Unveiled alongside its turn-by-turn navigation app for iPhone at WWDC 2009, TomTom's Car Kit for iPhone is finally available for purchase.
Offering a bit more than just a way to hold your iPhone steady while driving, the Car Kit also has a GPS receiver built-in, a car charger, and a loud internal speaker.
However, in the time between its announcement and release, the TomTom Car Kit has come under fire for being a bit overpriced. At $119 over the cost of the separately purchased navigation app, it's certainly no steal, but what exactly do you get for your money? We put the TomTom Car Kit through its paces to find out.
After removing the TomTom Car Kit for iPhone from its box, we were a little taken aback by how simple its design is--at least externally.
The device consists of a plastic bracket with an integrated dock connector that holds the iPhone in place. An iPhone is attached by first snapping its dock connector into the bottom of the bracket, then applying pressure until the top clip of the bracket snaps into place.
Because of the fixed nature of the mounting bracket, the Car Kit for iPhone may not hold an iPhone in a case (although you may be able to wedge a very low profile case in there). The Car Kit has rubber padding wherever it comes into contact with the iPhone, which should reduce scratching when inserting and removing.
Taking a closer look at the bracket, there is a small rocker switch on the left side that can be nudged to adjust hands-free calling volume or pressed to pair additional phones. Over on its right side are a Mini-USB port for the included 12-volt car charger and a 3.5mm jack for connecting to your vehicle's auxiliary audio input for music playback.
The bracket connects to TomTom's EasyPort mount on a slider, which lets slide the iPhone about 2 inches up and down with a detent in the center. The EasyPort mount consists of a 1.5 inch, 2-watt speaker that is integrated into ratcheting rotating joint that let the iPhone rotate from portrait to landscape orientation and onward for a full 360-degrees. Finally, there's the suction cup connected to the rest of the assembly with a ball joint.
The suction cup itself is a very cool bit. You attach it by placing very shallow rubber cup on a nonporous surface (such as your windshield) and secures with a quarter turn of its locking ring. At first, we weren't confident with such a shallow suction cup, but after a few miles of spirited driving, we've come to trust its holding power.
The TomTom Car Kit for iPhone has a few features that enhance navigating with the iPhone. The first feature is its integrated SiRF Star 3 GPS receiver that is more sensitive than the iPhone's integrated GPS antenna.