TomTom iPhone app vs Garmin nüvi (rental car edition)

It feels like yesterday that I wrote the TomTom Go 720 vs Garmin nüvi 255 article (http://www.2fatdads.com/2009/06/tomtom-go-720-vs-garmin-nuvi-255/). Our editor JohnnyCanuck has been hounding me to come up with a follow up article. I’ve left a few on the shelf, waiting for a more current spin.

As life would have it, I’ve been travelling a lot this past year, and I turn off data roaming in the US as I’m not made of money, nor do we have a money tree in the backyard.

I saw that TomTom had their iPhone GPS app on sale a few weeks back, so I decided to pick it up. The upside is that the maps are stored locally and can operate without a data connection. The one exception to this data independence is the ability to get current traffic information, which is particularly enticing to get fastest route information based on current time, not simply by shortest path.

My rental car came with a GPS unit (marketed as a Navigation system). This was by no stretch an advanced SatNav system, seems like the guys from Top Gear get to play with all the really expensive toys. So upon arrival, I unpacked the GPS from its storage bag and placed it on its arm/rubberized sand bag base. At this point I identify it as a Garmin, and decided to give it a chance during the trip.

I had preloaded my addresses on my iPhone prior to leaving, and used the phone to get to the hotel. The one downside to the TomTom App is that unless you get the base (sled) it has no proper place to sit. Placing it in the centre console limits the GPS accuracy, while placing it on the dash will eventually reduce the phone to rubble, as it slides around and crashes to the carpeting. I ended up holding it in my hand until I pulled into the hotel parking lot. The unit did a fantastic job of getting me there, and without me feeling like I had to glance at the screen to confirm the verbal prompts.

The next day I decided to use the Garmin. The destination accuracy was noticeably off. It asked me to stop in the middle of a freeway, as the destination was to my right, beyond the trees. I needed two more right turns to actually arrive at my destination. The verbal commands were harsher (louder and very imperative), which actually bugged me to no end. My GPS should not drive me crazy. I am not liking this so far. The Garmin also did not accurately find the hotel. When I arrived at the left turn for the parking lot, it asked me to do a u-turn, and go another 50 feet – wrong Hotel.

The Garmin could not find the Apple Store in Birmingham AL in the search. If I wanted to go to Applebees I would have been all set, there were 6 of those. Oddly enough it found it in the retail/shopping option. The TomTom app just found it, no need to guess which POI type to search in. Kind of reminds me of how the Go 720 beat the nüvi 255 in search. I guess things haven’t improved over the years.

I realized that the best feature of the Navigation System, was the rubberized bean bag base. So I decided that the Garmin was going back in the bag, but that would use the rubberized mat as a makeshift base for my iPhone. This worked fairly well, assuming that you flip it upside down.

Bottom line I like a GPS that gets me where I need to go, that doesn’t drive me crazy and that doesn’t require that I look at the screen to interpret the verbal commands.

Conclusion: Again the TomTom beats out the Garmin product, which is embarrassing  considering that its a phone app that went toe to toe with a dedicated GPS unit.

 

 

1 comment

  1. OMG you actually wrote a follow up. But the real funny thing is I’m not at all surprised that the iPhone app beat out the Garmin, the GPS radio in it is remarkably accurate.