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TomTom announce the iPhone Car Kit: We get our hands on it
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MikeB
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 8:14 pm    Post subject: TomTom announce the iPhone Car Kit: We get our hands on it Reply with quote

pocketgpsworld.comToday TomTom officially announced the TomTom car kit for iPhone. The Car Kit has been in and out of the Apple Store for a while now but re-appeared last week with a delivery time of 1-2 weeks. The TomTom Car Kit is a device that performs a number of functions: Mounting the iPhone; Better GPS; Hands Free; charging the iPhone.

Last week at the TomTom launch for the Start I was able to get my hands on a prototype of the TomTom car kit. I was also able to chat with some people who claimed to have experience of the mount. This article presents my unofficial observations along with official information from TomTom.

First things first looking at the holder it is quite a slimline device that uses TomTom's EasyPort mount system. This is a hinged sucker with a very strong friction ball and socket arrangement for strong steady attachment and precise and stable adjustment. There is a ratchet style connection between the mount and the iPhone holder. This allows the iPhone to be installed either in portrait or landscape modes, or any angle in-between if you want.
TomTom iPhone Car Kit on PocketGPSWorld.com

I positioned the mount on a window at the launch and tried to pull it off. I gave up in the end fearing that I might break the window… So it looks like the suction mount is as good as the current batch do EasyPort mounts on other TomTom devices.
TomTom iPhone Car Kit on PocketGPSWorld.com

Moving on to the holder itself. The iPhone clips in by positioning it over the base connection and pressing in to the mount. Mine is a 32Gb iPhone 3GS and there was quite a bit of a gap behind the iPhone. I suspect that this allows a number of iPhones with different thicknesses to be used. The fit was nice and snug with no suspicion that a knock could dislodge the iPhone.

The main feature is "Enhanced GPS Performance". This includes an external GPS receiver that, one assumes, uses a superior chipset to that of the iPhone. Also being separated further away from the radio interference of the various chips in the iPhone helps pull in the weaker signals. The GPS data is transmitted to the iPhone using the connector in the dock. Although there is no mention of it in the official TomTom information I am assuming that this is compatible with the iPhone Classic which did not have a built-in GPS.
TomTom iPhone Car Kit on PocketGPSWorld.com

I also assume that they have been able to integrate a decent antenna with less restrictions than the iPhone's internal one. Whilst on the subject of antennas there is no socket for an external antenna. This is not a problem for most cars, but could be for cars such as Citroens which have coated windscreens.
TomTom iPhone Car Kit on PocketGPSWorld.com

TomTom have also included a Microphone and Speaker. These allow for both (assumedly) amplified audio for voice instructions and the phone hands-free functionality. There is an up/down control on the left side of the car kit which is presumably for volume up/down. The microphone is positioned to the left of the TomTom text on the front of the holder.
TomTom iPhone Car Kit on PocketGPSWorld.com

Switching to the right hand side of the holder there is a mini-USB socket. This is used to provide power to the holder and also to charge the iPhone whilst it is in the mount. Just above it is a jack socket for connecting the output to the aux-in socket in your car. TomTom's press release states that this plays your iphone through the car speakers. It is unclear if the navigation instructions are played through the car stereo as well. I expect that the hands-free will be played through the holder speaker only, but I may be wrong.
TomTom iPhone Car Kit on PocketGPSWorld.com

One of the things we found whilst playing around with the TomTom iPhone car kit was that it doesn't work without power. This is a good thing as it would probably drain the iPhone battery exceptionally quickly. It was a bad thing for us though as we were unable to really test it out and see if it really is that much better than the iPhone on its own. This is the reason that there is quite a bit of speculation above. I guess I will just have to wait for my review sample before we can answer these questions.

So no hands on testing of it working, but I did manage to talk to people who had used it both from TomTom and others. The TomTom spokesperson informed me that the car kit will work with any GPS application. It remains to be seen if this is the case, I certainly hope it is. I also heard from a non-TomTom person that when you put the iPhone in the dock it checks to see if you have the TomTom app installed and if not prompts you to go to the Apple AppStore to buy it. This may be because the iPhone will need a driver installed to interface to the GPS. I imagine the external hands-free is pretty standard. If this is the case then apps using the external GPS may well need to access this special driver: time will tell…
TomTom iPhone Car Kit on PocketGPSWorld.com

Whilst talking of drivers: looking at the device the other day it had a label on it which clearly showed a firmware version number. This implies that the dock is not just a dumb bit of hardware, but has some intelligence built into it.

With a price tag of £99.00 this iPhone holder seems very expensive, but consider it as a multifunctional car kit and the price whilst still expensive starts to look a bit better, certainly compared to the price Mercedes want to integrate into their cars… There really is nothing else on the market to compare it with except the Brodit Active iPhone mount which is approximately £52, but doesn't offer hands-free or enhanced GPS. Bearing this in mind £99 starts to look a bit better, but still somewhat expensive.

The official TomTom Press Release follows:

TomTom car kit for iPhone now available in Europe
 
~ Navigate and call safely with TomTom car kit for iPhone ~
 
London, 12 October 2009 – TomTom announces that its TomTom car kit for iPhone can be purchased in TomTom web store and Apple online store starting today*.
 
“With TomTom car kit for iPhone, we offer cutting-edge features which allow the most optimised driving and navigation experience with iPhone” said Benoit Simeray, Vice-president Mobile On-Board at TomTom. “It was designed with safety and quality in mind to offer iPhone users the best in car experience.”
 
TomTom car kit for iPhone key features
The TomTom car kit for iPhone provides a safe driving experience while enhancing your in-car navigation journey.
 
Features include:
Secure docking
·  Secure mount with unique design docks iPhone to the desired position on the car windshield or dashboard, using a twist-and-lock motion.
·  Adjustable mount securely rotates iPhone to either portrait or landscape mode for optimal positioning and widescreen route display.
·  Easily removed with one twist upon arrival at a destination.
 
Enhanced GPS performance
·  Built-in GPS receiver reduces the chance of signal drop out in areas where GPS reception is limited like cities with tall buildings or forested areas.
·  Significantly improved positioning accuracy in all areas.
 
Built-in loud speaker and microphone
·  Clear voice instructions through the built-in speaker, so you’ll hear every direction loud and clear.
·  Integrated microphone and speaker allowing hands-free calling while driving.
 
Additional features
·  Charges iPhone while on the go, so it stays fully charged.
·  Plays your iPhone music through the AUX OUT port over your car stereo**.
 
Pricing
The TomTom car kit for iPhone is now available in the TomTom web store (www.tomtom.com) and in Apple online store with a recommended retail price of £99.99.    
 
It will be available in the US on the TomTom web store and in US Apple online and retail stores in the near future.

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mediaguycouk
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 8:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Does the price include the software or is the £59.99 a compulsory addition to it?
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 8:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The price is for hardware only. You still have to buy the nav app to go with it. We do not know yet if that must be the TomTom one though I suspect it will be.
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nashmills
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Was there any indication as to whether you could use the mount for gps and power but without using its speaker facility. For example those of us with io-Plays, would we still be able to output the audio via Bluetooth?
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 9:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We were unable to use the car kit in anyway other than placing the iPhone in the holder. All functions need power via the USB to work.
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 9:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The good old FCC web site gives a very good insight in to this unit, it uses a Bluetooth pair code of 5555 which is rather unique, whats wrong with the good old 0000 or even 1234, either of these are more user friendly than the bizzare choice of 5555 - Re-inventing the wheel springs to mind! It can also store the Bluetooth setting for up to 8 iPhones, lord knows who might own that many!

Even with the device connected to output sound through the car stereo any hands free calls don't go through the car stereo even if connected - I would stick with the iO-Play as thats what I intend to do at least you can hear the phone conversation if you choose to answer while driving - The GPS performance is adequate from the 3G iPhone when its running a decent application - Mike
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 9:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So I guess the hands free will not work without power supply?
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 10:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Badgerman26 wrote:
So I guess the hands free will not work without power supply?

Correct. Power is required for all functions of the car kit.
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NickG
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 12:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You've shown a picture of an iPhone in the dock running MotionX, but presumably the external GPS in the mount can only be used by TomTom and TT are unlikely to disclose the serial protocol to any 3rd party app developers?
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 1:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd wondered the very same. Mike is in the air on route to Florida at the moment so won't be able to answer.

It would at least go some way to justifying the price if you could use it with other software but I can't see TT allowing it.

As it is, I couldn't justify £100 on a cradle even with the features it offers.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Darren wrote:
As it is, I couldn't justify £100 on a cradle even with the features it offers.


The cradle price is a rip off. Bearing in mind that for £89 you can buy a brand new TomTom One from Amazon which includes a mount, plus a free GPS navigation system and all data!

Just to *add* TomTom UK software and the mount to the £600 iPhone you've already bought costs £160! - nearly twice the price of the £89 TomTom One GPS system or the same price as a TomTom One XL Europe! It's a total rip off and I hope many people don't fall for it. At that price, it should include a voucher to get the app for free. You can't really use the app without the mount anyway as the iPhone GPS antenna is so poor. I was expecting the mount to be about £40!
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

NickG wrote:
You can't really use the app without the mount anyway as the iPhone GPS antenna is so poor.

I use TomTom (on the iPhone) and various others all the time without issue - inside a car with heated (wired) windscreen.

There is a problem with some apps e.g. Co-Pilot, in resolving to the right road, but that's an app specific issue (Co-Pilot have improved it in their latest version).
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I tried it and found it unusable in city areas with tall buildings. It took ages to get a lock and when it did, it frequently placed me on roads adjacent to the one I was really on - especially in areas where the roads are already quite close together. It had nothing like the reliablity or performance of a normal standalone TomTom.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

SSR wrote:
NickG wrote:
You can't really use the app without the mount anyway as the iPhone GPS antenna is so poor.

I use TomTom (on the iPhone) and various others all the time without issue - inside a car with heated (wired) windscreen.

There is a problem with some apps e.g. Co-Pilot, in resolving to the right road, but that's an app specific issue (Co-Pilot have improved it in their latest version).


same here. never had any gps issues but i live in a field! it's fine in bradford centre which is relatively built up but could understand it not performing well in the centre of london - but then again a lot of devices struggle in those conditions from what i understand!

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I too have had no major issues with GPS on my 3GS, even in urban environments.
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