TomTom GO Mobile for Android review

Free-sy rider from TomTom gets Android owners home safely

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Our Verdict

A very strong sat nag app. As far as the pricing goes, we're scratching our heads, rather than high fiving and chest bumping the entire office, but it's up to you if you can live with it or not.

For

  • A great satnav experience with traffic and speed-cam alerts included in the price
  • Maps done with aplomb

Against

  • As ever, GPS on a smartphone is less reliable than on a standalone sat nag
  • Strange pricing structure – we'd like a one-month purchase option, but maybe that's just us

We last chin-stroked our way through reviewing TomTom's sat nav app in December 2014, finding it a fine app, if maybe too expensive compared to its free – and mostly pretty sturdy – rivals.

That was on iOS, but now, just a few months later, TomTom have double-upped the ante, with an updated Android-only (for now) app and a new and interesting pricing plan. So for once, your iPhone-packing chums can look over your shoulder enviously. Well, slightly enviously; it's only a sat nav.

The new deal

A new way of navigating

Although much about TomTom Go Mobile for Android is exactly as you'd expect, there's something new here: the pricing.

Now pay attention, class. You get 50 free miles of navigation including TomTom Traffic and speed camera alerts every month, for free. So for a lot of users it'll be completely free. Although equally, of course, many users will will find it's not.

After your 50 miles is up, you have the option of taking out a one-year or three-year subscription to navigation, Traffic and speed camera updates – it's £14.99 for 1 year or £34.99 for three years.

For most users, that will be considerably cheaper than the current app with Traffic and speed camera data. If you didn't use those services then it's still cheaper for the first two years and then, well, it's not.

If you're a payment refusenik, you will still be able to use the app to browse the map, see traffic on the map, search for POIs and even plan routes, but you won't get turn-by-turn instructions until the month is up and you get another 50 miles of free navigation. It's a freemium app, in short.

Oh, and if you have the previous Android app, you can upgrade to this for 50p – the minimum charge on the Google Play Store for an in-app purchase – inclusive of a three-year sub. Again, a decent deal.

Features

You'll find this in the Play store as "TomTom UK & Ireland" which is a misnomer as the app offers maps from all around the world, 111 in total – all your smartphone (and international data roaming contract) can eat, with speed camera support for the most popular 40.

As the map is downloaded to your phone, you can route for free before setting off. There's the expected address search via address, point of interest or plucked from contacts. You can even add an address to a phone contact direct from the app, which is handy.

Also very slick is a "contacts map" which shows all your contacts on one map: you then pinch zoom in to the pal you want to visit, and then set off. Any destination can be added to favourite routes with a poke. If only standalone satnavs made this so easy.

Route planning can be tweaked via fastest, shortest, most eco-friendly, motorway avoiding and walking and cycling routes, with toll roads, carpool lanes, ferries and – randomly – unpaved roads avoided. As it's an app, tinkering to imprisonable levels of OCD is encouraged, if you're that person.

"Serena" is your default navigator, but there's a selection of English, Aussie, American, Irish, Indian and New Zealand accents just a free download away.

Load up your app and you're asked to download your map of choice. The UK map is 886Mb, so takes a minute or two to download over a wifi connection. Then plug a menu button and there's a nice, transparent UI overlaid over your current whereabouts.

Maps

Performance

Before you start, if you're attached to a network, your map flashes up real time, at-a-glance traffic information, including delays, so you can avoid any red bits. This is enormously helpful as you can pre-plan your route based on live traffic information. And a nice touch is the option to go straight to favourites from the boot screen.

As it's a smartphone app, you can choose between portrait and landscape mode, although landscape mode adds a handy "route bar" that lists traffic incidents, speed cameras or petrol stations further ahead on your route on a y-axis that's scrollable.

Once you're on the road, you'll find that at the bottom of the screen there's a continual reminder of how many miles you've got left, next to a huge "Upgrade" button. The maps are clear, concise and still pretty much best-in-class, with a calming, default robot lady easing you to your destination with well judged directions.

TomTom's class is often evident on Go Mobile for Android. The map zooms in to show your next turn, motorway exits and correct filter lanes are previewed and it's eternally nice to see you breezing past contacts on your map, if you're nearby.

All told, it's the usual classy TomTom app experience, with the usual caveat that a dedicated GPS is generally better at receiving the necessary signal and so less likely to get you lost in town.

Verdict

TomTom seems to have talked itself into an interesting corner with its innovative pricing structure. Regular sat nav users who, for whatever reason, don't have a standalone device may be prepared to pay a small amount every three years. Casual users, by their nature, will generally get it for free. So that's fine.

But what about casual users who make the the odd longer journey – the kind where Google maps or a free sat nav app isn't sufficient? These, of course, will hoover up your 50 free miles alarmingly quickly, and then you have to buy a one-year sub. Why isn't there a monthly option?

On the other hand, a fee just shy of 15 quid may be low enough not to alienate that type of potential buyer. We'll see…

We like

It's a real boon that traffic alerts, which usually cost extra, are included, and the overall experience of using the TomTom Go Mobile for Android is good, apart from the effort it takes to write out its unwieldy full name. We're not sure why the graphics have got more cartoon-y on this version of the app, but it's not off-putting as such.

We dislike

It feels like this is crying out for is a monthly purchase option for a pound or two, for when 50 miles isn't enough. We're sure TomTom's done its research, but it seems to us that would be the real sweet spot for this app.

Verdict

This is the best GPS navigation app on Android. Even if the pricing is a bit baffling, we recommend it if you're an Android-toting fan of apps over standalone sat navs.