back to article TomTom for Android with hands-free kit review

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. TomTom Navigation for …


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  1. Llyander

    Shame about the screen size issue, guess I'll wait before I try and pick this up for my Galaxy Note II.

    1. LarsG

      I'll stick with my standalone Tom Tom, There's nothing worse than getting close to the destination and the phone rings...

  2. Wam

    Why Bother?

    Google Navigation works fine for me - unless Tomtom's IQ routing is VERY clever (I must admit Google's not too hot on re-routing)

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Why Bother?

      A proper sat-nav is a world away from a map+route solution.

      We got CoPilot and it was great, but Nokia's free tool on the Lumia is as good as a proper sat-nav, even on my Lumia 610.

      1. AceRimmer

        Re: Why Bother?

        Google Navigation is a proper "sat-nav" navigation application. It is NOT Google maps, although the two are joined at the hip.

        I'm also quite happy with Google Navigation for now and I'm running an S3 so TomTom isn't an option

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Down

          Re: Why Bother?@AceRimmer

          "Google Navigation is a proper "sat-nav" navigation application"

          Only on the weakest definition of "proper". It doesn't offer speed limit reminders, camera warnings, lane guidance is ropey, when on the same road for miles it goes mute for ages, it doesn't work without a mobile network connection, and voice directions drop out if you temporarily lose the network.

          Google could make Maps and Navigation a killer app by fixing this handful of flaws, and that would then vapourise one of Nokia's (and thus Microsoft's) trump cards.

          A pity then that Google don't listen to users.

          1. AndrueC Silver badge
            Thumb Down

            Re: Why Bother?@AceRimmer

            > it doesn't work without a mobile network connection, and voice directions drop out if you temporarily lose the network.

            Mine doesn't. Android Navigation has had cached maps for a couple of years now.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Why Bother?@AceRimmer

              "Android Navigation has had cached maps for a couple of years now."

              Yes, but that doesn't give voice directions when offline unless you let the damn thing cache the route directions, and you can't search offline, to judge by my experience. Both respondants are right that it does some of the "offline" bit, but I still maintain that it falls short of the mark, yet could so easily be fixed to be a proper tool.

              If you had a dedicated satnav, you wouldn't expect it to refuse to search when there's no mobile signal, and you wouldn't accept the need to dowload trip specific voice directions for the same reason - why can't Google make Navigation work properly, when Nokia had this cracked three years ago?

              1. mwngy

                Re: Why Bother?@AceRimmer

                > why can't Google make Navigation work properly, when Nokia had this cracked three years ago?

                Because they aren't trying hard enough, or intentionally want it to be pants?

                Your experience of google navigation matches mine - it can cache the maps/routes, but just doesn't do the full job when it is offline - it won't route for a start (I guess all the route planning is server-based).

                Google seem to have done all the hard bits, but fail to go the extra mile (if you excuse the pun) and make it usable offline. Shame, as the nexus 7 would seem to have the makings of a pretty good in-car unit.

                There is navfree which is free for android - anyone tried it?

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Why Bother?@mwngy

                  "There is navfree which is free for android - anyone tried it?"

                  Yep, got it on my phone to see how it worked. It does actually work quite well as an offline navigation service, and directions are very marginally better than Google Nav. Against this the graphics and maps aren't as polished, speed and camera alerts seem to exist but not function for me, and the search facility (eg for postcodes) defaults to an online Google search. If you put in location names by typing them rather than the postcode it works perfectly well offline, but it would be much easier if they'd use an offline postcode search. There's no frilly stuff like satellite imagery or live traffic information. No complaints about routing, which is comparable to Google - so not bad, not faultless. Not used the POI stuff. The database is Open Street Map, so it isn't clear how rigorous or dependable the updating is, but I've not encountered any problems any more frequently as the few I've seen on Google Maps.

                  I don't think there's much wrong with Navmii, and for offline navigation it is worth trying out, but in a field full of "quite good" solutions it doesn't stand out. If they'd fix the postcode search so that it worked offline, and the speed and camera warnings then it would stand out even against Google Nav, and I'd then use it in preference.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Why Bother?@AceRimmer

            Also, Google Nav doesn't do multiple waypoints in a route. Try navigating Route 66 for example: there is no way to put in all the needed waypoints to correctly follow the route. You can specify Chicago and Santa Monica, and it will happily route you on the interstates. Oh, you wanted to go to Peach Springs and Oatman? Well, you should have set up a route for part of the trip, driven it, stopped (you DO stop when fiddling with your sat-nav, don't you?), set the next segment up, lather/rinse/repeat.

          3. cs94njw

            Re: Why Bother?@AceRimmer

            I suspect this is more due to competition issues than any lack of interest.

            As you said, the lacking features wouldn't take much, but could destroy a Global company over night (or at least a few of the smaller ones).

            If I bought a SatNav, it wouldn't be TomTom - way too expensive. I'd buy a SatNav for 2 features tho - a hefty battery, and lane guidance. Live Traffic routing would be nice, but couldn't justify the cost for a non-business driver.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Why Bother?

            @Ledswinger: If you need speed limit reminders and camera warnings, then maybe you should let someone more responsible drive.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Thumb Down

              Re: Why Bother?@mutatedwombat

              "If you need speed limit reminders and camera warnings, then maybe you should let someone more responsible drive"

              I am merely a fallible mortal, and I expect these capabilities to exist as they do on any decent satnav.

              But since I've got nine years no claims, and haven't had an "at fault" accident for twenty nine years, I don't think I need to take advice from sanctimonious twerps like you.

      2. Piro Silver badge

        Re: Why Bother?

        Google Navigation on Android is turn by turn with voice for sweet FA.

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: Why Bother?

          Hmm, I looked at the Navigation app and that wasn't clear - consider my statement retracted!

          In which case, what does Navigation miss that paid apps like CoPilot/TomTom provide?

          1. Real Ale is Best

            Re: Why Bother?

            In which case, what does Navigation miss that paid apps like CoPilot/TomTom provide?

            As far as I can tell: Uploadable silly voices (as used, very irritatingly, by my father), speed camera locations, works while not data connected, possibly works abroad if you by the appropriate map. Err, that's it!

            1. AndrueC Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: Why Bother?

              Having an amplifier for the 'droid would be useful in its own right. I can barely hear the woman unless I turn my music right down.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Why Bother?

                "Having an amplifier for the 'droid would be useful in its own right. I can barely hear the woman unless I turn my music right down."

                If you can, run the car stereo with the Aux input taking music off your phone, leave the music player running in the background with Google Nav running in the foreground. Then the music mutes when the voice directions are given (certainly works on my Sammy SGS2).

                Not so convenient if you want the radio instead, because you'd have to use the Android radio player, and IME that suffers from poor reception accompanied by lack of a mono switch (to kill the hiss).

                1. AndrueC Silver badge
                  Thumb Up

                  Re: Why Bother?

                  > If you can, run the car stereo with the Aux input taking music off your phone

                  Good idea. Unfortunately I want my music to come from my iPod. Not, I hasten to add, that I wanted to own an iPod but when my old Archos packed up it was one of the few devices I could find with a big enough hard disk for my entire music collection and no video playback to push up the cost.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Why Bother?@AndrueC

                    Well, you've got an Android phone by virtue of the Google Maps, I presume - couldn't you stick in a big micro SD card and put the music on there? Not ideal, perhaps but worth a thought, reduces your device count, and most phones use a 3.5mm socket, so you can use a decent set of ear phones for non-car listening?

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Why Bother?

                  Err, you can do offline with Google Maps now... though it's notable you need the Internet on your phone to cache the area before you start, it's not a 'download all maps for the entire country' kind of thing.

                  I've never been overly reliant on sat nav, I tend to use road signs to get me within a few miles, then sat nav if required. The road and signs tend to give me the lane guidance I need. For me, it's a nice to have rather than necessary. Though, if I did more driving as a rep or whatnot, I certainly could see the use for a standard sat nav.

                  Though, I will concede in North West Wales with no Internet at all and no pre-cached maps Google Maps was next to useless, but that is the only time in 3 years I've ever had a problem with it. Though at £80, TomTom are having a giraffe.

      3. csumpi

        Re: Why Bother?

        Nice job making a statement and proving yourself wrong within two sentences.

    2. Chris Miller

      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.

    3. Lee Dowling Silver badge

      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.

  3. h3

    Maybe it is good maybe it isn't

    I use Navigon or Nokia Drive. (Only ones with good routing I have found).

    I tried Sygic / Copilot and found them awful.

    iGO is apparently really good also but it is a pita to get it working. (You cannot even buy it as they only sell to OEM's).

    1. Danny 14

      Re: Maybe it is good maybe it isn't

      aye, you really need a demo of them before plunking cash. I personally found Navigon to be unworkable but love copilot. Everyone is different and one size wont fit all. That being said, TomTom might have been king 5-10 years ago but there are many credible alternatives now.

      Google navigation is "ok" as long as you have a decent dataconnection (or can cache the small area you want).

    2. Pristine Audio

      Re: Maybe it is good maybe it isn't

      "I tried Sygic / Copilot and found them awful."

      I've been using Sygic since June and much prefer it to my hardware Garmin sat-nav on my Galaxy Note. Nothing awful about it IMHO - gets you there and avoids hold-ups, whilst looking lovely on the screen. What more do you want?

    3. Fr. Ted Crilly Bronze badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Maybe it is good maybe it isn't

      ah yes navigon, has the most entertaining french pronounciation, Arras comes out as Are-arse, Calais come out as carlat, Boulogne comes out as boo-logknee. the middle aged school teacher woman voice, most entertaining :D

  4. Norphy


    I'm sure I know the answer and I'll probably get howls of derision from the assembled for even thinking about asking this but...

    Does this kit work with an iPhone 5 plus a MicroUSB to Lightning adapter? TomTom haven't updated the iPhone version of this to take the the iPhone 5 into account as of yet and I'm looking to replace the TomTom mount I had for my 3GS (which was top notch). I'm fed up with having to put my phone into my car's cup holder!


    1. Steve I

      Re: Question

      The TomTom app for iOS now supports the iPhone 5 fully.

      1. Norphy

        Re: Question

        That's not what I'm asking. I'm asking if I can interface my iPhone 5 with this TomTom kit for Android. I'm asking if I can connect it to the bluetooth speaker and mic on this thing and charge it with a MicroUSB to lightning adapter.

        I know that the app works, I've been using it since I got the 5. I just want a half decent mount and a hands free kit for it and until TomTom produce a mount for the iPhone 5 specifically, this looks like it'll do the job.

        1. Monty Cantsin

          Re: Question

          I'd be interested in knowing that too. I'm in the same situation - upgraded from a 3GS to a 5, and the old TomTom cradle won't work.

          The spec sheet seems to suggest it will:

          Smartphone compatible: The car kit fits all Bluetooth®-enabled phones charged with a micro-USB connector and which are 100-127.5 mm tall or 54-80.5 mm wide.


          I already have the Lightning Micro-USB adapter. But I'll wait for independent confirmation before I splash the cash.

  5. Lee Dowling Silver badge

    I would literally pay through the nose for a decent TomTom app on Android. I have Android 2.3. But I have a Galaxy Ace, which has a low screen res. So, basically, I'm still waiting. Sure, I could buy one of the competition but I have a five-year-old TomTom that does a better job than anything I do on my phone (including Google Navigation) and doesn't kill my phone battery (data + GPS = plug-in charger for the whole time of driving to work or my phone would die by noon).

    Ironically, the TomTom I have uses the same resolution screen as my phone, turned sideways, and I've never struggled for screen space even with the traffic plug-in turned on (I have the RDS-TMC receiver for my TomTom).

    Sort that out, TomTom, and I might forgive you for the "map upgrade plan" you sold me just before you basically chopped my "all-of-Europe" maps into 4 parts, only one of which could be used at a time, and required laptop intervention and fresh download when I crossed borders. Funnily, my satnav was big enough to store all of Europe including roads, postcodes and everything else three years ago but not two years ago, apparently. Didn't realise the continent had expanded that much. Needless to say, that money was basically in the bin once you did that to me, and I refused to update to that stupid system at all, or buy another TomTom that *was* big enough.

    But a decent Android app would have been enough for me to take you off my "grey-list" for a while at least. There's little point releasing an Android app if half the Android phones out there are just going to get a "This is not compatible with your device" message from Google Play.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      I know I keep banging on about this

      but I had TomTom running on my Palm Treo 650 with a BlueTooth GPS about seven years ago. I'd probably still be using it as a satnav now if TomTom hadn't retired the database format needed by Navigator 6. And out-of-date databases are a real pain in the neck.

      I may try this. £31 is not so much to lose, and I really can't get on with Google navigation needing a data link any time it needs to re-route, and giving me directions just-too-late to get into the correct lane.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I know I keep banging on about this

        I still have the BT GPS and Treo 650 as a solution, and for me it still works well in the areas that I would be likely to use it. My beef with that solution is that unless both pieces of kit are fully charged and kept fully charged at all times then the Treo drops the BT connection due to interference from the car charging circuits.

        Run the Treo not on charge and it will keep working, until it unexpectedly goes dead or a call comes in!

        The TomTom software I bought also came with a Windows CE version on the CD, it installed on an old Binatone satnav and works brilliantly for our daughter whilst house sitting during our holiday. It's possible to update to a newer version of TomTom and newer maps but I keep it on V6 as I bought UK, Europe and USA maps for it and the places she used it for haven't needed more up to date maps. ( I saved loads of favourites out such as Vets, doctors, hospitals, shopping centres, supermarkets even local kids playgroups.

        I also have a Garmin with more up to date maps if I am using it for business reasons. In the USA Navfree worked fine on my Android phone from JFK to a friend in upstate NY. So did the Garmin, although they chose different routes around to get out the city. - they both would have got me there.

        Google Navigation with cached maps didn't work very well offline on a trip from East Cheshire back to West Lancs when the Thelwall Viaduct on the M6 was shut. I knew the route I needed, but if I hadn't the system failure would have left me searching for old fashioned paper maps. On another occasion with 3G enabled it worked all the way to the end of my road, where, to my surprise it told me to turn left when I needed to turn right - The screen showed the route correctly.

        Conclusion? - No system is perfect, I've found several errors in A to Z street atlases across the UK. If a human is involved in creating it then it don't expect perfection, digital or on highly processed wood pulp!

  6. csumpi

    TomTom think us DumbDumb?

    Fixed resolution? Really? And we should believe that even though your programmers suck at graphics/ui, they can pull off some IQ routing magic?

    I mean, really, please tell us, how did your IQ programmers manage to create a drawing view that only supports fixed resolutions?

    If you are a programmer for TomTom, you should be ashamed. If you are a manager for TomTom, you are an idiot.

    And I haven't even gotten to that cheap-crap looking mount. You guys apparently also suck at product design.

  7. Arrrggghh-otron

    Don't touch!

    Given the law regarding mobile phone use whilst driving, you would not be able to interact with the device whilst driving (i.e. dismissing reroute notifications and the like). You can legally do that on a sat nav device as they are not covered by the 'mobile phone' laws, but not a smart phone acting as a sat nav. This was the advice from DFT as of November this year when the app was launched.

    So do any of the hands free kits allow you to interact with the app (i.e. dismissing prompts) using hardware buttons remote from the phone?

    1. AceRimmer

      Re: Don't touch!


      As long as the phone is attached to the windscreen then you are ok

      Similarly, if a proper sat-nav is not attached to the windscreen or dash then you fall foul of the same laws

      1. Arrrggghh-otron

        Re: Don't touch!

        The DFT say "A driver may use a smartphone if it used as a Satnav device, that is to say programmed before the journey begins and untouched until the driver has parked safely. However a smartphone must not be used, either as a phone, or a satnav device, if the driver will at some point hold or physically interact with it whilst driving. "

    2. Lee Dowling Silver badge

      Re: Don't touch!

      There is no "mobile phone" law. There are clarifications in the law for dangerous driving / driving without due care and attention caused by failing to have your full attention on the road, specifically relating to drivers using electronic devices in cars while driving.

      Your satnav? Equally illegal to press the screen while driving (as is pressing a button on a phone or headset to answer a call). In fact, taking your hand off the wheel to do so is , technically, illegal, as is removing your hand from the wheel for anything not directly driving-related (e.g. turning the radio over, though you could probably get away with muting / power-off if it was a distraction to your driving, although changing gear, indicating, etc. is obviously allowed). In fact, even something as simple as opening the sunroof or looking at your watch could be considered driving without due care and attention.

      The laws on driving are much more draconian than you might think, and though you will probably "get away" with things quite a lot, it's still technically illegal and people are still prosecuted because of quite simple actions everyday (there was a story only a few months ago about a guy charged with driving without due care because he took his hand off the wheel while holding the car with the footbrake in traffic - it only failed in court because it was hard to prove he hadn't put the handbrake on at some point).

      Hence, why my sat-nav is installed out of view of the driver - it hangs out of a gap below the radio that you're supposed to put tissues etc. in, and faces downwards, conveniently near the electrical accessory socket (it's no longer called a cigar lighter for a reason!), and always has since I started driving.

      (I have been told several times that, despite being in my 30's, my driving habits are unnecessarily "learner-like" and I obey things a lot of other people won't - I usually explain that I've grown up in a country with speed cameras, lane cameras, traffic light cameras, 24/7 CCTV, cars that talk home and lots of other problems, which most drivers today didn't. There is little point me "learning" to drive badly because it will get a lot worse before it gets better and I'll just be setting myself up for a fall. Most people actually nod in comprehension when I present this view, but I still get a few odd looks. Guess what, I also get in the right lane in time, indicate, read signage, refuse to go down one-way streets "even for a couple of yards", park only where it's safe and legal to park, and overtake using the two overtaking lanes when necessary and don't hog the middle lane when not - a lot of things that people who "drive properly" complain about of other drivers all the time).

      My satnav has voice prompts for a reason and if, in traffic, I apply my handbrake and lift the screen, I can see it to make necessary changes, but otherwise I can't see the screen (though my passenger can). There is nothing worse than some moron with it glued to his screen (usually inside the intersection of the arc of the windscreen wiper and the area contained within two parallel vertical lines from either edge of the steering wheel where NO obstruction to your view, even a tiny chip on the glass, is allowed!) taking up 10% of his view and letting him look away from the road for minutes at a time JUST WHEN he needs to approach a tricky junction.

      Go the wrong fecking way, and then correct if necessary rather than kill me, thanks! And I live within ten minutes of the Hanger Lane gyratory and drive more than anyone else I know (even my father, who's an HGV delivery driver in Central London). I *have* gone round a roundabout because I've missed my exit rather than cut lanes. I *have* had to join a motorway to avoid people who were cutting ME up even though I didn't want to (I was a learner at the time and was forced to pull over a few yards up on the slip road and get my ex- to drive me off it). I *have* had to go ten or more miles out of my way because I took a wrong turn because I didn't understand what my satnav wanted me to do, and I *have* had to miss numerous junctions because they came up before I was expecting them (usually while driving someone to their house) and I've had to go around the block rather than slam the brakes on and expect the poor guy behind me to know what was happening and react.

      One day the surveillance that you all complain about will get to the point that it *can* catch you doing them even when on an empty motorway, and you will end up in a court unable to prove your case. Average speed cameras = CCTV cameras, nothing more. There are recorded instances of people blowing their nose while driving as they go past them and getting points for driving without due care - the law says you need to pull over, apply the handbrake and do whatever and then continue your journey, NOT do it while driving. Most people flout the laws because the enforcement of it isn't very good. That's likely to change before long, and without a single change in the law your driving habits will end up costing you a lot more trouble.

      My acid-test for people when I'm in the passenger seat is how they use the handbrake. Sure, I can hold a car on the steepest of hills with a clutch, it's not a skill as such once you master being able to pull away from the lights, and I do do it when I expect the delay to be short-lived. But I've noticed a strong correlation between those who NEVER use the handbrake for anything (i.e. they use the gearstick to park too) and those who aren't aware of, or flout, laws in other areas of driving.

      I don't claim to be a martyr, but all these things are already required of you when driving and, as a percentage, NOBODY does them. I do. Because one day you *won't* be able to get away with them and will be too busy trying to break old habits and contesting the surveillance laws to do anything about 50-year-old laws on driving that are still in force now, and still will be then.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ Lee Dowling


      2. Clive Galway

        Re: Don't touch!


        It is perfectly legal to operate any device whilst driving if it is affixed to the car.

        If what you said was correct, operating the stereo whilst driving would be illegal.

        1. Clive Galway

          Re: Don't touch!

          There in black and white - only illegal to operate a HAND HELD device whilst driving.

          However, it is still illegal to text / email / browse the net.

          1. Arrrggghh-otron

            Re: Don't touch!

            So if the DFT are wrong about not physically interacting with a 'device' (assuming it is fixed to the vehicle), and plod can slap your wrists for using a fixed device if he or she thinks you were distracted... how are us plebs meant to toe the line? Oh wait were not are we, we are just there to be fucked about at the whim of those who wield power.

            Never-mind, ignore me, nothing to see here...

  8. Dropper


    They should follow this with subscription service for iOS users that allows them to buy music from iTunes. If they can get people pay actual money for an Android navigation service, they can sell anything.. Truly in awe..

  9. icedfusion

    more money than sense!

    So, it does the same thing as Waze which is by far more up to date in terms of traffic and community based and it is free!

    Will give this a miss thanks.


  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You think you have problems

    "The mobile phone industry has questioned the logic of a recent decision to ban the use of smartphones for GPS while driving in Tasmania and South Australia, PC Authority writes this week."

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Forget TomTom

    Personally i prefer Sygic GPS Navigation on my droid, ive not used tomtom in years, are they even still around lolz

  12. Gordon861


    As of about an hour ago they have fixed the screen res issues and are in the process of uploading the new versions to the servers.

    So expect to see a lot more Nexus 7 satnavs in the coming weeks if people can work out how to mount them.

  13. HipposRule


    I use an atlas and maps

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