Provides: iPhone cradle with enhanced GPS reception
Minimum Requirements: iPhone or iPod touch (2nd Generation or above) with Magellan RoadMate app
If the accuracy (or lack thereof) of the iPhone’s built-in GPS receiver isn’t cutting it for you, you have basically two options to improve it; TomTom or Magellan. Both function nearly identically. The main difference is that there’s only one Magellan version from which to pick for both iPhone and iPod touch. But how does it compare to TomTom’s car kit?
I think the first thing I should discuss is why you might need a GPS enhancing car cradle. Obviously, you need something to hold your iPhone in the car if you plan to use it as a GPS navigation device. You could just get a standard car cradle, like the ones from JustMobile. This would work just fine, but you might notice your position in an app like TomTom or Navigon tends to jump around from time to time. That’s because the iPhone doesn’t have the world’s best GPS receiver built in. It works fine most of the time, but it tends to fail when you really need it.
That’s where a GPS enhancing car kit comes in. It has a much more powerful GPS reciever built in, which amplifies GPS signals and passes them off to the iPhone. This should enhance GPS reception on all navigation apps, not just the maker’s app since it amplifies GPS signals instead of directly providing them to the iPhone. The iPod touch is another story. This actually needs a GPS receiver in it, so this needs to happen through the dock connection.
You might also enjoy the extra features provided by some of these cradles; features like a powered speaker so you can actually hear the directions, a speakerphone so you can talk on the phone without holding anything, and device charging since the iPhone’s battery drains like an open milk jug turned upside down when using GPS. Will a standard cradle work? Yes, but you paid for an iPhone, i’s monthly cell phone bill and a navigation app. Let’s face it, you like spending money. So let’s get to this review already…
You might be familiar with TomTom app and Magellan RoadMate app, you might just decide to buy into TomTom products. Why? Well, currently, TomTom has more features built in and on the way for their app. Things like lane assistance. I sat down with TomTom back in January at CES, and it seems as if they were very tuned in to what consumers want to see in their app. Hopefully, this means they’ll continue to update it with features such as real time traffic data. Magellan, on the other hand, just doesn’t have the features that their competition does. There’s no lane assistance and no traffic data, with no announcements of any of these or other enhancements planned as of this writing. That’s two points down.
Secondly, Magellan only has one car cradle for both the iPhone and iPod touch. TomTom doesn’t include Bluetooth functionality with their iPod touch cradle since they assume you won’t be making any calls with it, which is reasonable. Magellan would rather have just one kit, and I actually like this approach much better. Just because you have an iPod touch now doesn’t mean you will never have an iPhone. Or, what if you have an iPhone and another family member has an iPod touch? Tough crap if you have the TomTom kit.
Magellan’s decision to support both devices with one unit is immediately apparent when you look at the cradle. The top portion allows for height adjustments in order to support numerous devices. This is great for iPhones in cases, and should also be safe when Apple changes the dimensions of a future iPhone, so that’s great. What’s annoying is that the cradle also needs you to adjust a spacer on the back side since the iPhone is much fatter than its anorexic brother (also to support for iDevices in cases). Getting your iDevice in and out of the cradle could be easier, but it’s not bad. The iDevice is connected with the dock connector first, and then pivoted backwards into the cradle. But once it’s in, it stays put pretty well.
The cradle attaches to your windshield with a suction cup. Nothing surprising there. The arm is very adjustable, and it pivots in 90 degree increments. The only thing stopping you from spinning it around forever is the power cable. This makes the whole show run by powering the speaker, the mic and keeping your iDevice charged. Actually, if you just want to use the cradle as an expensive Bluetooth speakerphone, you can do this since your iPhone doesn’t need to be plugged in at all.
The speaker is definitely loud enough. You’ll be able to use the Magellan app and listen to music (through your car stereo) at the same time without worrying about not hearing directions. Or, even better, use the line out to let your iPhone control nearly every aspect of your in car experience. The speakerphone works pretty nicely as well. It’s still a speakerphone, so you’ll have to speak up a bit, but it is noise canceling and definitely works better than some I’ve tried. Plus, this is way safer than holding your iPhone to your head while you’re driving.
Now I should probably clarify one thing once again just to make sure. Magellan advertises that this cradle works with most GPS navigation apps. But to really get the full functionality of this cradle with an iPod touch, you’ll need the Magellan RoadMate app since it won’t pass a GPS signal to the iPod touch (2nd gen) without some code. If you have an iPhone, this whole clarification is unnecessary because the GPS enhancement for the iPhone works for all navigation apps since it is merely enhancing the GPS signal, not completely providing it.
Overall, I really like the Magellan car kit. It works just as well as the TomTom kit and is comparatively priced. Actually, I think this cradle is more worthwhile since it’s more flexible in what devices it supports, which always makes me happy. Even if you don’t have the RoadMate app, you might opt to buy the Magellan kit for its charger, speaker, speakerphone and enhanced GPS reception for the iPhone on any other app (yes, even Navigon). Really the only gripe I have with the kit is that you need to have the Magellan app to make any use of it with an iPod touch. Magellan has a great piece of hardware here, all that’s left is to play feature catch up with TomTom and Navigon with their app.