TomTom is one of the key providers of local data to Apple for its forthcoming maps product. I had a chance during my vacation to use a TomTom GPS device in a Hertz rental car in Ireland. I had never used one before.
Beyond the clunky and awkward UI, the device had surprising difficulty locating our initial hotel — as in finding it in the database. This was true despite the fact that it is a major hotel and long established in the area we were staying. After several attempts including typing in the address I got the device to locate the hotel.
The TomTom PND then proceeded to take us on a very convoluted and even dangerous route (because of the width of the roads). It ultimately got us lost, not recognizing one-way streets and forcing us, after driving around, to eventually call the hotel for directions. The Hertz system, ironically, is called “never lost.”
I had an Android Galaxy Nexus phone with me and I bought a local SIM card. Thereafter for the rest of the trip I used Google Navigation, which performed very well — surprisingly well in fact (“enter roundabout, take the second exit”).
While I hesitate to draw too many conclusions from my isolated experience, it caused me to reflect on the massive local infrastructure that Google has built for its maps and navigation product, and to suspect that Apple’s new maps may fall short when it launches.
As an iPhone owner I hope that’s not the case. I also hope that Google finally releases a version of Navigation as an app for the iPhone.