TomTom has released version 1.2 of several of its turn-by-turn navigation software packages for the iPhone OS, including TomTom U.S. & Canada ($99.99). This new release enables owners of the original iPhone, which lacks internal GPS hardware, and those with any iPod touch to gain access to satellite-based navigation through the TomTom Car Kit for iPhone ($119.95).
The car kit is a suction-cup windshield dock (be sure to read “Beware the GPS Thieves,” 24 April 2009) with a built-in microphone and speaker, a stereo audio output jack, and a required connection to a car power port. The kit has its own GPS receiver, which communicates with the iPhone and iPod touch via the dock as an external device. Hands-free calling may be used over Bluetooth with an iPhone. The dock charges the iPhone or iPod touch as well. (Apple allows dock-based hardware to communicate with specific application software.)
The new version adds text-to-speech synthesis for street names and other information in several languages, drops in better volume control for vocal instructions, and features a minimal iPod control interface. Other GPS navigation apps have embedded nearly all the iPod functionality within themselves. The program also includes a display of lane positioning, showing a driver which of multiple lanes to be in, a feature found in some competing programs.
While this support for the original iPhone and all iPod touch models is welcome, the combined price of about $220 for the application and hardware seems rather steep compared to similarly featured low-end standalone GPS devices. The big advantage? One fewer device to keep track of.