- Competitively priced at launch
- HD Traffic subscription available
- Lifetime map updates
- Limited to 800 and 854 x 480 screen resolutions at launch
- No Google Local Search
- No social networking features built in
- Review Price: £49.99
- Maps for 35 European countries
- Full UK postcode entry
- Points of Interest database
- Lifetime map updates
- HD Traffic and safety camera subscriptions available
TomTom was relatively early to jump on the smartphone bandwagon with its TomTom for iPhone app. But it has studiously ignored the increasingly capable Android platform, until now. At last, you can install TomTom-powered navigation on your Android-run smartphone. With the free Google Maps Navigation providing stiff competition for nothing, the question is whether a premium sat-nav app has enough extra to be worth shelling out for.
TomTom Navigation for Android Features
Things don’t get off to the best of starts at the installation stage. Annoyingly, at launch the TomTom app will only work with screen resolutions of 800 or 854 x 480, which currently counts out the Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X, as well as most tablets. This is a major drawback, and is sure to subdue sales amongst premium device users, who are most likely to want to shell out for high-end navigation software. TomTom has pledged support for higher-resolution screens soon, but we opted to test the TomTom app on a Motorola Motoluxe to be sure of compatibility. You also need Android 2.2 or higher, but every recent handset should have this anyway, or the option to upgrade.
Prices start at £30.99 for UK and Ireland maps, with Western Europe costing £39.99 and the whole of Europe £49.99, although these figures are an introductory offer for an unspecified time only. There are also versions for most of the rest of the world, including North America, South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand, but only Brazil in South America, and just Southern Africa. It’s worth noting that this is a big app. The initial download is less than 25MB, but when you first load the software it will then bring down the maps associated with your chosen purchase. The European software we tested takes up a cool 3.31GB, and there’s no option at this stage of choosing just to install some of the countries covered – it’s the whole of Europe, or nothing. So you will need to have at least that much space available on your device’s internal memory or removable storage. On the plus side, unlike Google Maps, you will be able to use this software when you have no mobile data connection, as all the maps are stored locally.
Once the app is installed and running, the interface has most of the same features as the iPhone 5 compatible version, although the design aesthetics and menu configuration are quite different. Simply tap the map to call up the menu, where you can set your destination, or create a multi-waypoint trip, as well as access settings and the shop. Destination options include navigating to a full UK postcode, an address entered in the usual city-street-number order, or one of your contacts. There is no keyword address search, but the full category-based Points of Interest (POI) system does have this feature.
You can save favourites and a home location, as well as browse a list of recently found destinations. However, conspicuous by its absence is Google Local Search, a particularly strange omission on a Google-powered phone. There’s also no option to enter raw coordinates, although not many people use this frequently. Once you have found your destination, IQ Routes is used for calculation. Real average traffic speeds are taken into account, based on time of day and day of week, so your route could be different depending on when you want to travel. In previous testing, we have found this provides much more realistic journey-time estimations than sat-navs that don’t have this feature.
TomTom Navigation for Android Performance
During navigation, the map view is as clear as we have come to expect from TomTom. In landscape mode, your current speed is shown on the top right, with your expected arrival time, distance and time to destination beneath. To the left is the traffic bar, if this feature has been enabled (see below), and underneath both of these is an icon showing your next turning with its distance. The map fills the rest of the screen. All standard TomTom fare, and in portrait mode, the traffic bar remains on the right, but everything else moves to the bottom. You can report a speed camera location using an onscreen icon, which is more discreet than on TomTom’s standalone sat-navs. If you are in the zone of a camera on the map, you can report that it isn’t there as well.
Spoken instructions, which can also be routed through the Android version of the TomTom Hands Free Car Kit, are clear and provided in good time for you to make any turnings or junctions. Also aiding with this is TomTom’s Advanced Lane Guidance, which presents a full-screen graphic of a junction as you approach it. This a realistic view, and shows how far to the junction, any road signs to look out for, and most importantly which lanes on a multi-lane motorway turn into the junction, so you can be in one of them in good time.
Where TomTom’s Android app surpasses the competition is where the company has been surpassing the competition for some years – live traffic updates. Like the iPhone app, on Android you can get the brilliant TomTom HD Traffic, which has recently been upgraded to its sixth incarnation. This will set you back £3.99 a month, or £26.99 for a whole year, but if you do tend to travel a lot during peak times it’s an absolute godsend, providing jam-free routes much more effectively than any other traffic update system we have tested. The live speed camera updates are also extra. These cost £1.49 a month, or £16.99 a year. Even for scrupulously honest drivers, it’s a very useful feature for avoiding unnecessary fines, although having both these updates and HD Traffic will set you back almost as much every year as the Europe app itself.
TomTom Navigation for Android Verdict
At least for the launch, TomTom has delivered its Android app at a relatively competitive price, unlike the Garmin StreetPilot for iPhone app. The company has also sweetened the deal by throwing in free lifetime map updates, which seems to be the trend at the moment. TomTom Navigation for Android is essentially the same as the iPhone version in its core features, give or take a few features – no social networking integration is included yet, for example. If you just make the occasional journey, in areas with good 3G connectivity, Google Maps Navigation might still be enough for you. But the TomTom app will turn your Android phone into a navigation device as good as a standalone TomTom model, for a fraction of the cost – assuming you have a model compatible with the screen size limitations.
Score in detail
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