Review by Darren Griffin
If you're one of those who has been desperately awaiting the launch of TomTom Mobile then this product will need little introduction!
First announced at CeBit Hanover in March this year, TomTom Mobile is a smartphone compatible version of their leading GPS navigation solution, TomTom Navigator.
TomTom Mobile contains all the features of the Pocket PC version and adds some additional ones such as built-in POI Alerting.
TomTom Mobile is available initially for the following handsets:
- Nokia 6600
- Orange SPV E200
- Qtek 8080
Note: The Orange SPV C500 has a compatibility issue which is being resolved at present and it is likely that support for other Smartphone's such as the Motorola MPX220 will follow.
In the Box
- TomTom wireless GPS receiver
- MMC Memory card with pre-installed application and map (Size dependent on Country, the UK Version is 128Mb)
- User Manual CD containing user guides for software and GPS unit
- Cigarette lighter charger cable for GPS receiver
- Combined Installation & Quick Start Guide poster
Note: No phone is included in this package although retailers are already offering bundles with compatible handsets. TomTom Mobile cannot be used in conjunction with Bluetooth car kits or headsets unless your phone supports concurrent Bluetooth connections to multiple devices.
TomTom Mobile is available for the following map areas:
- Germany / Alps
- Great Britain
Although I admit to being skeptical about the suitability of a smartphone's smaller screen real estate for displaying maps and driving instructions I can happily say that I am a convert. The displays are bright and clear and an added bonus is that many handsets including all the MS Smartphone's have a speaker phone facility. As a side product of this the speakers are loud and work well when playing back driving instructions in guidance mode.
TomTom Mobile comes complete with the TomTom Bluetooth GPS Receiver. This is manufactured by Leadtek and has been previously reviewed here. It is an excellent receiver with good sensitivity and rapid signal acquisition and has an internal rechargeable battery with a life of approximately 5hrs.
The TomTom BT GPS has not been without problems; early units suffered a high failure rate and because the car cradle was suspected to be the cause it was withdrawn. The quality problems appear to have been resolved now but the Car Cradle is no longer supplied nor is it available as an option.
Because TomTom Mobile comes complete with its own GPS Receiver installation is fairly straightforward and the configuration options within the software itself are limited. It is important that you follow the supplied instructions to the letter when bonding the Bluetooth GPS but once done it all works well. In day to day use all that needs to be done is to power on the GPS and launch TomTom, initially the map display will be grey to indicate no valid fix but after a few seconds GPS communication will be established (confirmed by a bell sound). Following this your current location will be ascertained and displayed on the map at which point the map turns from grey to colour.
All the required software is supplied pre-installed on the MMC Memory Card. As soon as you insert this into your handset the installation will auto-run and you will be ready to use the application in seconds. No need for access to a PC to perform the installation here!
TomTom Mobile uses the common platform navigation engine that is already available on the Palm and GO versions. If you have already seen this then you will feel at home straight away as the displays are very similar. The navigation display presents all the information you require on a single screen. In the top 4/5ths of the screen is the map view and at the bottom is the information bar which displays next turn information, distance to next turn, distance to destination (DTD), estimated time of arrival (ETA) and remaining journey time. Below this is an information bar which provides the name of the road or street you are currently on.
Now whilst TomTom are to be commended for the depth of information presented here I am bound to address the clarity of this information. Given that the displays are somewhat smaller than PDA's it can at times be difficult to discern the information on screen. On a positive note, the next turn graphic and distance to next turn information are easily read but all the other information e.g. ETA, DTD etc is very difficult to read when the handset is mounted in a holder on the dash. Personally I would prefer the option to turn off this information or have it available in a single panel that cycles through at 2 or 3 second intervals to allow a larger text size to be displayed. As in other versions you can choose to view the map in 2D or 3D modes and whether you wish to have the safety screen appear above a pre-configured speed.
TomTom have done an excellent job of the menu system on this product, Smartphone's by design lack touch screens and have to reply on input using the number keys. As a result poor menu structure can ruin a product and TomTom have obviously spent a lot of time in this area. Instead of utilising the default interface built-into the handsets TomTom have designed their own using colourful icons and large easy to read text. As a result it is quick and easy to navigate each menu and access the functions you need using either the keypad to jump from section to section quickly or the joystick.
Address Input and Guidance
Inputting destination is a simple albeit slower process as most are now familiar with entering text using keypads. Press the joystick to access the menu structure, press again to select 'Navigate to…', scroll down and select 'Address' and then enter the City or Town of your destination. As you enter text the list of available match's updates and you can select any of the available choices at any time to proceed to the next screen.
Once you have chosen your City or Town, you proceed to the Street selection and this is followed by the house number. You will see from the example that Post Codes are appended to the street names to aid in identifying the correct match; this is useful when more than one street in a town or area matches your input.
Upon completion of the address entry the route will be calculated and an overview map displayed detailing the calculated route. Spoken instructions are clear and concise, as in the other TomTom products these are sound files rather than true Text To Speech (TTS) but as such they are loud and clear and convey all the information necessary. Calculated routes are generally very good and you can choose to have it calculate an alternative or indeed avoid entire sections of road if you prefer. In the current version there is no facility to receive live traffic updates but this is planned as a future upgrade. Given that this version is running on smartphone's that have direct access to GPRS data services these would make ideal platforms for this feature.
Accessing the preferences sub-menu provides you with options to change screen colours, 2D/3D map display, POI configuration, sound, language etc, Map units etc.
In common with other TomTom variants, there are many options to customise the display colours both for daytime and night time display modes and enable a safety screen which reduces the information display to the minimum and removes the map elements.
In addition the voice used for turn announcements can be changed, for the UK there is a choice of Male and Female but you could if you wished install the US voice files or even another language altogether! Because smartphone's have speakerphone functionality their speakers have excellent volume and this makes them superb for this kind of use, in-car I had no difficulty hearing spoken instructions above road and radio noise unlike most PDA's which require some amplification to make themselves heard under similar conditions.
TomTom Mobile comes with a huge array of pre-installed POI's including petrol stations, car parks, railways stations, cash points etc and has full support for all the 3rd party POI's available for TomTom Navigator. A new feature that recently made its way onto the GO platform was POI Warnings. Pocket PC users have had to reply on 3rd party plug-in utilities to provide alarms when approaching a POI i.e. Our Safety Camera Database. The recent update to GO provided this function as part of the application and I am pleased to report that TomTom have provided this within the Mobile version too. Configuration is a simple process; load your chosen POI file into the Map Folder. Access the 'Maintain POI' menu and enable the POI. All that remains is for you to select 'Warn when near POI', select the distance before the POI that you wish to receive an alert and choose from the supplied warning sounds. The supplied sound choices are limited and cannot currently be changed. It would be useful if TomTom addressed this and allowed you to add your own sound files.
An added feature is the ability to choose to receive warning only on the planned route. This is intended to reduce false alerts for POI's off route but needs to be used with caution as you may end up missing some locations, if as is likely this is being used for Safety Camera warnings that could be costly!
When you are on the road and a POI Alarm is triggered you will see the POI highlighted in Red, the chosen alarm will sound and another indicator at top left of screen will show the distance to the POI.
For the review I used a Brodit e200/Qtek Cradle and ProClip and the Orange 12v Car Power Lead.
The only issues I encountered were the small size of some screen elements, the limited choice of sound files for POI Alerts and the way the application handles loss of power to the GPS Receiver. If power is lost to the GPS for whatever reason, flat battery etc even if you immediately restore power TomTom refuses to see the GPS until re-started. I have since tested this and it occurs each time. A minor problem indeed but indicative of just how well this product works as I could not otherwise fault it.
One other problem is that TomTom are currently only shipping this with their Bluetooth GPS so if you already have another Bluetooth GPS, you will be forced to pay the extra money out and receive TomTom's own Bluetooth GPS. Not ideal, but hopefully this will change over time and TomTom will release a software only version.
Another superb product from TomTom, it has all the features which makes TomTom the best selling and most popular navigation solution for Pocket PC and adds POI Proximity alerts as a welcome bonus. The menus are so simple to navigate that you do not need reference to a manual and with the supplied quick start MMC Card you can install and use it immediately. Apart from the reported problems (above), TomTom have excelled themselves with TomTom Mobile, this is a great solution that works superbly. I hope that in the near future they will consider offering it without the bundled GPS as many of the target audience will already have invested in such a device and will consequently be put off at the prospect of having to buy yet another.
It often appears that gadgets and other technology solutions are entirely targeted at male customers so in an attempt to redress the balance we are introducing a new section entitled 'Sue Says' to some reviews which adds a female viewpoint.
I don't use a PDA, my mobile phone has less than 10 numbers programmed into it and whilst I probably could add a new contact it would take me a while! So whenever my husband shows me a new navigation system it is quite a test if I can pick it up and use it without instruction or reference to a manual. I can happily report that once I was told that you accessed the menus by clicking the joystick I was able to access the correct menu and enter a destination within a minute or two. All the menus options are self explanatory and whilst it may take me a little time to get to grips with features such as POI's (I now know what they are but would not have previously!) I like the option to receive an alert when approaching Speed Cameras. I am not a technophobe but need to see real value in a product before I would rush out and buy it. I would not hesitate to buy TomTom Mobile and having shown my work colleagues just what it can do there are more than a few of them who will be doing so! The female market is large and untapped and we are probably more likely to appreciate the value of a navigation device such as this. The safety and security aspect of having a phone and navigation device combined are invaluable. Perhaps TomTom should be selling this in High Street stores that women frequent and with female product demonstrators; Dixon's and PC World are not in that list!!
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