Is satellite navigation going to be confined purely to smartphones in the future? The answer is almost certainly yes. TomTom is in the process of cutting 10% of its workforce and changing the way it works to speed up product launches, but it is a development that may have come too late. Standalone GPS devices are confined purely to those who need occasional help when travelling and represent poor value for money compared to software on a smartphones. You don’t always have the device with you and it can be cumbersome to set up when you get in the car.
A smartphone already has a mobile data connection plus a multitude of other uses that are handy when driving and so the advantages are clear. To demonstrate the change in this industry, check out the following review which is from 2004. It was a close look at the very first standalone TomTom GPS device-
Clove unwittingly chose the most qualified person in the world to review the TomTom GO.. You see, I was born with a complete lack of any sense of direction- ask me to walk to the end of a street and I will end up at the wrong end, ask me to drive to a place I don’t know and I will have to plan it in minute detail for hours on end and I still usually get lost. I met Chris from Clove the other day to talk about the web site and ways in which we could both help PDA247 Club members and the site visitors and guess what happened? He was waiting in the hotel he told me to go to whilst I was sat in another one altogether… All quite embarrassing considering I am highly intelligent, a good communicator, modest (!) and yet I still find myself looking like a chump because directions and place names just seem to pass me by.
I have never tried GPS before so I was looking forward to see if it would help me with my lifelong problem.
WHAT YOU GET
The TomTom GO comes in a rather nice looking large black box which makes the device itself look even smaller (the one on the TomTom site is white). There’s loads of protection so you needn’t worry about ordering online and having it delivered. In the box you get-
The TomTom GO
AC Adaptor (with several international pin adaptors)
SD Card containing your map data
Installation poster (shows how to install it into your car)
Installation CD (contains PC connection software and extra maps)
DC Power Lead (for in car charging)
USB Data Cable (for PC connection)
It’s quite possible to get up and running without the manual as it’s all so easy to use. This brings me on to my next point and the one that gives it the advantage over the PDA GPS products.
EASE OF USE
On the physical side you attach the mount to your windscreen by simply pushing the suction section to your windscreen and pulling a small lever back. This creates a vacuum which ensures a very tight fit- at no point during my testing did the mount come loose. Attaching the TomTom GO to the mount is just as easy- push a button on the front and slot it in place then let the button go. This took a few goes to perfect but once you know how it becomes second nature.
The TomTom GO itself is a joy to use- you can choose to manually enter a destination by choosing a town, then road name and then the house or building number. You can also enter a post code which works well, once you have the general area from the code then putting the road in sorts your route. There’s a recent destination list which holds the places you recently visited (obviously:))- the advantage of this is that you just need to taps on the screen for it to work out the route for you. The one small drawback is that the on screen keyboard is a-z rather than QWERTY but this is minor considering what this device can do.
Basically you can plot a route on your second try with no hassle at all and this is one reason it’s so practical.
There’s no wires to connect, no PDA to sit in it’s cradle or extra GPS module to slap on the dashboard- it really is a case of ‘plot, plug and go’ (tomtom now have a new cheesy advertising slogan:))
IN USE (ACCURACY)
My wife and I decided we would take Tom to Corfe Castle whilst we were in Bournemouth as we had never visited it before despite having lived in the town for over 25 years previously. I found her asking her Mum and Dad how to get there the next morning and he was busily drawing the route on a map that looked as old as Corfe itself. I entered the room and advised them that help was no longer required- held up the tomtom, slight glint from teeth (ching!) and tomtom man had arrived to guide his family safely to their destination.
They laughed and gave Jo the map. Her mother then said we should go to Kimmeridge Bay as well which is supposed to be lovely but that “it wouldn’t be listed in that thing.” Well it was and for once in my life I was not busy planning the route and leaving loads of extra time to get there.
After about 5 minutes in the car my wife was starting to see the TomTom GO in a more favourable light- “that is amazing…” was her first comment. The directions were spoken by Jane (a lovely sounding English lady) and they were announced in good time- “300 yards to roundabout, cross roundabout and take second exit…” and so it went on with the screen being a much more useful help than I expected. The 3D view is quite simple but gives an excellent overview of your correct position.
The screen itself is bright and very clear and at no point did I have trouble viewing it even though it was a lovely sunny day. The only problem we had was my four year old son repeating everything she said which we can hardly blame on tomtom:) Threatening him with going straight home solved that little problem…
Needless to say we found our destination and were literally guided to the front door although as you can see from the picture Corfe Castle no longer has a front door.
As we spent the day wandering around old ruins my wife advised me that we MUST have a TomTom GO. The change in opinion from an hour before was no real surprise because it really does take the stress out of planning a trip and you are no longer tired before you get there from having to see which lane to get in, reading road signs that require 20:20 vision and the arguments that usually occur between man and wife who both blame each other for the rest of the day.
It was the same story on the way home- just choose ‘navigate to’ and then ‘home’ and away we went.
The only slight issue I could see was that now and then it had problems deciding what was the correct distance from a roundabout or junction. I’m sure it over-estimated distances on occasion but my wife assured me it was perfectly correct. Maybe it was just me but either way it did not hinder the accuracy of getting to the desired location.
The next day we visited Lulworth Cove and had the same experience and the day after driving through Winchester to see if it is a town worth living in was also a pleasure. We could drive around the whole town and not have to worry about finding our way back onto the motorway- when the time came to leave I just tapped ‘navigate to home’ and we were on our way.
The battery life is excellent and so far I have not had to use the in car charger at all. There’s a good night view which adjusts the colours to not intrude on your night time driving and the manual is one of the best I have read to date- it’s clear, simply written and complements everything’s that’s good about the TomTom GO itself.
One feature which will help pay for your investment is the ‘Avoid Roadblock’ feature which can be set to check for back up traffic as far as 5000m ahead. It will then calculate an alternative route which will hopefully guide you around the slow moving traffic. If you are like me and ever use the M25 this could save a lot of petrol…
I have a meeting in the centre of London on Thursday and I will be taking the TomTom GO with me. It may sound daft but this is another advantage of using an all in one device that is so small. Just turn the volume right down and let it guide you from the tube station to the building you need to get to. Historically I have had terrible problems in London but this should solve that one as well:)
You would probably fall asleep if I listed all of the TomTom’s features so I will mention a couple of highlights not covered so far-
PC Connectivity which allows you to back up your favourite locations and settings, add and remove maps, add extra voice prompts and even a different language (English, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, German and another which I could not work out were pre-loaded on mine which is very impressive). You can change the voices as well- Jane sounded rather sexy and actually so did Tim who sounded like a Newsreader (just to clarify it was my wife who thought ‘he’ sounded sexy:))
You can also purchase extra maps for installation onto the included SD card or if you travel a lot internationally then a bigger SD card may be a worthwhile purchase.
You can probably guess where this is going because I couldn’t really find a fault with the device. The screen can get a bit fingerprinty but they even include a bloody screen wipe! Maybe a screen protector of some kind would be useful to stop that but I wonder if it would reduce the clearness of the display.
It’s rare that I get the chance to review a product that has such a beneficial effect on the way I live but this is one. No longer will I have to spend hours planning routes to get to a meeting and then get lost and look like the idiot who is late (again!), we can take the kids out to many different places (we even joined the National Trust last week because of this machine) and my stress levels have reduced which can only be a good thing.
Remember, because this device is so small and a stand alone unit anyone in the family can use it or a business could buy one that can be swapped around it’s employees when needed- this would save a lot of work time and it also improves safety considerably (how many of us have driven whilst reading the map on the passenger seat?) When you think of those points the price is more than reasonable.
Full details of the TomTom GO are available here and I have no hesitation is recommending this outstanding product or the company selling it. Clove are providing excellent support and ideas to PDA247 (most of it behind the scenes) and their attitude to customer service is something I have tried to emulate though the PDA247 club and the site in general- every email gets a personal response and we hope to give excellent value for money and a service you will remember.
The TomTom GO is by far the most complete and useful piece of technology I have seen to date and that includes all of the PDAs I have reviewed. I shall be phoning Clove tomorrow with my credit card details- no way on earth are they having this baby back!!
Seven years later, TomTom on iOS (and CoPilot and others on Android and other platforms) bring all of the above functionality in software form to smartphones for under £50. Satellite Navigation will most certainly have its future on smartphones.