quite clever. It stores on the device statistics about certain roads on certain days / times of day, so it knows not to try road X on a Tuesday (even if the device isn't online!) because there's always traffic there on a Tuesday, lets you avoid rush-hour queues only during rush hour etc.
Google hasn't quite got the same traffic integration and basically relies on TDS-RMC, which is what old TomTom's used to use (the FM-radio add-on is the same TDS one that finds traffic announcements on your radio, that's no subscription) and was subverted by HD Traffic (online, pay-per-month service).
So if you're offline, IQ Routes does a better job on average. And if you're online and only pulling in TDS announcements, IQ Routes (so long as it pulls the latest updates regularly) or HD Traffic (which is basically an advanced TDS) will do better.
The re-routing is a function of any satnav and they're all pretty much the same with that regard (it's basically A* routing, which is pretty common CS theory, but with several factors for each "edge" - like known traffic time, distance from previous edge, "infinite" distance for roads you want to deliberately avoid etc.). All that really matters is the data, and though Google can probe lots of data (including TDS, no doubt, given that it's free to do so), there's a lot to be said for better traffic updates online and for having averaged traffic knowledge when offline. That's what HD Traffic and IQ Routes are. But IQ Routes is at least free.