Me and my TomTom
I hadn’t heard of TomTom until I moved to Germany in 2006.
We landed at Frankfurt, eyes sandy from sitting up all night in discomfort (wishing I could fall asleep and dream of flying first class), having loaded our exhausted kids and the bulging suitcases that contained our complete possessions for one year living in a village just outside of Dusseldorf.
As I drove the rental up the Autobahn with enough excitement to keep me safely awake, I realized that driving here was not going to be anything like driving back home.
The area we lived in has 30 million people, and the freeways, off-ramps, secondary roads, side roads, and every other kind of concretized twist and turn to keep those people all moving at once.
After two months of struggling to find anything every time we left the house, and after a road trip across the Chunnel to England and back – a land where only the M roads are straight – my wife and I realized we HAD to have a nav unit.
And everyone in this part of Germany used a TomTom.
I can say with certainty that getting a TomTom saved my life, because I would have gone insane and hurled myself from something if I had continued struggling to use my innate sense of direction.
I used our TomTom all through Western Europe, driving into the centre of Paris five times without fear, negotiating Rome, Florence and Naples, the Swiss Alps and Amsterdam, even listening to our beloved British female voice as she insisted that we continue along the literal goat path that took us from Gualdo Tadino to Assisi because it was road, damnit!
When we moved back, I packed that thing away like it was the Holy Grail, and, after buying the North American maps, have used it to drive all over Toronto, Boston, New York City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and the high deserts, deep forests and tractless wastelands in, around, on the way to and between all of these places.
And so, when I learned that I would be reviewing the newest TomTom ONE n14644 and the TomTom iPhone app, I knew that I would be completely and utterly biased.
I think these are the best nav units for the average driver.
The display is large and bright, with a really easy and attractive interface, which is crucial for that quick glance whether you’re picking a path through the winding craziness of a medieval city packed with angry drivers or trying to find Serendipity on the upper East Side of Manhattan for a frozen hot chocolate. I always put my screen on Night display, which is cool and blue and easy to look at it.
The speaker in the back is good and loud, and the variety of voices is entertaining in and of itself. We tried out the Star Wars and Merry Melodies voice packs (these are sold separately) and they were fun, but I find myself coming back to Jane, my unflappable British co-pilot.
Having that voice call out where you are and when you need to turn is such a stress reliever, it’s hard to believe and going back to driving in a new area (especially a metropolitan area) is simple unacceptable without that.
TomTom has some really nice value ads as well, traffic monitoring and reporting to steer you away from trouble spots, and although this wasn’t working all that great in 2006 for whatever reason, it is much more effective now. I also really like the routing technology that allows the driver to make some decisions about routing based on a myriad of factors – your speed, rush hour, the number of traffic lights and so on. Roadside assistance through one catch-all phone number may also be a benefit for those who aren’t already members of CAA or whatever. Lane guidance is another great add-on in a big city, where the complexity of lane selection before an off-ramp is particularly complex and where a misstep can have truly annoying circumstances.
Nothing I’ve seen in the latest TomTom offerings have done anything but confirm what I have already known about this company’s great nav tools. If you’re a driver and you’re going off into the great unknown (at least to you), then you need one. Period.