TomTom is so doomed

by Volker Weber


I love those TomTom PNDs. But I just had another one of those magical TomTom moments that lead me to believe that their business model for consumers is doomed. They depend on selling you map updates or new devices. Since the old devices are fine, you may feel so inclined to buy a map update.

Don't do it. Don't. Do. It. Period.

With the very first update to the TomTom 940, it would no longer fit both maps in the 4GB internal storage. This happens, since maps get more detailed, and thus larger. And they break the design specs for the device. The only thing I could do, was to not install the US map and just leave that on my Mac.

Well, at the end of the week, the device is going to be used in the US, so it was time to install the map. TomTom Home, the desktop software, demanded an upgrade, so did the device. When I asked it to install the map, Home told me there wasn't enough space on the device. It offered to remove the EU map, which was the only obvious choice. So I was OK with it. Then it removed the EU map, and started installing the US map.

And then it failed. Repeat after me: DRM is bad for the customer.


After that there was no map on the device. No EU map, no US map. A boat anchor pretending to look like a PND. It would not install the US map, and it would not even offer the EU map, although it can find it in the Manage Device section of Home. I read a lot of postings from disgruntled customers who could not get their maps installed or activated and then went for the last resort: delete all maps from the Mac.


Now it's downloading them again from TomTom. It only gives me a part of Europe, because otherwise it could not install both maps, as we heard before. If I ever go to Spain, I will need to download a different EU map. Since this is going to take the better part of three hours (One moment please ...), I shall let the Mac do this overnight. Let's hope nobody removes the device.

What should you do instead of buying a map update? Sell the device on eBay. And then start using a smartphone. Google gives you a current map over the air. It is way smarter finding things. iPhone customers get a free Navigon app in Germany from T-Mobile. Or get a Nokia with the free Nokia Maps. They can be installed on the device so you don't need a data tariff.


"iPhone customers get a free Navigon app in Germany from T-Mobile."

Which doesn't start when you happen to be in a place without network connection. In your underground parking garage for example.

Oliver Regelmann, 2010-07-28

@Oliver: You don't find the exit of your parking garage without Navigation?? :)

That Google Navigation is now available in Germany is nice. The Traffic rerouting don't work that good and the voice is a bit bad but for free and with all the POI and infos its ok.

I think I will still prefer Navigon over Google Maps.

Patrick Bohr, 2010-07-28

The upgrade-breaking-the-spec also happened with my Garmin nüvi 760.

I was even prepared to pay for the upgrade, and they took my money (after quite some struggle). Actually putting the maps on the device was a nightmare. The software is a pain, the website is trying hard to be unhelpful.

As of now, I have some updated (I believe) maps for a handful of european countries (not all those that I would need), no voice, and the actual navigation got a lot worse.

Given the current business model and technical competence shown, it would be no loss if Garmin simply disappeared from the market.

Matthias Leisi, 2010-07-28

The installation on the TOMTOM sometimes fails, but it's worth to repeat installation - not by re-downloading though, but but selecting one of the other menu option which shows the already downloaded items and offers to install them. This is also the way to quickly re-install the existing map.

Also you should do the backup so it can be re-installed. I have the TOMTOM ONE XL, and recently had a similar problem because with the device only having 2 GB the european map is split into 4 parts. Luckily, the EastEurope section I choose also includes Austria, Germany, Switzerland plus east europe.

What is not good is that you can´t download all 4 parts at once, preferable in the backgroup over some time (probably about 6 GB) and then have it sitting on your computer ready for installation should you need it.

Adalbert Duda, 2010-07-28

I have tried that. Unfortunately the installation was completely borked. The only resolve was to re-download the maps.

Volker Weber, 2010-07-28

@Patrick: I've seen parking garages where a navigation device would've been of good use. ;-)

Anyway, I just prefer to set the destination before I'm on the street and in traffic.

Oliver Regelmann, 2010-07-28

It's just bollocks. Since I started to use CoPilot on my iPhone, the TomTom has spent most of its time in the glovebox. Their persistent emails offering me the opportunity to pay for their map upgrades just makes me feel as if they're being greedy. The device wasn't exactly low cost in the first place.

CoPilot is regularly updated via the App Store and I'm very happy with it, plus it's always with me. It was also only ¢25!

TomTom are still snoozing while the Smartphones and the App Store are stealing a march on them.

I guess there'll always be a market with less tech savvy people (those that don't use smartphones) getting lost, but they are also the people who will either fail with an upgrade procedure like this which has been sunk with DRM, or won't bother with keeping the device up to date. Either way, TomTom are looking at a revenue hole.

John Ash, 2010-07-28

I had the same problem with the European map - didn't realize Germany was in *Southern* Europe. All maps disappeared from device. Now at least I have Germany, but I can't get a British voice speaking English. Both British voices are stumm. I get a German voice saying 'You have ri-ark-id your destination' (last word pronounced as in German). Can I attach a smartphone so I can see it when driving?

Margaret Marks, 2010-07-28

>> Google gives you a current map over the air.

The problem with Google's navi is that roaming charges to download the maps in real time apply if you are not in your home country. Its fine otherwise, of course.

John Keys, 2010-07-28

Use your old E71. :-)

Volker Weber, 2010-07-28

That's what I do, but I'd prefer to use my Samsung i5700 :-)

John Keys, 2010-07-28

Margaret - there are loads of kits to mount a mobile phone on the windscreen or on the air vents of the dashboard of a car - Brodit, Hama, Kensington, and Richter are some of the manufacturers. You can try looking on ebay or in some of the well known stores (Saturn, Media Markt, or Conrad for example).

They are generally quite expensive for what they are, but get the job done well. Ones which have a removable phone cradle for the model of phone you have and a standard fitting plate for it are a good idea - you can change the phone cradle at a fraction of the price of replacing the whole system.

John Keys, 2010-07-28

Thanks, John (when did I last look at Keys Corner?). I will have to investigate phone charges in the long run, above all roaming (I scarcely use a mobile phone and don't have a smartphone).

Margaret Marks, 2010-07-28

In the past I've been quite happy with TomTom. I had a Palm Treo (650?) and bought the Navigation Kit (seem to remember it was about ¢100). Had Maps of the UK (included) and a Map of the US (not included).

However I was in Oz a year past Christmas and I bought an Oz Map. It took weeks to be available for download - could I get my money back - cos I was home by then? Could I heck as like. However a few months later I was the proud owner of iPhone 3G and bought the TomTom software for it. Still pretty good. Then they announced the Car Kit - a snip?? at ¢100. That was the beginning of the end for me - you see similar ones in the USA for $20 or so. Bizarrely the cradle for the iPod is a lot cheaper. I'm sure someone could tell me the reason for that but I can't work it out.

I've got the latest version of the UK maps now from the App store (cos they were free obviously) and now I can't set my home address as it doesn't believe there is a No. 28 in our street - it starts with No. 61. I know it's not a real problem but it's death by a thousand cuts - I am getting more disillusioned with TomTom.

I will use the TomTom until I have to pay for something then it's history as far as I am concerned - like @John I'll probably move to CoPilot unless data roaming charges come down a lot. I use my TomTom abroad a lot.

John Lindsay, 2010-07-28

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