TomTom GPS iPhone app finally arrives

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    The TomTom turn-by-turn GPS navigation iPhone app, compatible with the iPhone 3G or 3GS models, debuted Monday. The handheld GPS gives directions and charges the iPhone simultaneously.
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It's the app you've all been waiting for. Today, the Apple iTunes AppStore will begin selling the TomTom turn-by-turn GPS navigation iPhone app for $99.99 – one of the pricier apps to hit the store.

The portable, handheld GPS, compatible with the iPhone 3G or 3GS models, has the ability to provide voice-guided directions and charge the iPhone simultaneously. But it's much more than a regular, standalone GPS.

Here are some of the app's other neat features:

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• An IQ routes system that provides users with the fastest routes and directions based on drivers' collective experiences. A TomTom press release says using the IQ routes system has helped 35 percent of drivers reach their destination in less travel time.
• A tap-and-go interface that allows drivers to zoom in and out of various locations.
• The ability to choose a person from your iPhone contacts and travel to their address.
• Looking for a place to eat? The TomTom iPhone app will give you directions to a restaurant, but also allows you to make reservations by calling ahead.
• Updated maps of US, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
• An option to view directions horizontally or vertically, in 2-D or 3-D, and a nighttime and daytime view.
• The ability to listen to directions in 18 different languages.

Not the first GPS iPhone app

Though many have eagerly anticipated the arrival of the TomTom GPS iPhone app, a handful of iPhone GPS apps are already available in the AppStore. AT&T offers a subscription GPS service for $9.99 per month, while Google Maps provides a free, built-in app, for example.

The big downside of using the free, built-in Google Maps GPS? No voice-guided directions.

The AT&T Navigator GPS shares some similar features with the TomTom GPS iPhone app including voice-guided directions, points of interest, and 2-D and 3-D map views.

But Dan Frommer of Silicon Alley Insider says if someone uses the TomTom iPhone GPS for more than 10 months, "the one-time fee will end up being a better purchase than other similar apps, which run as [much] as $10 per month subscriptions."

Dan Moren of Macworld.com cites another criticism. He writes that the AT&T Navigator GPS and Google Maps GPS "maps aren't stored on the iPhone, meaning that if you lose your data connection, your maps" disappear.

The future of the standalone GPS

With the rise of iPhone GPS apps, another debate has emerged: Will standalone GPS devices survive?

David Coursey of PCWorld says "as standalone GPS units – I have two or three – become outdated or are stolen, I will probably more to whatever TomTom or its competitors are offering." He argues that a "standalone GPS can – and this may be the genre's salvation – provide a larger, more readable screen than the iPhone. It can also provide real (not touch screen buttons) for some functions."

But that may be no match for TomTom's new features. "Because the iPhone will have a live, interactive connection back to TomTom, there are many features the company can add to its platform that traditional GPS users, even those with FM subcarrier 'traffic' receivers, will find hard to match," Mr. Coursey writes.

The release of the TomTom GPS iPhone app is just the beginning. Soon, TomTom will begin selling a car kit (price to be determined), which will allow iPhone users to mount their device to their windshield. The car kit will also include a GPS antenna, voice-amplified speakers, and hands-free calling capabilities. Plans to offer a similar app for the iPod touch and older iPhone models are in the works, according to a TomTom press release.

The word on the street?

Reviews of the TomTom GPS aren't circulating the Internet just yet, so you'll have to hang tight. In the meantime, reviewers at the iTunes AppStore seem to have one unanimous quip: The GPS' inability to voice street names. Others, however are delighted. "I saw this was available and downloaded the first second I could," wrote one iTunes AppStore reviewer. "It's [phenomenal]! I recommend this over ...standalone GPS and other GPS software on the iPhone. I'm glad I waited!"

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