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TomTom Maps-on-Line Review

18th September 2002

  

 http://www.tomtom.com

 Price 5 euros per month

  

Introduction

TomTom Maps-on-Line is a wireless mapping and routing application, using location based server technology. Once the client software is installed on your Pocket PC, TomTom Maps-on-Line gives you access to detailed, street-level maps of twelve European countries without the need to preload any maps. Maps are sent instantly to your Pocket PC as you need them; no matter where you are, you always have detailed maps of the exact location with you. In order to use Maps-on-Line you will need to connect your Pocket PC to the internet.

This really is an ingenious product, and as far as we're aware is the first product of it's kind to produce maps complete for the whole of Europe in a single quick download.  Maps-on-Line like Navigator uses the TeleAtlas maps.  The maps that get downloaded to your Pocket PC are of two kinds.  A complete map showing the journey from departure to destination, and turn by turn maps.  You can zoom in and zoom out, which will just enlarge the map size with some pixellation, and you can also change the scale, however to be able to achieve this you do need a mobile phone because as soon as you try to do this, if the map isn't in the cache list it will try and download the map, so it really does require a GPRS connected phone to put Maps-on-Line to it's full potential, and preferably with a BlueTooth enabled phone and Pocket PC.

 

Maps-on-Line startup screen

Setting up your Maps-on-Line Account

Setting up your account is an easy one pass setup which will take you approx 2 mins to setup online.  All you need to do is goto the TomTom Maps-on-Line website, create a new account, select a username and password and enter your full address and credit card details.  TomTom are currently giving everyone 1 months FREE service to Maps-on-Line, so if you don't like it before the month is up, simply log back onto your online account and cancel the service and TomTom say they will not bill you for the service used.

 

An Account has just been created above

 

Once your account has been setup, you can start using the account immediately, you do not have to wait for your credit card to be authorised which is a good service giving you no waiting around time which is something I must say I loath about Shareware Registrations in general!  As you'll see from the screen below, it gives you your payment status, expiration date of account which is your next bill date (or first), and a brief description of the buttons below allowing you to change your password, unsubscribe and also select a new device to store maps to.  It must be said TomTom are restricting you to one device, which in most cases it should be fine, and if you think about the way the normal software license works, you should only be using software on one device at any one time (in most cases).  Don't forget that you are only paying 5 euros per month if you decide to continue your subscription which really is a bargain for complete European maps!

Account logged in screen

 

Installing Software

Now all you have to do is download the Pocket PC Maps-on-Line software from TomTom's website, install this in the usual way via ActiveSync and you'll be all setup and ready to go.  As you'll see from the screen on the right, everything looks kind of familiar if you are already a user of TomTom's applications.  The version we tested is the very latest and current version of TomTom Maps-on-Line v1.0 release 25.

 

Once you've installed the software you need to go into the User Account setup screen, enter the username and password you specified on TomTom's sign-in website and you're all configured.  Make sure you still have your Pocket PC docked at this stage.

 

 

 

TomTom Maps-on-Line About and User Details screens

 

 

 

Like we said earlier, the interface is very similar to TomTom Navigator, with the Map menu at the top left and general menu's at the bottom of the screen.  The menu's do look a little difference, there's a Connect option that allows you to connect via a dial-up connection to TomTom's Servers, a Services option that allows you to specify your username and password, the normal Preferences screen and GPS Status screens.

 

TomTom have also made it easy to turn on and off frequently used features like GPS Position, Show Route, Show Local POI, Show Favourites.

The Preferences screen is very similar to what you would see in Navigator, RoutePlanner or CityMaps allowing you to select the scale of the map, the colour scheme and distance units.

 

You can also change the map cache size form small (default) to medium or large, as you maybe using a mobile phone, if you have enough storage space then a large cache would be better.  You can also choose the maximum amount of POI information that you will download.

 

Planning your Route

Planning your route has to be done online, either via ActiveSync in the cradle or via your mobile.  It's done exactly the same as you would with previous TomTom software by clicking on the A to B or Search icons, this will then bring up the Find Route screen like on the right.  You simply select your Country, and then the SET button next to Departure and Destination, enter the City, Address on each and then select whether you want to use this route for walking or driving.

 

TomTom has already put great thought into this and allow you to store multiple routes and maps, depending on the size of your cache, so if you wanted 3 or 4 planned routes, change your cache size to large!

 

Now that you've selected the route, you will now get an instructions screen up giving you detailed instructions on what turns to take.  Again this is very similar to previous TomTom products and also anyone that is familiar with AutoRoute will notice how similar this is.

 

 

 

You will see the instructions on the left here, now tap and hold the route planned and select the Get maps for route option.  This will now connect via ActiveSync again or via your mobile phone to TomTom's servers and start downloading map segments in readiness for your journey.

 

 

Commencing your journey

So you've now setup your TomTom account, installed TomTom Maps-on-Line, planned your route, downloaded the map segments.  What's left ?

 

Nothing!  Now you can commence your journey.  If you want to check the maps before you set off, click on the top left menu, and select MAP menu, or tap and hold on part of the instructions and select Show on map.

 

You'll see from the screenshots below that TomTom Maps-on-Line is very similar to TomTom CityMaps and TomTom Navigator using TeleAtlas maps gives a lot of detail, but the map screen is smaller giving you rulers for distance and a zoom bar.

 

The downsides we've seen so far is the Zoom Bar.  It's a great facility and you do need sometimes to be able to zoom in and out, however the zoom basically just enlarges the map like you'd see in your favourite paint package, so you will see pixellation if you've chosen a smal scale.  If you want to change the scale of the map whilst you're driving, you need to be constantly connected to TomTom's Servers as this will then try to download a new map.  If you are not connected you will get an error message saying it couldn't connect.

 

We can see why the Zoom Bar has been programmed like this, as it cuts download times down on planning and downloading your inital route, but it would be nice to have an added feature in the Preferences menu so that you can specify how many zoom levels of each map you will download.

 

Perhaps this would be a welcome feature for the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Verdict

So, what the overall verdict ?  TomTom Maps-on-Line is a great innovation and service, and one that the casual GPS user could only dream about until recently.  Costing only 5 euro's a month is a bargain for what you get.  If you are travelling between European countries on business a lot then you will not only find this invaluable, but also a cheaper option than buying TomTom Navigator software for each country you go to since TomTom have changed their maps from European to Country specific.

 

If you are a heavy GPS user and rely on your GPS on a daily basis, or your requirement is for proper routing rather than displaying of maps and a GPS pointer then TomTom Maps-on-Line may become a bit of a chore.  If you don't have TomTom Navigator then it would be a good introduction to TomTom's Navigator product and maps, allowing you to test the maps before purchasing their full Navigator product.

 

 

Conclusion

Manufacturers Website

http://www.tomtom.com

Pocket GPS Reviewer

Dave Burrows

Pocket GPS Reviewer Website

Dave Burrows.com

Rating

 

Ability to plot route and follow

Voice Navigation Quality

n/a

Re-routing Quality

n/a

Map Detail

Overall Rating 75%

How did we achieve these ratings ?

Review Ratings

 

Comments ?

Have any comments about this review ?  Post them here.

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