There’s no shortage of options for connecting your iPhone to your car, from cheap dashboard mounts to full-blown car entertainment systems. TomTom’s iPhone car kit sits somewhere in between.
It features one of the more flexible mounts we’ve seen. The suction cup uses a large dial to ensure you get a good grip on the window, and the phone mount is attached with a ball joint. The phone can rotate 360 degrees and slide up and down.
All this all makes it easy to allow for the angle of your windscreen and the shape of the dashboard, adjusting the phone for easy viewing while minimising glare. The secure mounting stops the phone from vibrating as you drive, but the trade-off is that you’ll probably need to remove the phone from all but the slimmest third-party protective case.
The cradle is powered from your cigarette lighter via a 1.5m USB cable. This allows the phone to charge, plus it powers the GPS booster and Bluetooth hands-free kit. The cradle features a volume rocker for its built-in speaker, which doesn’t do much to boost music volume but makes it navigation app’s spoken instructions much clearer.
The cradle can also link to your iPhone via Bluetooth, which lets the phone access the GPS booster. Tested in the ‘burbs, the booster’s effect was noticeable but not dramatic when negotiating several close turns.
Connecting your iPhone to the cradle via Bluetooth also lets you use the hands-free option, automatically engaging the speaker-phone when you answer a call. You still have to touch the phone to accept the call. Victoria Police tell me this is OK as long as the phone is in a cradle, but laws vary from state to state so take care.
The car kit performed admirably when tested with the TomTom Australia 1.3 app. The interface lets you access the music play/pause and track controls, plus you have the option to either turn down or pause the music when the satnav issues spoken commands. The satnav is shut down and the music stopped if a call comes in, but both relaunch once you end the call.
If you connect to your car stereo via a cable then the music, spoken commands and ring tone all come through the car speakers but the audio during calls runs through the cradle’s speaker and mic (which will suit some people and annoy others).
Australian Macworld’s buying advice
Once you combine the cost of the TomTom car kit for iPhone and the TomTom iPhone app, you could buy yourself a cheap dedicated satnav unit. Of course you’d still need a car cradle for your iPhone.
The TomTom solution is about convenience, it’s expensive but has a lot to offer. Unfortunately, the lack of an FM transmitter means you’re relying on your car stereo to feature an audio line-in. If you’re not connecting to your car stereo, you might find cheaper cradles meet your needs – although the TomTom cradle’s flexibility, external speaker and GPS booster still make it attractive.
If the lack of a line-in tempts you to upgrade your car stereo, that obviously opens up a whole new world of options. If you opt for a car stereo with USB-based direct iPod control, you can’t use it with this cradle. The TomTom car kit for iPhone is impressive, but think long and hard about how you want to use it and how it will interact with your car.
This review originally appeared in the May issue of Australian Macworld magazine.
TomTom Car Kit for iPhone
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