- Easy to use phone-based navigation solution
- editable Points of Interest
- No software backup provided on CD-ROM
- doesn’t interact with your phone’s built in contacts database
A year ago we’d have said that the idea of running route planning software on a smartphone was a bit far-fetched. But it was inevitable that those with strong portable navigation solutions would develop for smartphones, and in recent months we have reviewed two options, ALK’s CoPilot Live Smartphone for Windows Mobile, and Route 66 Mobile Britain 2005 for Symbian. Now there's a third option -- TomTom MOBILE. TomTom is very highly regarded in the navigation field, but is its smartphone solution up to scratch?Although the software can be used with both Symbian and Windows Mobile, at launch the range of phones supported is restricted. TomTom is targeting Symbian/Series 60v2 and Windows Mobile for Smartphone 2003. This means that some new phones that might at first seem appropriate will not be supported -- notably, for example, the Sendo X, which runs an earlier version of the Symbian/Series 60 platform. TomTom lists the range of compatible phones at its Web site, and the list is currently a little sparse, including just the Nokia 6600, the Orange SPV E200 and the Qtek 8080 (which is actually the same phone that Orange sells as the SPV E200). TomTom provided us with an SPV E200 for this review. The complete boxed kit, which does not include the phone, comprises a 128MB MultiMedia Card with software and maps preinstalled (256MB for some countries), TomTom’s own-badged Bluetooth GPS receiver, an in-car charger cable for the GPS receiver, quick start instructions, and a CD containing the user guide. Also available is TomTom Traffic, a subscription service designed to deliver real-time traffic alerts direct to your smartphone. If, during your journey, TomTom Traffic delivers information about problems on a selected route, TomTom MOBILE can work around them.
TomTom MOBILE does what you would expect it to in that it can provide navigation from one place to another. It will use your current location as a starting point, and it's a simple matter of pressing the action button from the software’s main screen, then choosing the first available option, ‘Navigate to’, to get to the routing options. You can choose to go ‘Home’, pick from a set of favourite locations, choose from recent destinations, select a Point of Interest or add a destination manually. Manual entry is not too fiddly provided you have some idea of the location of your destination. You start with a city or town, and then opt for a street name and finally a house number. In each case, as you add information into the system, the list of available options narrows, until you can easily scroll and select the one you need. Route calculation is reasonably fast: a route between London and Ilkley, near Leeds, was calculated in just about a minute, for example. TomTom has always provided good on-screen displays, and its rendering of information during journeys is very good. Most of the screen is occupied by a map showing your current position, with additional information such as distance to next junction, distance to your destination, estimated arrival time and remaining journey time all on view in bar running along the bottom of the display. Note, though, that the small SPV E200 screen means that the text displays are tiny and you probably won't want to take your eyes from the road to squint at them. So the good news is that spoken instructions are loud and clear. This is as much a feature of the phone’s speaker as it is of the software, but TomTom seems to have done as much as it can to optimise what the E200 can deliver. In addition to the map-based instructions, TomTom MOBILE offers a written list, and although you can’t save this as a text file to use outside the confines of the software, some people may find it useful to plot a route on a paper map before they start driving. There are plenty of ways you can customise TomTom MOBILE. There are several colour schemes designed for use at night and during the day; you can also switch between 2D and 3D maps, and choose between different voice files for spoken instructions. The Points of Interest (POI) display can be turned of if it's not required; alternatively, you can get the software to issue warnings when you approach a POI -- handy if, for example, you find yourself low on petrol in an unfamiliar place. You can also add entire POI categories, although we could find no way to import entire libraries, which is a pity. Unfortunately you are not provided with a backup of the TomTom MOBILE software on CD-ROM. There are two problems with this situation. First, you can’t shunt the software across to other media formats, such as the Mini SD card that provides memory expansion for Orange’s excellent SPV C500. This is a pity, as we can’t see any reason why that phone should be unable to run TomTom MOBILE. However, TomTom says it will release the software on different memory card formats for different phones in due course. The second problem is more significant: without a ‘master’ copy of the TomTom MOBILE software, you are reliant on your SD card. So what will you do if it fails? We found it somewhat annoying not to be able to navigate to addresses already stored in our E200’s contacts database. Nevertheless, provided we knew which city we were headed for, entering a location manually was easy enough. The GPS unit functioned well, pairing easily with our E200 and providing plenty of battery life – four-hour car journeys did not pose any problems. It's a pity, given that TomTom is currently only offering MOBILE for two models of phone, that it's not providing a car mount as part of the package. We are also concerned that TomTom has decided not to provide a backup of the software and map data on CD-ROM. Despite these niggles, TomTom MOBILE performed well on test and is competitively priced.