- Free for 50 miles per month
- Great traffic avoidance
- Offline maps
- Subscription required for best features
- Rivals are free
Rory reviews the new TomTom Go Mobile app for Android (aka TomTom GPS Navigation Traffic).
TomTom navigation is no longer the sole preserve of cars. Those handy maps have been liberated from the often-clunky confines of in-vehicle infotainment systems and dedicated car navs to mobile phones. But, having dominated the car space how will TomTom’s latest offering, Tom Tom Go Mobile, fare against the established mobile elite?
TomTom Go Mobile (known as TomTom GPS Navigation Traffic on the Gogle Play Store) is a replacement for all TomTom phone offerings that came before it on the Android platform. It is completely free to download and offers free navigation, traffic and speed camera alerts for the first 50 miles of driving every month.
Those miles don’t accumulate, so 50 miles is the most you can have in any one month. Once those have run out, you’ll need to either wait until the month ends or subscribe in order to gain unlimted access to turn-by-turn navigation, traffic avoidance and speed camera functions. A yearly subscription will set you back £14.99, or you can buy a 3-year subscription for £34.99, which works out at around £11.66 per year (just over 3 pence a day).
A basic route overview, route planning and a rough idea of where traffic lies on your route are always available, even if you don’t fork over any cash.
If you already have the previous TomTom app, you can upgrade to this one for 50p.
50 free miles seems reasonable at first glance, but those miles will rack up if you drive regularly. Casual users may find themselves reverting to a free alternative in the event of reaching the 50 mile limit, which suggests there’s little point using TomTom Go Mobile unless you’re willing to subscribe.
Certainly, using TomTom Go Mobile on a free basis means you’ll miss out on the product’s best feature; traffic avoidance. We’re big advocates of using a sat-nav for the majority of car journeys, even if you know exactly where you’re going, as they can help you avoid traffic and get to your destination faster. With that in mind, 50 miles is almost certainly going to be insufficient to get the best out of the software.
When you first download the app, you’ll also need to download your choice of maps; either UK and Republic of Ireland, Western Europe or Europe. The UK map has a file size just short of 1GB, though Western Europe and Europe total 5GB and 6.1GB, respectively, so you’ll need to make sure you’re near a Wi-Fi network before you get started.
If you’re already lost on a journey, you won’t be able to easily use this software to get you unstuck, as the maps are too large. It would have been nice if TomTom also allowed users to download only the bits of the map they need in order to complete a particular journey, as this would allow new users to download smaller maps on the fly while on the road.
The upshot of TomTom’s large maps is that, once downloaded, you’ll be able to use them offline without an Internet connection, unlike some of its rivals. TomTom promises at least 4 free map updates a year for the life of the app, so they should stay relatively up to date.
The user interface will be familiar to anyone who’s used a reasonably modern TomTom. Its maps are very flash, with 3D buildings giving the maps a more realistic edge, but that sometime comes at the expense of route clarity, as the virtual buildings can obscure your surroundings. This isn’t such a big deal when you’re on the move, but can be problematic when setting off for the first time in a built up area.
Getting a feel for your immediate surroundings is tricker than it needs to be, too. Annoyingly, it’s not possible to pan around the map simply by tapping and dragging your finger on the screen. Instead, you’ll need to hit the arrow button first. This gives you a total route overview, after which you can zoom in on your position to work out your immediate surroundings.
TomTom Go Mobile for Android has a host of route customisation options. You can select the fastest route, shortest, most eco-friendly, a walking route and even a bicycle route. The usual options to avoid toll roads, unpaved roads and ferries, car shuttles and trains are also available.
TomTom Go Mobile is quite excellent at avoiding traffic. In our use, it was usually able to save us a few minutes – even on short trips – but in some circumstances we expect it could save users the better part of an hour (or more) on longer journeys by keeping you away from traffic.
You’ll see its traffic avoidance technology at working first hand as it instructs you to dive down unusual side streets to avoid congestion up ahead. Some of these diversions may seem counter-intuitive, but as the route develops, you’ll start to get an idea of exactly why the software chooses such quirky paths, and you’ll ultimately start using those diversions yourself in the long run.
Our only gripe with its routing technology is the fact it seems unnecessarily slow to recalculate a route if you encounter an unexpected obstacle and can’t continue as expected. If a road has been closed for some reason and you’re forced on a diversion, it can take a while (sometimes several disconcerting minutes of driving in traffic) before the software stops badgering you to return to the blocked road and calculates a new route.
Points of interest
One very useful addition to TomTom Go Mobile is its easily-accesible points of interest list. You can search for a car park near your destination before you set off, or find one as you get close by, or find a petrol station along your route. Sadly, unlike rival apps such as Waze, TomTom doesn’t list the price of fuel at these stations to help you choose which station might offer the best value.
TomTom Go Mobile is mostly excellent, and definitely on a par with (if not better than) dedicated TomTom sat-navs. The 50 free miles every month may come in handy if you’re an occasional user, but £14.99 a year is a pretty good deal if you’re a regular user, especially considering the excellent traffic avoidance and speed camera information it contains.
Still, no matter which way you spin it, £14.99 isn’t quite as appealing as plain old ‘free’, and (offline maps aside) there’s very little TomTom Go Mobile does that many free alternatives do not. If you’re a very casual user who can’t be bothered to pay for it, then you’re probably better off sticking with Waze or Google Maps.
Those who do subscribe to TomTom Go Mobile will find it a thoroughly appealing, well-realised app that will improve your car journeys no end.
|Map updates||4 per year|