Signs are beginning to appear that the sat-nav is about to go full circle. What started out as a peripheral and software add-on package for the PDA then became a standalone device in itself. But this hugely successful gadget could be supplanted by the evolution of what it replaced – the smartphone – as the power of the mobile increases.
TomTom has clearly seen this one coming, and launched a range of car mounting kits including this, the new TomTom Hands-free Car Kit for iPhone. Not all of them are for Apple devices, either, in anticipation of the TomTom for Android app version due in October. However, the one we are reviewing here is still focused on the iPhone, and replaces the original TomTom for iPhone Car Kit, although it’s not quite a direct replacement.
The Hands-free Car Kit is of noticeably sturdier build than the original Car Kit. Not that the latter was flimsy – far from it – but this goes even further to house your beloved Apple smartphone in the manner it deserves. The new kit is designed to accommodate every iPhone from the original version up to the latest iPhone 4S. However, the new kit does lack something important from the original – the GPS receiver. So any remaining users of the original iPhone will be better off getting the first Car Kit, if they want to use a satellite navigation app, although this point is a bit moot as the lack of recent iOS updates will probably be more of a hindrance.
You can still get the original Car Kit, although now it is being marketed for the iPod Touch only, as it’s not designed for the iPhone 4 body. It’s worth noting that, physically at least, the TomTom Hands-free Car Kit will only fit future iPhones so long as the use the same docking connector, as such this might rule out the iPhone 5 onwards with Apple seemingly set to do away with its 30-pin dock standard for a new 9-pin option. The flexibility of the securing mechanism means that the Hands-free Car Kit will fit a phone even if it’s inside an unusual cover.
The phone attaches via its 30-pin dock connector at one end, and a rubberised bracket at the other, which secures with friction. The Kit has a regular windscreen suction mount, with an adhesive disk so you can make a permanent placement for it on your dashboard. We found the suction mount provided a more secure attachment than the previous kit. It rotates, too, so you can have your phone in portrait or landscape orientation, the latter being preferable for satellite navigation.
What the TomTom Hand-free Car Kit for iPhone loses with the GPS it gains in other areas, primarily revolving around the facility to use your phone safely whilst driving, as implied by the device’s name. There’s a microphone connected to the mount, but it can be detached, with a number of accessories to help you reposition it. There’s an extension cable, so you can reposition the microphone where you want. A sun visor clip, so you can attach the microphone there, and another clip to attach it to an A pillar. There are also three adhesive clips you can use to route the cable neatly to the microphone location. A 2 Watt speaker is located at the rear of the mount to assist with the hands-free capabilities.