Can’t be beaten

Finweek English Edition - - TECHTRENDS BITS - SI­MON DIN­GLE si­mond@finweek.co.za

THE RISE OF THE mo­bile phone and its su­per pow­ers in mak­ing other gad­gets re­dun­dant have changed the game for providers of GPS prod­ucts. The likes of Garmin and TomTom have been forced to deal with a mar­ket of mo­bile phones fit­ted with GPS chips that are quickly dis­plac­ing con­ven­tional per­sonal nav­i­ga­tion de­vices. How­ever, they saw it com­ing and are now the best providers of nav­i­ga­tion soft­ware for cell­phones.

TomTom’s iPhone ap­pli­ca­tion is quite pos­si­bly the most so­phis­ti­cated per­sonal nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem avail­able. It in­cor­po­rates live traf­fic in­for­ma­tion – billed at an ad­di­tional sub­scrip­tion fee – that routes you around prob­lem ar­eas. It in­te­grates with the iPod ap­pli­ca­tion on the phone so you can lis­ten to mu­sic, with the abil­ity to skip tracks and pause with­out switch­ing ap­pli­ca­tions. It even has an au­dio book mode that pauses the au­dio play­back when it’s giv­ing di­rec­tions in­stead of just dip­ping the vol­ume, as it does with mu­sic.

The soft­ware does pretty much ev­ery­thing you could do with a ded­i­cated TomTom GPS. It can store lo­ca­tions, it al­lows you to nav­i­gate to ad­dresses of con­tacts in the cell­phone’s ad­dress book and make and re­ceive calls while still be­ing able to view vis­ual guid­ance to where you want to go.

And then there’s the re­ally clever stuff. TomTom re­cently added a fea­ture al­low­ing you to tap on a photo of your des­ti­na­tion and its soft­ware will at­tempt to guess where it is and take you there. A tech­nol­ogy called IQ Routes will track the speed of other ve­hi­cles on your route and give you a very ac­cu­rate in­di­ca­tion of your ar­rival time. You can add meet­ing times to your cell­phone’s di­ary to TomTom and the soft­ware will alert you when you need to leave in or­der to ar­rive on time.

There’s even an “Eco route” op­tion for driv­ers con­cerned about the en­vi­ron­ment, which will cal­cu­late the most en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly way in terms of fuel con­sump­tion and the like.

TomTom reg­u­larly sends up­dated map in­for­ma­tion to its soft­ware and you can share map data with other users. TomTom also has an op­tional iPhone cra­dle to mount the phone in your car and boost GPS sig­nal.

It’s hard to imag­ine a bet­ter nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem than one that lives on your phone but doesn’t hold back on any fea­tures. I’d go so far as to say the TomTom for iPhone is the best per­sonal nav­i­ga­tion ex­pe­ri­ence I’ve had.

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