The TomTom GO Live 1535M has the distinction of being the first portable navigation device (PND) to feature connected apps. The 1535M features a trio of apps that, via the Live Services data connection and accessed under the Live Services icon on the Home screen, allow the user to search Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Expedia for points of interest (or POIs) for navigation. In addition to giving the user access to a larger, more up-to-date database of POIs, searching the cloud with the help of Yelp, Expedia, Trip Advisor, and even Google Local Search (which has been a part of TomTom Live since its inception) also give the user access to user generated and, in the case of Expedia, professional reviews. Each result returned when searching with one of these connected sources is accompanied by a rating to help sort the gems from the junk.
There's also Twitter integration that allows users to text their destination and ETA while driving. Before you groan, you'll soon learn that this actually turned out to be one of the best bits of app integration the TomTom has to offer.
Like the Live Services-enabled devices that preceded it, the TomTom GO Live 1535M also features TomTom's HD Traffic service, which is easily one of the best and most coverage complete traffic data services on the market. There's also fuel price quotes, which is remarkably well integrated into the rest of TomTom's OS, making appearances on the trip summary page and automatically populating the fuel category of the POI search with local prices for regular and premium gasoline, as well as diesel. There are also speed camera alerts that sound an audible chime when the drive approaches an intersection with a red-light camera or a stretch for road monitored by a speed camera.
Searching via apps: Better or worse?
I was in the mood for ice cream at the beginning of my testing, so I decided to browse Yelp's database of destinations for a highly rated parlor near my current location. POIs can also be searched in proximity to the user's preset Home address, near the destination of the current route (if one was in progress), or in a city of their choosing. Available destinations are organized into coarse categories such as Restaurants, Nightlife, Arts & Entertainment, and Hotels & Travel, so I selected the Restaurants heading and was immediately presented with the five closest restaurants in Yelp's database. Here's where things start getting shaky. Unfortunately, none of the restaurants listed was an ice cream parlor, and TomTom's Yelp integration doesn't offer more granular categorization than its 22 top level categories. So there's no way to specify that you want, for example, an Italian restaurant and not a sushi bar. Even then, some of these top-level categories can be redundant--for example, searching "Food" returns largely the same results as "Restaurants." This is disappointing, as Yelp's somewhat obsessive categorization and subcategorization of the types of businesses in its database is part of what makes the service so useful on the Web and on a smartphone.
Browsing POIs via Yelp only features about 22 top-level categories, but no way to separate, for example, Italian restaurants from sushi bars.
There is a way around all of this categorization rigmarole and that's with the Search by Name function. Typically, using Search by Name with the built-in and locally stored POI database is only really useful if you already know where you're going or for destinations with self-explanatory names, such as Luigi's Italian Restaurant. However, using Search by Name in tandem with one of the connected search engines also takes into account the expanded data for each POI. So, for the purposes of my search, Smitten Ice Cream would show up in a search for "ice cream" but then so should the more highly rated Bi-Rite Creamery, despite not having the exact search term in its title.
However, there are a few issues with Search by Name. First, hitting the Search button on the Results screen will only filter the visible POIs (as opposed to requerying the Web service). And since selecting any category automatically takes you to a Results screen, the only way to cast a broad search net is to initiate the Search by Name before selecting a category. Of course, this now means that a search for The Fillmore concert hall will also return the dozens of unrelated restaurants, barbershops, and places of worship that are also on Filmore Street. Additionally, search didn't seem to like certain terms. In particular, every search I ran for the term "ice cream" was met with an error message proclaiming that "Something went wrong" and that I should "Please try again later." It would seem that the TomTom GO Live 1535M was determined to keep me from my dairy dessert.
Yelp and Trip Advisor reviews can be browsed from the 1535M's interface.
Eventually, I just keyed "Bi-Rite" into the search box and learned that TomTom's search engine also places a higher emphasis on proximity than on search-term accuracy when Smitten Ice Cream was listed as the first search result, while the Bi-Rite Creamery sat about 4 pages down in the 17th position. The order of the results changes depending on where you are when initiating the search. I understand why this happens, but like everything related to the 1535M's connected search, it's a bit odd and counterintuitive.
With the four-star-rated Bi-Rite Creamery located and ice cream on the horizon, I tapped the entry and was taken to a destination details page that showed a preview of the POI's position on the map, its straight-line distance from my current location, and shortcuts to initiate a call, search for parking nearby, and Show Info, which displays a selection of Yelp's user generated reviews.
Connected services are integrated into the local database search, but not each others'.
The search process for Expedia and Trip Advisor are largely the same as the Yelp process described above. Trip Advisor has fewer categories than Yelp, but with a stronger emphasis on exploring a new city with its "Things to do" category. Expedia only searches for hotels, but is unique in that its information page includes user and professional ratings, high and low rates, and detailed information about amenities and fees. Searching the built-in POI database will display clickable Yelp, Trip Advisor, or Expedia icons if any of these services has ratings or reviews available. However, there's no way to jump among the services from within any of the connected search engines in the Live Services menu. So, for example, you'll have to re-initiate a search if you decide to research a hotel on Expedia finding it via Trip Advisor or Yelp. Juggling these five search engines can be very confusing, so much so that at the end of my testing even I'm still scratching my head over it.
Back on the destination detail screen, hitting the Select button locked in the Bi-Rite Creamery as my chosen destination and gave me a few more options before I started driving, including a preview of traffic, information about the cheapest fuel, and any speed cameras along the displayed route. I was also able to change the route if I wanted to, for example, add a via point, avoid certain areas, or preview an alternative route. For example, routing a trip from San Francisco to San Jose may yield two route choices: one that is 49 miles but takes 90 minutes and another that is 57.3 miles, but only takes 59 minutes thanks to freer-flowing traffic.
Tweeting while driving
The route detail screen also gives users access to the TomTom GO Live 1535M's Twitter integration. Hitting the Twitter button posts a tweet to a Twitter account specified during setup with your destination and estimated time of arrival before your trip starts. If you get rerouted or run into traffic along the route and your ETA changes (for better or worse), the 1535M will automatically send updates to your Twitter account detailing the change. Upon arriving at a destination, the 1535M can even allow you to check-in to your destination with a customizable tweet. Users are able to adjust what the TomTom tweets in a settings menu, but once you're under way, there is no user intervention required. The default message states, "I will arrive at Ocean beach at 2:42pm (local time) #TomTom."
I didn't ask the PND to tweet every trip that I took, but I set up a separate public Twitter account to keep my followers from being inundated with my comings and goings, and I'd recommend that you do the same for the purposes of privacy. This way, users who are concerned about telling the world that they're not home can set that separate account as private and only give access to trusted people, such as parents, domestic partners, or friends. Used this way, I found the Twitter integration could be quite useful and was a much safer alternative to attempting to text my ETA to my friends.
We recommend that you set up a secondary Twitter account if you'd like to keep your comings and goings private.
With the trip under way, the TomTom GO Live 1535M performed nearly identically to thethat we recently tested. You can check out that review for the full rundown.
TomTom also places voice commands at the forefront of the GO Live 1535M's interface. After tapping the microphone icon on the map screen, the device prompts to "Say a command" while displaying a selection of sample commands on screen. From here I was able to set an address or POI category as my destination by stating commands such as, "Navigate to home." or "Drive to an address." When inputting an address, I was also able to state the whole address in one command, as in "235 2nd Street, San Francisco, California" without pauses between the street name, number, city, and state. Via voice, users are also able to initiate a hands-free call with a Bluetooth-paired phone, have traffic data read aloud, or make adjustments to the current route with a command like "Minimize traffic delays" or "Calculate alternative route."
TomTom's voice command system features on-screen prompts to help guide users through the process.
TomTom's made a serious attempt to gain parity with the new generation of navigation apps for smartphones by adding "app" functionality to its already impressive line of GO Live navigators. However, I put "apps" in quotes because I'm not sure that's the best term for what's happening here. These are not applications that can be uninstalled nor can the user download and add more apps to the 1535M's OS. Rather, I like to think of these as services or search engines. However, provided that they still give the user access to the most accurate and most relevant POI data for navigation, being just a service isn't such a bad thing.
While I was pleased with the sheer volume of data that the TomTom Live Service gave me access to, I wasn't too happy with the hoops that I was made to jump through to gain access to that data. I can understand why TomTom would try to streamline the process to make browsing safer while on the road, but the way that, for example, the Yelp app doesn't give users access to the granular subcategorization takes away a large part of what makes searching these services useful. Instead, TomTom really only takes advantage of the ratings--and then only from within what ends up being five distinct (and sort of clunky) search engines.
When the dust settled at the end of my testing, the TomTom GO Live 1535M is still what I'd consider to be a good navigator and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to someone in the market for a PND. But make sure that you're buying it for the navigation with the apps as a bonus, and not the other way around.