Since the iPhone 3G launched last year with built in GPS and the new iPhone 3GS launch this year, people have been calling out for a proper Satellite Navigation Application for it. Well, after a long wait, iPhone OS 3.0 finally provides support for turn-by-turn navigation.
TomTom were the first company to announce a ‘proper’ Sat Nav solution for the iPhone at last months Apple Developers Conference. TomTom demonstrated the software and introduced the TomTom Cradle – an optional extra to help you get the most out of their mapping software, but they didn’t announce any pricing or release dates. This week though saw the release of the first two Sat Nav apps, and surprisingly TomTom weren’t one of them!
First to launch were Navigon – MobileNavigator: Europe came first, with MobileNavigator: British Isles appearing in the App Store this morning. (Both are available now from iTunes and clicking the links will launch iTunes and take you directly to the App Store).
Second to release a full turn by turn App is Mobile Maps 2009 by Sygic. From the reviews it’s getting, it’s a better option than Navigon as it has a few more features such as full postcode search.
Navigon posted this video demoing the software.
If you do invest in a Sat Nav App for your phone, it’s not just the App that you’re going to need. You’ll need something to hold your iPhone and a way of keeping your iPhone charged, as battery life will be dramatically affected by using Sat Nav, especially on long journeys.
Depending on your budget and what you want to achieve in your car, there are a number of options available:
If you don’t want to break the bank and just want a simple, no fuss solution, then you’ll need to get yourself an iPhone 3G Car Holder and iPhone Car Charger. The holder simply fixes to your windscreen using a suction cup and can be used in either landscape or portrait mode.
If you don’t like having things stuck to your window or the tell tale circle on the glass that says you have a Sat Nav system, then you should also consider a Brodit Active Holder for the iPhone 3GS. These are phone specific cradles that will hold your iPhone securely and have a car charger wired into them, so there is no need to fiddle with cables. They are made from a strong ABS plastic and have a soft touch coating to prevent your phone from getting scratched as you use the holder. You can use your iPhone in both landscape and portrait modes as these holders have a rotating bracket. Brodit Active holders are designed to be screwed onto your dashboard, although if you don’t fancy doing this you can use a Brodit Pro Clip. These are secure mounting pads that clip on to your dashboard and can be removed without causing any damage to your vehicle. ProClips provide an ideal base for fixing an active holder on to.
TomTom on iPhone 3G
If you plan on using the TomTom software, then this is probably your best option. The TomTom Car Kit does just about everything you need all in one small discrete holder. The suction mount can be fixed to either your windscreen or dashboard (using a fixing plate) and can be rotated for use in either landscape or portrait mode. As well as holding your iPhone, the TomTom Car Kit will boost your GPS signal for improved tracking; it has an FM Transmitter that allows you to play music from your phone through your stereo speakers, and a built in loudspeaker for the voice navigation while you’re driving. Pricing and availability are still to be confirmed.
Music Streaming, Hands-Free Calling and Navigation
If you really want to get the best from your iPhone and want an in car set up that can be used with your iPhone 3G / 3GS for handling calls, music and navigation there are a number of Plug & Play and professionally installed options available.
There are a few iPhone 3GS Plug & Play Car Kits that will work with the iPhone 3G, and the Jabra SP700 is one of the best. The Jabra SP700 is a self install Bluetooth Car Kit that simply clips to the sun visor of your car and pairs to your iPhone using Bluetooth. The SP700 supports the A2DP profile, which means that you can stream your music to it over Bluetooth and listen to it either using the speaker in the SP700 or you can stream the music from the SP700 to your car stereo speakers using its built in FM Transmitter, in a similar way to how the TomTom car kit works. When you use the Sat Nav app on your iPhone, any voice commands will also be played through your car stereo speakers so you shouldn’t ever miss any directions. The battery life of the SP700 is upto 14 hours talk time and 250 hours stand by.
Streaming using Bluetooth can be quite a drain on the battery, especially if you are using Sat Nav at the same time, you will almost certainly need a car charger and a way of mounting the phone in the car. Personally I’d recommend using a Brodit Active holder for iPhone 3G and a vehicle specific ProClip.
Fully Integrated to your Car
If you want a more permanent solution or one where you don’t need to recharge the handsfree unit, then the iPhone 3GS fully fitted Car Kit will be your best bet.
I’ve tried most of these kits out with the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 3GS, and by far the best option here is one of the Parrot MKi Car Kits. Parrot only make Bluetooth accessories and because of that they make sure that every phone works brilliantly with their car kits.
There are three kits in the MKi range, but the Parrot MKi9000 for iPhone 3GS is your best bet, mainly because you don’t need an external screen. You can play music from your phone through the MKi9000 either by connecting the Dock Connector (which will also charge your phone) or you can stream it using Bluetooth. The Mki9000 will synchronise with your phone book, and supports voice dialing – even on the iPhone 3G. There is also a small remote that you can attach to your dash or steering wheel to control your music (Play/Pause and Volume only when streaming using Bluetooth).
When you use Sat Nav on your phone, voice instructions come through your car stereo clearly, and if music is playing at the same time, it briefly mutes out the music so that you don’t miss any directions.
You won’t need to buy a car charger for your iPhone as this kit will charge your iPhone when you connect the dock cable, but you will still need a holder for your iPhone 3GS.
Depending on how this kit is installed into your car, you may find that the charging cable may not be able to reach the windscreen, so a dashboard holder such as the Brodit Pass through Holder for iPhone 3G & 3GS will be a better option. It’s made from the same soft touch plastic as the Brodit Active Holder, but instead of having a car charger attached, it has a Dock Connector on the bottom so you can leave the charging cable connected permanently.
We would recommend that you have your car kit professionally installed. Click here for details on Mobile Fun’s Car Kit Fitting Service.
Over the next few months we will see even more Sat Nav applications make their way into the app store, with products from Telmap, Co-Pilot and Navicore still in the pipeline.
If you’ve used any of these Sat Nav applications or accessories, let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.