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iPhone TomTom GPS App (Singapore & Malaysia)

Jan 4th, 2010 by Atelier | 0

The prices for a dedicated GPS have dropped over time and it is now possible to buy it for as low as $300 dollars.

I’ve always wanted to get one but felt that it would not be fully utilised. After all, in little sunny Singapore it’s almost impossible to get lost. Just keep heading straight and you’ll come across a sign directing to one of the expressways.

Over the long Christmas and New Year break, we decided to cross the borders for a short get away to Malacca in Malaysia. So instead of buying a map, I finally pulled the trigger to get a GPS. Since I already have an iPhone 3G with a built in GPS, the cheapest route was to purchase a GPS navigation app.

There are a few GPS apps available on the iTunes app store by TomTom, Sygic and Ndrive. The reviews I read on other blogs about these apps compared showed that Sygic included maps of Singapore, Malaysia and even Thailand while TomTom only included maps of Singapore and Malaysia.

So from a cost to value ratio, the Sygic app seems the better choice. However, since I don’t think I will be driving up to Thailand, I decided to get the TomTom app. The current version is 1.2 and people who bought the earlier 1.0 version have been getting free updates. I’m not sure if map updates will be free as the software update seems to be for resolving bugs and improving certain features.

After buying the TomTom GPS app, I found that it included maps of Brunei. In fact after my holiday and a bit more post purchase research, the Sygic app actually includes maps of Indonesia and Brunei too. That’s a total of 5 countries.

Before setting off for Malacca, the iphone was placed in a cradle on the dashboard of the car and it quickly located the GPS signal and locked on to my current location. I then added my home address into the app for quick future navigation home.

Next, the navigation icon was selected and the Malaysia map was selected. I typed in Malacca and it prompted for the street. ‘Tun’ was entered and the correct street ‘ Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lok’ together with a few other street names was listed. I selected the correct street name and it quickly analysed and found the correct route.

It did prompt that toll road would have to be used as the crossing over the boarder requires a fee. The ‘use toll roads’ was selected and off we go.

Navigation was clear as it indicated the number of meters to the next turn. The voice prompt also guides the drive to switch lanes early in preparation of the next exit.

However, we quickly hit a small problem. Shortly after crossing the causeway, the GPS indicated the correct way to hit the North South highway was to go straight. At that junction, the road ahead had been blocked off with temporary barricades with a detour sign directing traffic to the left.

We followed the road signs but the GPS kept prompting to make a u-turn when possible. After following the road signs for another few minutes, the GPS finally recalculated the route and guided us to the North South highway correctly. Actually, at this point of time, no GPS was really necessary as the road signs were quite clear.

During the rest of the trip, the GPS worked properly and we did not encounter any further differences between the GPS map and the actual roads. The battery on the iPhone 3G ran low after about 3 hours. However, it has to be noted that the iPhone 3G was already more than a year old. A car kit with a charger is a must for longer drives like this.

For places like Malaysia with different states, it is logical for finding the address or street where you are heading starting with country, state and then the street name. However, for places like Singapore, it is difficult for to enter the name of the town. After all, Singapore is a small country and most people refer directly to the street name and not the town where the street is located. It would be great if we could easily search for the street name directly instead of entering the name of the town first.

It’s my first time using a GPS navigation product and it’s been kind of interesting. If did help to remind me when I exceeded the speed limit and avoid getting a ticket on the way when many other cars were pulled over for speeding at a hidden speed camera. The screen of the iPhone is smaller and is a bit difficult to browse the map. Moreover, the entering of the destination address was a little trickier than expected.

The price at $59 is not too expensive but could probably buy quite a few maps or street directories. Perhaps if I had more time to do a little research before my purchase, I would have bought the Sygic GPS app. Let’s hope they update the destination entry system soon.

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