I have taken a very close look at the TomTom iPhone GPS Cradle in the flesh, tried it in-car and thought there were a number of positives but also equally many more negatives to point out which is not apparent in the marketing material for the cradle. In this article I do not test the cradle with third party apps in any way and only detail my experiences with the cradle and how it connects to your iPhone and the positives vs negatives with my use of the cradle.
- Nice sleek, slimline mount
- Built-in GPS Receiver to improve GPS accuracy of the iPhone’s lack luster GPS (not verified yet)
- Built-in loud Speaker (which is loud) with variable volume control via a rocker switch
The above sounds a really good feature set until you start looking at it in more detail and start using the TomTom iPhone GPS Cradle and here’s where you find problems…
- If you want to use the TomTom iPhone GPS Cradle you have to pair it with the internal bluetooth in the cradle (pin 5555)
- If you remove the iPhone from the cradle then there is no way you can use the speaker so TomTom are using the pin-out on the connector to couple it with the Bluetooth within the speaker/cradle. So if you decide to take the iPhone out of the cradle the speaker in the cradle stops working.
- If you place the iPhone in the TomTom GPS Cradle and do not pair the Bluetooth then there is no way of getting the speaker to work on the cradle. This I believe re-affirms to me that TomTom are using the speaker over Bluetooth on the cradle
- Bearing in mind the above, it appears that the GPS is working through the bottom connector and not via Bluetooth (although not confirmed yet) although TomTom may have over-engineered this to tie the two together
- If you already have a sufficient in-car Bluetooth system for car audio/speaker phone when you connect the iPhone to the cradle it will make a BING noise through the TomTom Cradle speaker and automatically pair the GPS if you’ve entered the PIN code 5555. From initial observations I can get my built-in car Bluetooth Car Kit to work whilst the iPhone is in the TomTom Cradle by then manually going into SETTINGS | GENERAL | BLUETOOTH and selecting my car kit (and this will turn off the TomTom Car Kit speaker on the mount allowing me to still take phone calls over the car speakers).
- You cannot use any case on your iPhone, because there is no space behind the iPhone between the iPhone and the cradle
- To get the speaker in the TomTom Cradle to work you must have it charged with a mini-USB charger (supplied) but if you have a car inverter (like myself) any mini-USB car or mains charger will suffice
- As the cradle doesn’t have what we call a goose neck, or an arm (UK) it means that the iPhone is far too close to the windscreen which means it’s further away from you
- Although the mount holds the iPhone stable and the ratchet system appears fairly good quality (time will tell), the mount feels very flimsy when you try to press the bottom part of the iPhone screen, or even the HOME button on the iPhone. What happens here is the mount gives way and moves backways (at the base of the mount), giving you the impression that something is going to break if you press it too hard.
- If I plug a line out cable directly into my car stereo and remove the iPhone from the TomTom iPhone GPS Cradle I then get a horrible buzzing noise from the cradle’s speaker until I put the iPhone back in the cradle.
- TomTom also didn’t include an audio out cable to connect to your car speaker system. I guess this is because they have provided a built-in speaker into the cradle but for the £99.95 price tag, I think this was a bit cheap to skimp on this seeing the cable would probably at cost only cost something like 30p to TomTom.
Unfortunately as you can see that makes for a pretty long list of negatives and way outweighs the positives of the cradle.
In the image above you can see under the Bluetooth settings on the iPhone my Motorola HT820 Bluetooth Headset, the TomTom car kit and also my built-in Bluetooth Car Kit which is identified as UHP.
Below is a picture comparing the TomTom iPhone GPS Cradle with a regular cradle on the windscreen and you can see what I mean. You can see how much further away the TomTom iPhone Cradle is from you whilst you are in-car. Some might say that’s not a problem, but it means you have to stretch your arm longer and it also means it’s further away which means you don’t see the screen as good.
Regarding the GPS accuracy, I haven’t tried this yet so cannot confirm whether it works with any other GPS applications or whether it improves GPS accuracy or not.
Overall, is the price worth the cradle? Well, if you don’t have a Bluetooth speaker system in-car and want improved GPS accuracy (not confirmed yet) and a cradle for your iPhone, then some people will be willing to shell out the £99.95 price tag for the mount, but if you already have a suitable cradle and a suitable car hands free speaker system, then the £99.95 price tag is a little steep. Personally I don’t see it’s worth the £99.95 price tag that TomTom have put on the cradle bearing in mind no GPS app comes bundled in the price. This then makes it as expensive as a PND device, if not more depending on what satnav application you purchase. The idea of satnav on a mobile phone is it’s a converged technology and should cost less for you than buying a separate GPS PND device. This for me is an instant fail for the TomTom GPS cradle, but I’m sure as Christmas is approaching many iPhone users will still add it to their Santa list.
Here are a few more photos of the cradle in various angles.