TomTom Android Review

TomTom Android Review

Dec 11, 2012

Frankly, navigation applications are not entirely scarce on Android, as there are quite a lot of options for people interested in convergence. What is a little less common, and invariably much coveted are offline solutions.

This is where industry heavyweight TomTom looks to fill in the blanks. TomTom USA for Android is a solution that works online as well as offline with downloadable maps. Thus, the user is not held to ransom by finicky data connections.

As expected, the download was fairly large, and the app warned me of such.

TomTom comes with a packed feature set. Aside from the expected voice directions, it also had multi-point travel functionality, and the ability to work when my device was in portrait or landscape. For basic navigation, I was presented with a few travel options: I could choose a bike option, walking, an “eco” route (one that cut down on stop and go), or I could choose to drive with the shortest or quickest route.

There were several other customization options as well; I found plenty of built-in themes for both daytime and nighttime navigation. I could also change the type of voice. A lot of care seemed to be ascribed to making the user experience as nice as possible. For every generated route, I was able to look at the map and written directions, as well as a demo of the route. I could also get an alternate route, avoid portions of the upcoming route and even create an off-route waypoint. This waypoint could be an address, a recent destination or a point of interest. I also was a fan of the lane guidance and the way the app automatically re-routed me when it determined I went off grid. It worked quite well without signal.

One important piece for me was the fact that TomTom worked well in the background, even with music playing. It worked with my contacts, and the app also offered free lifetime updates, which is a biggie. Updated traffic was an extra in-app purchase. Now, considering the cost of the app, some folks may balk at the extra cost associated with getting traffic warnings. I was not able to to get TomTom to pop up as an option when invoking navigation from a Google search, and I was not able to figure out how to use or generate coordinates, which is something that I actually use often. This is something that is good to have in a pinch, and I would have expected this in this app.

Still, for folks looking for an offline option that is backed by good reputation, TomTom might fill the void.

The Hills Are Greener: Apple Cuts Off Ties to Google

The Hills Are Greener: Apple Cuts Off Ties to Google

Jun 18, 2012

Apple had their big World Wide Developer Conference in San Francisco this past week, and the big announcement from the show (besides the Retina Display Macbook Pro) was iOS 6. It’s another update in the vein of iOS 5, which adds a lot of small features that build up to a very useful cohesive whole.

However, the biggest and most buzzed-about change is that Apple ditched Google as their maps service provider in exchange for a licensed one from TomTom, that integrates their own 3D mapping technology.

It’s been a curious relationship between the two companies because of the fact that Google is a competitor to Apple as well. Or at least, they power the competition, and they’re the easiest arch-nemesis to focus on. Samsung may be huge, but are still a fraction of the smartphone market (though they too have an interesting relationship with Apple as Samsung produces displays for Apple devices) and just part of the Android dynamo.

Google remains a service provider, and yet, as the biggest competition to Apple, it was always curious that Google always had this hand in iOS that Apple didn’t have in Android, in part because the fact that Apple is such a vertically integrated company. Apple might be wise for themselves to make this shift as far away from Google as they can get, because if they are this enemy, still laying in bed with them is a mistake. Factors such as Google service integration won’t go away because Google’s hooks are too deep, but Apple has iCloud services set up for just that purpose, to start weaning people away from the clutches of Google, and into their own clutches.

The impact this will have on Google may be more behind-the-scenes than anything, purely revenue-based than anything else. They could try to match Apple’s mapping solution in terms of features and potentially outclass it, but there’s only so far that can go. In fact, as our own Jeff Scott notes, the iOS 6 maps are currently feature-deficient in some areas compared to the Google maps.

The move stings of pride as much as anything else – Apple may be doing some things differently now, but Steve Jobs’ vision still guides the company, and the anti-Android sentiment still plays out, in their tactics both in launching products and in the courtroom. Apple may just be trying to straighten out their relationships, now that they’re the big dog, and don’t want to be pushed around any more, though they still have many ties to those they simultaneously compete against.