TomTom Hands Free Car Kit for Smartphones 2014 665x297

Gadget Review: TomTom Hands Free Car Kit for Smartphones

Finding a way of mounting your smartphone to a car windscreen is not difficult, with simple mounts being available everywhere for little more than pocket-money. TomTom think you need more than that however, so will now happily supply you with an all-singing and dancing mount in return for a penny short of £80.

At first glance that appears to be somewhat extravagant, especially as you don’t get any sort of navigation hardware included. No, you’re limited to whatever you can get on your phone, be that Google Maps, Waze or even TomTom’s own Android or iPhone software – unless, that is, you have an Intel powered Android phone like me, then you’re out of luck with TomTom.

It wasn’t on my radar to test, but then Tesco Compare asked me to take a look as part of their safety and security reviews, and one was quickly despatched to me. As I’m in the fortunate position of driving many different cars each week, I was keen to see just what you got for the money.

Fortunately, it’s more than simply a mount for a phone, encompassing a good quality two-watt speaker and a moveable microphone, backed up by built-in Bluetooth, making it a potential one-box solution that could render dedicated sat-nav devices redundant.

Conveniently, a micro-USB cable is included, so your smartphone won’t be running out of battery just before you get to the magic roundabout in Swindon.

Should you not need to see your phone, or simply forget to take it out of your pocket, the TomTom mount will still connect via Bluetooth with two big Answer and Hang up buttons allowing you to make and receive calls.

Finally, the microphone can be detached from the device and placed elsewhere in your car, with clips provided to manage the cable that’s left. It’s all then powered via a single USB plug, with an in-car 12 volt power socket adaptor included.

That’s the description sorted, but what’s it like in everyday use? It’s certainly easy to set up, with myriad adjustments available to fit, I assume, virtually any smartphone. It certainly manages any of the phones in my house, although finding a gap for the large rubber clips on my own Motorola that leaves the USB socket free took some trial and error.

Pairing is easy, while the large suction cup, tightened using a big dial, has kept the unit firmly attached to the windscreen of everything from an MG6 Diesel to a Volvo XC60.

Once in use, the speaker is surprisingly crisp and clear, while the microphone picks up my voice without any issue, although callers could all tell I was in a car during our conversation. Navigation instructions were perfectly audible, although my phone failed to read text messages out loud – an issue with my phone rather than the TomTom kit, I hasten to add.

However, while it’s difficult to fault the kit for doing exactly what it says it will do, and doing that well, an ever-increasing number of new cars come fitted with both Bluetooth connectivity and some sort of navigation system, rendering the TomTom unit somewhat superfluous. However, if you’re in a motor without these options, then there’s a definite benefit.

The second problem is a little more serious. The mount leaves your phone clearly available to use, where it’s just too tempting to check your email when you see a response to something urgent you sent earlier, or read that text message that arrived as you left the house.

Far from being a safety device, the sheer functionality of phones these days can leave you more distracted than if your phone is left in your pocket.

Combined with the eye-watering price tag, it’s hard to make a strong case for the kit. If you desperately need a device like this, then there are none better, but it might just be easier, cheaper and safer to keep your phone tucked away in your pocket.

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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.