back to article The Rise, Fall and Return of TomTom

Yesterday TomTom announced seven new consumer products (eight if you count the two SatNav units) with four fitness and three navigation products, its highest High Street profile for some years. Corinne Vigreux Corinne Vigreux Tech pundits were preparing the last rites for the SatNav pioneer a few years ago, but it has …

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Lovely story

I hope they continue to succeed.

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Instant kudos for the work on the psion. Didn't know about their wearable stuff. Genuinely interesting, particularly if they aren't slurping data left right and centre.

Looking the the pebble forums people are up in arms about the latest update and the health stuff in brought it. I wish pebble had left well enough alone. At the moment I'd love one of the new times but not at the cost of having to put up with less useful firmware.

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As someone noted down here, they do collect data (driver behavior) and have been known to sell this data to the police. Who then used it or determine where to set up speed cameras. The data was anonimized, but their users did not like this at all. It became a marketing nightmare.

Source, in Dutch:

http://webwereld.nl/e-commerce/53548-tomtom-verkoopt-hardrijdersinfo-aan-politie

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Mixed Feelings

TomTom is one of those companies that I both love & hate.

I have fond memories using their mapping on Psion (5 & netBook) and later on an iPAQ, with a collection of serial, CF card & Bluetooth GPS receivers. I still have all of them, gathering dust.

Then of course they entered the market with their own integrated hardware; and dropped support for the software product almost overnight. And, yes I do have a TT SatNav! :)

Then again there is their irritating habit of disabling obvious features and actively preventing workarounds with firmware updates.

Rant over ... time for a beer. =>

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gopro bandit

??? eh ? it 'shoots 4k' at 15fps FFS.

And is approximately the size of a blue whale.

I'll stick to my gopro 4 black thanks....

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Re: gopro bandit

That'll be the rare "Bonsai Blue Whale" then.

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Re: gopro bandit

Ah the Bonsai Blue. The whale I been searching all my life for.

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TomTom just gets driving more than Google or Apple

On a recent longish trip in a friend's van, I became so impressed at just how much better TomTom's phone navigation app was compared to Google or Apple (the latter of which delights in absurd instructions like "turn left in to the B one-thousand-and-thirty-four in 600 feet") that I splashed out the £39 or whatever it was for three years as soon as I got back. Proof not just that you get what you pay for, but that TomTom's navigation stuff is clearly thought through by people who actually drive, rather than - apparently - by people who don't.

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Re: TomTom just gets driving more than Google or Apple

True, but Here is also very good. And free. And backed by deep-pocketed owners.

I wish TomTom all the best and will have a look at the stuff they have. 5 day battery life sounds unheard of in this day and age. But I'm sure that, if they try hard enough, they can get it down to just over a day like the rest!

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Re: TomTom just gets driving more than Google or Apple

Yep, I agree, TomTom get it. I've long since concluded that they're the best at making a useful SatNav.

Currently I've a Go500 which I pair with my mobile so that it gets Internet access, traffic data, access the MyDrive cloud. It's fabulous. I can sit in the comfort of my home, plan a route, and have that ready to go when I switch on the SatNav. The driving experience is then excellent. The traffic data updates pretty fast, and the diversions are worth it. It knows about average speed camera zones, and shows you your average speed through the zone automatically. It's got maps for all of Europe so it works everywhere with very little roaming data. It even switches between mph/miles to kph/km when you get to the continent - handy.

I honestly don't know why car manufacturers don't simply build in TomTom rather than go their own way. They're all rubbish in comparison. Car showroom salesmen don't really appreciate it when, having proudly shown off their inferior integrated satnav, I respond with an underwhelmed "Meh". There is some hope though; most car manufacturers are plumping for QNX for their incar systems. QNX is owned by BlackBerry. Maps on BB10 are provided by.... TomTom! So there is some possibility that TomTom could become the de facto maps installation on cars, by a round about route.

My only bugbear with TomTom is that they don't cover Japan at all, not in any way. That's a shame. When I go there and end up having to use a Japanese SatNav, it's a horrifying experience. It's like there were 20 people in the software dev team, all of whom had to come up with something to be displayed on the screen. And so they did (in Japanese too, though I can't hold that against them). Result - there's too much info, not enough actual map, and it's practically impossible to use it. Solution - Japanese SIM, Google maps on the phone, and try (and often fail) to get around the place with Google's satnav software.

In Japan they do have a unique problem with place names. Some places have obscure names, the Kanji for which is non-obvious. So you can have a situation where someone can say the name of a place (perhaps they're told it over the phone), but have no way of typing that into a SatNav because they don't know the right Kanji character for it. Plus their elevated motorways often have roads underneath, and SatNavs get confused as to which one you're on. Messy!

At least in Roman alphabet languages you can have a pretty good stab at spelling it, and a simple text search works well enough to fill in the gap.

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Re: TomTom just gets driving more than Google or Apple

TomTom could become the de facto maps installation on cars, by a round about route."

Nice one!

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Re: TomTom just gets driving more than Google or Apple

OK, it's a long time ago, but...

I had Tom Tom maps on my Handspring Treo (PalmOS) and mostly loved it.

One day it gave me a route that took in the rue d'Alsace next to the Gare de l'Est in Paris. Fortunately I was on a bicycle, because that road incorporates a flight of stairs.

-A.

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TomTom is so handy

I originally bought a Garmin sat nav but it was rubbish, had incorrect street names and kept trying to send me off on tangents in completely the wrong direction. I took it back to Argos as unfit for purpose and got a TomTom in exchange. Not looked back since. Nice to go long or complex routes without getting lost or arguing with my spouse (who isn't the best of navigators). Just wish it didn't pester me to share my data every time I turned it on.

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Re: Not looked back since

Sounds like the problem there is that you affixed it over your rear-view mirror.

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Re: TomTom is so handy

"I originally bought a Garmin sat nav but it was rubbish, had incorrect street names and kept trying to send me off on tangents in completely the wrong direction. I took it back to Argos as unfit for purpose and got a TomTom in exchange. "

Strangely, I had exactly the opposite experience. I'm more than happy with the Garmin I bought to replace the barely usable TomTom. Maybe it depends on the model purchased and whether it was a "Monday morning/Friday afternoon build"

The only issue I have with my Garmin is the odd text to speech algorithm they use. Even if it followed the rules of English accurately and ignored exceptions, it would likely do a better job at pronouncing street and town names more accurately. I suspect the text to speech algorithm is the US English one, so gets things wrong in terms of proper English even though using the British English voice.

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Wish my BMW had a TomTom based SatNav built it

Instead of the c**** system it actually has.

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TomTom got me round the UK & France without once getting it wrong

Less than £70 quid for a unit and a lifetime supply of free map updates, with no need for a phone signal or data charges. It just works for drivers - so much slicker than trying to get the phone to do it, and cheaper overall.

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Re: TomTom got me round the UK & France without once getting it wrong

It has the advantage that it is a separate device, which can be wired in permanently, except for when the maps need updating I guess.

The disadvantage would be having to take it with you when you travel and still want nav in another country.

Does it have maps for every country? Are they free. Unlikely on both counts.

HERE maps, and their MS/HERE replacement have the disadvantage that one must place one's phone visibly on the dash but have the distinct advantage that the device can also receive texts, speak them, allow one to answer them and allows calls in and out.

All this occurs with the navigation prompts suppressed, and the CD/radio too if you have a BT connected car.

As well as having free, offline maps for 200 countries, over 100 countries have free turn-by-turn navigation. The actual navigation is very good, allowing multiple route choices, manual and automatic re-routing and similar stuff.

Having it on the phone also adds the advantage that it is always with you, works when using shanks' pony and when travelling. It has the massive advantage that it also does public transport routes.

Add the advantage that it allows online searches too for more esoteric situations and Points of Interest and I have always failed to see the point of dedicated systems.

If it was the difference between a good DSLR and a phone camera, maybe but we are discussing minimal advantages and some disadvantages, nothing clear-cut at all.

Of course, if you are using Google maps or Apple maps, I see your point, I was using Google mapping to try to find a bike-specific route (HERE/Bing does not do bikes sadly) and I gave up trying to pan and zoom to see paths while it downloaded maps using 3G or less out in the boonies.

I also see that you would have your phone for walking, public transport etc. but I did notice, having spent 3 months abroad recently that most of the people with us had no data and thus no mapping, some paid the extra for local SIMs, some used data sparingly for short periods, perhaps some even realised that they could get HERE maps on Android.

From what I can see, using online mapping for anything important is insane.

A similar situation arises when hill walking and using OSM (via NaviComputer for me). I have to download everything in the area at the highest resolution because trusting that there will be data is just dumb. Add paper maps and a power block and I feel covered map-wise.

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Re: TomTom got me round the UK & France without once getting it wrong

You know you can download areas on Google Maps for use when there is no signal, do it for areas you are going to be visiting before you leave the WiFi coverage, then have data free navigation (of course you don't get the realtime traffic updates).

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Re: TomTom got me round the UK & France without once getting it wrong

Google will never make this even close to what MS/Bing/HERE does since they are an advertising company.

Downloading bits and bobs here and there is a partial solution, involving extra work and forethought; even travelling on a day out means getting the required town or area downloaded in advance. Forget spontaneity although those with unlimited data can do it while on the actual journey I suppose, if they have the required data coverage.

It may seem okay to those used to online-only mapping but it is rubbish to those used to instant display, whole-country/continent mapping.

If you try it, you will know what I mean.

And yes, I have an Android, indeed Google, device as well as an iOS device (just had a go on the maps using blistering WiFi, passably okay for my local area, miserable when going to London Town, took 30s or more to populate the screen, horrific. It has 3D rendered buildings but no super-3D buildings that HERE is replete with. Okay but suffers all the problems Google has. BTW, says data from TomTom! and others - traffic perhaps?).

The system on WP10 also has incidents as well as live pictures from the road camera system, useful to look at in advance even if you can't look while driving (although looking at various junctions for alternative routes when stuck/stopped in traffic is a very useful feature, especially if you have a passenger that can do it).

TBH, there really isn't a reasonable comparison, after all, Waze is actually available on Windows Phone so it has the best of both worlds.

Basically TomTom survived in the GPS nav arena *because* of Apple/Google roundly defeating WinPhone in sales etc. Had WP sold at the 40% or 50% level, I suspect few people would have purchased a dedicated solution, those with the extra money would start having sat-nav built in to their vehicles.

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Re: TomTom got me round the UK & France without once getting it wrong

Google will never make this even close to what MS/Bing/HERE does since they are an advertising company.

... and Microsoft aren't?

Funniest thing I've read all week - have an upvote!

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Re: TomTom got me round the UK & France without once getting it wrong

In my experience, HERE is not reliable enough for route-finding in Australia/NZ, certainly not compared to the TomTom, which has never led me wrong in these countries.

In each country, HERE has let me to remote forestry roads that peter out in the middle of nowhere (yes, I knew it was wrong each time, but followed the routes out of curiosity).

And with most TomTom, devices, you can pair your phone, and use it to answer calls, etc.

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Ah, Psion...

Nothing like a nice bit of nostalgia on a Friday. I knew both Harold and Corinne back in their Psion days.

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Re: Ah, Psion...

Same... I think fondly back about my 3mx and my 5. I loved both, but in all honesty I also think the 3mx was a bit more suitable for its intended use: keeping track of notes and schedules and such. The 5 was most definitely more feature rich (I even managed to run Norton Commander on it through the use of a DOS emulator!) but also quite bulky.

Still, the moving keyboard to preserve space was brilliant in my opinion. Even had a very nice touch response to it as well, I was even able to type letters on it!

If it wasn't for the (more) difficult way to synchronize my data with my PC I might have still been using it today. Because that has always been the problem with Psion for me: syncing. Psion 6 + better sync. support would be an instant winner with me. But... unfortunately they stopped their consumer line :(

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Re: Ah, Psion...

Psion 6 + better sync. support would be an instant winner with me. But... unfortunately they stopped their consumer line :(

They didn't so much stop it, as turn it into Symbian and license it to other manufacturers, and it went on to be the preeminent mobile phone OS worldwide for about a decade, before IOS and Android rendered it obsolete. (Not that the change to Symbian helped at all with syncing, which was still abominable.)

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TomTom cut the marketing and overheads but continued to invest in the engineering

And are now returning to profit.

HP cut the engineering and kept the marketing and overheads... and are now breaking apart and selling off whatever remains of the family silver.

Funny, that.

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Re: TomTom cut the marketing and overheads but continued to invest in the engineering

"HP cut the engineering and kept the marketing and overheads... and are now breaking apart and selling off whatever remains of the family silver."

According to the latest HP announcement, the latest range of new release printers are built in conjunction with Samsung and now they've bought Samsung's printer division. HP have always bought Canon print engines. You'd almost think that HP, probably THE NAME in reliable laser printers, no longer have any printer design engineers at all. HP, except at the enterprise level, are generally poor build quality these days and are surviving in reputation, marketing and brand awareness.

Your comment hits that nail squarely on the head.

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First I've heard of it

So this is the absolute first time I've heard of this Bandit camera. Is this a prototype? Do they sell it?

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WinPho being dead good for Tom Tom

WinPho was a reasonably rival for TomTom with off-line mapping coming for free with your phone. Plus it was reasonably accurate.

I had a Tom Tom but the maps went out of date and TT wanted a silly amount to update (£70 as I recall). When I gave up on WinPho I checked TT and they'd dropped the price of updates to £20 an amount I was quite happy to pay.

I've a new car now with satnav built in but it's much harder to use than the TT although it's a bit silly to use both. The TT is still around as a backup.

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EH ?!???! I think someone needs to ring Suunto and tell them they don't exist anymore. Suunto are the main competitor to Garmin in the GPS watch space, and are based in Finland. Last time I checked (about 10 seconds ago!), that was in the EU too.

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Anonymous Coward

@ gingerneilnc

Yes, Suunto is great quality and worth checking out. Perhaps they should be better at marketing. They produce damn good compasses too. Swan yacht owners know them well.

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For more information

From the Wiki.

TomTom NV is a Dutch company that produces navigation and mapping products. TomTom also makes action cameras, GPS sport watches, fleet management systems, and location-based products. As of 2015 TomTom's business had Consumer, Automotive, Licensing and Telematics units. Founded in 1991 and headquartered in Amsterdam, the company currently has 4,000 employees worldwide and sells products in over 41 countries. TomTom was originally named Palmtop Software, founded by Peter-Frans Pauwels, Pieter Geelen, Harold Goddijn and Corinne Vigreux.[2] TomTom currently has 56 offices in 37 countries.[3]

In 2008, TomTom acquired Tele Atlas, a digital map maker, for €2.9 billion.

On 11 June 2012, at an event for Apple's iOS 6 preview, TomTom was announced as the main mapping data provider for Apple's revamped iOS 6 "Maps" app, replacing Google Maps.

Late 2015, TomTom extended its deal with Apple and signed a new contract with international transportation network company Uber. The Uber driver app now uses TomTom maps and traffic data in 300 cities worldwide.

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Pretty good navigation

Bastards on the software licencing.

The software on my current TomTom has the capability to plan a route depending on the type of vehicle. However the option is greyed out.

As far as I can tell there is no option to enable this feature; I have to go and buy completely new hardware.

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Re: Pretty good navigation

It's not about the hardware. (AFAIK, I don't work nor have ever worked for TomTom) The vehicle type option is intended for professional users driving lorries, busses, vans, etc with certain weight/height/width constraints. This option requires special maps that have additional information on these limitations for road sections. Those are NOT present on the standard maps. So you might have to buy new hardware, but it's still mostly about buying a new software license.

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Re: Pretty good navigation

"The vehicle type option is intended for professional users driving lorries, busses, vans, etc with certain weight/height/width constraints."

My old Garmin StreetPilot had that as standard. It was quite useful sometimes, especially driving around the Highlands or down in Cornwall to select bus or HGV so as not to be routed down tiny little lanes etc When that broke and a replacement was needed, that option was no longer available unless I purchased a "professional" grade device. It's all about marketing and defining devices to fit demographics so you can charge more and increase the range of devices on offer to make the company look bigger and better. It's not seen as good to offer just one universal device.

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The profit graph

They lost enough money those two losing years to totally wipe out all the profit they ever made, and then some. So don't pronounce them "returned" until they at least make enough money to show a break even over their entire existence...

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tom tom, the lovely people who took your data from the sat Navy and sold it to the police.

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This is a myth !

I would like to insist again that we never and I repeat NEVER sold any data to the police. This is a myth which we strongly and publicly denied at the time. We take great pride in the products we make and the technologies we develop to the benefit of our users and customers and we take great care in protecting your privacy.Corinne

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Crap GPS Units

I hope the new stuff works better than their crap GPS unit I bought my mum which got lost more than she did.

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Car makers continue to charge utterly stupid prices for their sat nav updates, you can buy a couple of new TomTom low end units for the price of a DVD. Until manufacturers stop gouging their customers (no wonder people look to Torrent the updates and there's a plethora of fake disc sites) then long live TomTom. I also agree with a poster above that car manufacturers should just integrate TomTom as standard, or to be honest just let you choose the software you want to use. I wonder how many people have almost useless built in sat nav because they can't afford or balk at the update price?

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Car Sat Nav

I refused to buy the next model up car wise as the only major feature was the built in Sat Nav and the cost difference was almost £2,000.00 wtf no way!

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"I wonder how many people have almost useless built in sat nav because they can't afford or balk at the update price?"

Lots. In particular, all hire cars.

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Meh

SatNav? Wot Satnav?

Never use it myself. While driving there's too much happening on the roads these days to look away, and I find either their 3d effect road view or the very reduced map field completely destroys my sense of spatial awareness and mental mapping.

If I'm going to an unknown place I'll check the on-line maps first (also look out for likely problem areas). Also, there's a large size map book on the back seat under the car rug, as a fall-back. Never had a battery problem and replace the 'hardware' every couple of years :)

Call me a Luddite if you like, but it works for me, and on the occasions I do go slightly astray I usually end up finding some fascinating places that most people never see.

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Re: SatNav? Wot Satnav?

"While driving there's too much happening on the roads these days to look away"

If it's placed properly, you should be able to see it while driving, easier than looking down at your speedo.

"Call me a Luddite if you like, but it works for me, and on the occasions I do go slightly astray I usually end up finding some fascinating places that most people never see.

SatNavs will often calculate a route that might not look obvious on a printed map. Plus, printed maps are normally at least a year out of date before they are even published. I use my SatNav every day. I've been on the road for 25 years now and a single SatNav with bi-annual updates is far, far superior IMO (and my use case) than a national road atlas + box of outdated street/town maps in the boot.

If wife and I are out and about at the weekend, especially into the wild of Northumberland or The Lakes, I'll often switch the SatNav to Shortest Route rather than Quickest. That often takes us down some very scenic and out of the way place. Places we might never have discovered otherwise. It's all swings and roundabout I suppose.

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Chz

In the in-car satnav space, I think they still suffer from the products that are now bundled into cars and phones being "good enough". I've used a TomTom, and I know it's better than the satnav bundled in the Nissan. But said satnav is good enough for our purposes. It would probably fail if we were the sort of people who hop in the car and just go somewhere, but if you're the sort that plans a route beforehand and just uses the satnav to avoid getting lost then the TomTom's extra abilities (I grant that its lane advice is a zillion times better than anyone else's, but that's not enough to purchase one) are a bit wasted.

Having seen the crap that's peddled as fitness gear (the Mrs has a Garmin one, and it's a bit shit), they stand a very good chance in that market if their software is as good as their satnav software. It's just a pity that unless they manage to license to GM or somesuch, they're dead in that market. (Whatever happened to Renault licensing TomTom?)

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I'm stuck with HERE maps

I have never tried TomTom but my car (recent Citroen C8) came with HERE maps and they are NOT GOOD. I'll pass on the horrible experience of trying to "type" in the address using up/down/left/right arrow keys only. Apparently Citroen was too cheap to include a touchscreen or too lazy to figure out a way to connect with a phone. That's not HERE's fault. But HERE maps is regularly sending me in the wrong direction, like asking me to exit a highway and then immediately instructing me to turn back and get on the highway again. There is also one intersection where I live (near Paris, not some obscure corner of the countryside) that it does not know how to navigate at all, despite the latest update.

Speaking about updates, the complete update to European HERE maps cost me €100 (!!!) and I got the data on a USB Key to plug into the car. You then have to jump through some stupid DRM hoops and wait in your car, engine running, for more than an hour for the update to be applied ! And their stupid software needs a human interaction in order to start the update for each european country so you cannot even let it run while driving.

Conclusion: HERE maps is in my experience utter complete total rubbish. Long live TomTom.

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Re: I'm stuck with HERE maps

So your problem is with the integration of HERE into your Citroen, not with HERE as such? The phone app can get a little confused as well (especially if the GPS position accuracy is "a bit shit" TM), but updating and navigating with it is about as painless as it used to be when I used TomTom. Frankly I never bother with built in navigation systems, they are ALWAYS shit and the screen location is usually in a very distracting place. I keep my phone in a holder attached by suction cup to the lower left corner of the windscreen where I can glance at it during my scan of the mirrors and instruments.

Also, why do people feel the need to stick the satnav smackbang in the middle of the windscreen below the rearview mirror? It takes away pretty much all periferal vision to the right/left (crossout as applicable in your country)

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Re: I'm stuck with HERE maps

"But HERE maps is regularly sending me in the wrong direction, like asking me to exit a highway and then immediately instructing me to turn back and get on the highway again."

I've seen on rare occasions with Garmin too. At least one time, it was shortly after a newly expand single to dual carriageway conversion opened and the SatNav didn't know about it yet. The detour up the sliproad seemed to be avoiding about 500yds of "phantom" slow roadworks no longer there.

Other times, I suspects it's the routing algorithm/traffic data thinking the the sliproad up and over and back down again is slightly quicker than the straight through route. It is a pretty rare thing to happen though, and as I said in another post, I use my SatNav every single day.

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Re: I'm stuck with HERE maps

"why do people feel the need to stick the satnav smackbang in the middle of the windscreen below the rearview mirror?"

Because they are dicks who never read the manual (which invariably warns about windscreen placement) and no Police officer seems interested in enforcing the law WRT to visual obstructions on the windscreen.

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