This site uses cookies to offer you a better browsing experience. Find out more about how to manage cookies, or dismiss this message and continue to use cookies.

Traffic: TomTom vs. Garmin vs. Google/Waze in U.S.?

What traffic info is the TomTom smartphone app using? Is it purchased from a third party? Is information shared between TomTom devices? I can see from Garmin's website that they have three different types of traffic avoidance: Garmin Traffic, HD Digital Traffic, and Live Traffic. The first uses HERE (formerly Navteq) RDS information and the second uses HERE HD information (http://www8.garmin.com/traffic/). The difference appears to be that the second is transferred over HD radio and is updated more frequently (at best, once every 30 sec). The third option, the smartphone connected traffic, does not have a clear source. The website states it is provided by Navteq and lists major cities in the U.S. and Canada where coverage exists. I cannot seem to find this sort of information from TomTom's website.

I have found traffic info from Google/Waze to be fairly reliable in the U.S., at least where I have driven. I am not sure how they determine traffic conditions. It is at least partially through crowdsourcing, although I don't know if this is supplemented by some other data source.

Basically, I don't know what my best option is for traffic (TomTom vs. Garmin) for a standalone GPS, or how similar those options are in terms of coverage and reliability to Google/Waze. The coverage maps for Garmin's two non-smartphone connected traffic options are fairly limited. The maps (http://coverage.here.com/rds-coverage.html and http://coverage.here.com/hd-coverage.html) show coverage to be focused around cities, while Google/Waze coverage is concentrated on major roadways, including major cities. The difference, based solely on these maps, is that you can be on a major interstate, but because it is not near a major city, not have traffic data with Garmin. That surprises me.

So, again, I'm hoping someone has some insight into how TomTom's traffic services operate and how they compare to the other options mentioned, specifically in the U.S.

Thanks,
Matt

Comments

  • Boyd 1781 Points
    edited December 2016
    I gave up on the Garmin RDS traffic long ago, still have a device with a receiver (Dezl 760) but haven't used the traffic feature for over a year. It was still pretty terrible then, and you are right about coverage - it's terrible.

    Now I primarily use the Garmin StreetPilot Onboard app for iOS (also know as "Garmin North America"). I have found the traffic very good in the app, just this morning I used it and it warned of slow traffic a couple miles ahead. The actual traffic congestion exactly matched the area indicated on the map. Usually it is like this, I found that it worked well when I spent some time in New York City last spring.

    I don't know, but assume this would be the same kind of data you would get with a dedicated Garmin GPS and their smartphone connect app. My old Nuvi's are not compatible with my iPhone, so I don't know for sure.

    The big advantage to connected services (like the StreetPilot app or smartphone link) is that it can show traffic for the whole country, so you can see it at your destination long before you arrive. The RDS system can't do this because of the very slow data rate. It only shows local traffic.

    I also have the TomTom app on my iPhone but have only played with it a bit. Looks good though. It is operating in demo mode since I have not purchased a subscription however. This allows you to use full features of the app, but only for 50 miles per month.
  • Yeah, I like the idea of a standalone GPS unit, just so I can have a separate device, bigger screen, easier to use while driving, doesn't drain my phone battery or use data. But it's only worth it to me if the traffic info is equivalent to what I've seen on Google/Waze. I'm fine with using the smartphone connection, although I would be curious how much data it uses and how much it effects the battery life of the phone. If it's just ending traffic info, it shouldn't be that bad for either. TomTom had a number for data usage on their website but I can't remember what it was; it wasn't much.
  • Boyd 1781 Points
    edited December 2016
    Any data usage is bound to be minimal just for traffic. I avoided making the switch to a phone for years, but things have changed too much. I have the iPhone 6s Plus and the 5.5" screen is more than large enough. It is plugged into external power in the car, so there are no battery issues. In fact, I like that aspect because my phone is always charged when I get out of the car.

    The maps are installed permanently on the phone, so no data usage is involved there. Only minimal data is used for traffic and connected searches - which are FAR superior to searching for things on a Nuvi. Much faster, you can enter names and addresses just like you would on Google. The user interface (map screen, etc) is virtually identical to the Nuvi. And current smartphone hardware is many generations ahead of Garmin's dedicated units in terms of speed/power. I don't understand why the standalone unit would be "easier to use while driving". It's virtually the same - which is also the case with the TomTom GO app as well.

    It does not have voice input like Garmin's newer auto devices, so perhaps that is a factor. I never thought that worked very well on the Nuvi anyway though.

    The only limitations are ones that Garmin has intentionally added - like not being able to import/export favorites or tracks, not able to load additional maps. These were clearly added so the app wouldn't be "too good" and compete with their dedicated units.
  • privet01 145 Points
    I have to agree with Boyd that traffic and searches for POI's such as gasoline, restaurants, lodging and virtually anything else are much easier and have a better chance of being up-to-date when using a smartphone.

    I still let my 7 year old nuvi 205w show me the directions when traveling between cities. Though for intercity travel, my android smartphone is easier and quicker. I can use my voice to initiate the look ups and don't have to take my hands off the wheel.
  • Zemartelo 102 Points
    edited December 2016
    The thing is that theres in no reason why the Nuvi units with bluetooth do not offer that same experience as the app?!

    I know they have this app and that you can subscribe to traffic for $20/year or something so I dont know how good it is.

    But if they can offer traffic with the app why cant they offer it with the nuvi app?

    With all the nuvi's on the road connected via bluetooth with a free traffic service they could collect a ton of data for their traffic trends feature.
  • Boyd 1781 Points
    edited December 2016
    Zemartelo said:

    But if they can offer traffic with the app why cant they offer it with the nuvi app?

    A little confused by your use of "app".

    First, there is an app called "StreetPilot Onboard". It basically turns your iPhone into a Nuvi, but it is not cheap and traffic must be purchased separately.

    image

    Then there is another app called "Smartphone Link". This is the one that sends traffic and other data from the phone to the Nuvi over bluetooth. Again, traffic must be purchased separately.

    My *guess* is that you will get the same traffic data either way. And this system is much more advanced than any of the standalone Nuvi traffic receivers because it's actually connected to the internet at LTE speeds.

    Garmin's traffictrends feature is so horrible, it's hard to believe that they actually care about it. ;)
  • The standalone app is $50 and has terrible reviews for iOS. Traffic is $20 as an in app purchase. Is that a recurring fee? The physical GPS claims the traffic fee is a one time charge. For what it's worth that app has terrible reviews too.
  • Boyd 1781 Points
    AFAIK, the traffic in StreetPilot is a one time fee as well. I have been pleased with the app and it was very stable until I updated to iOS 10. Garmin updated the app shortly afterwards and I've had some problems since then. Too long and OT to get into here, but hopefully these are resolved with another update they posted.

    Frankly, I would like to transition completely away from Garmin, both dedicated devices and apps. Unfortunately, I have not yet found something I like better. Perhaps it could be the TomTom GO app, which looks very nice. My only issues with it are in the area of map readability, they have a low contrast color scheme that makes the small roads hard to see.
  • privet01 145 Points
    Zemartelo said:

    With all the nuvi's on the road connected via bluetooth with a free traffic service they could collect a ton of data for their traffic trends feature.

    See how easy it is for us to want to give up our privacy in return for a free app <<GRIN>>

    Not that I don't do the same thing, but I cry....... see the tears....... every time I think about how we willingly allow data that can be mined by advertisers, n s a, c i a, and other less reputable entities.

  • privet01 said:

    Zemartelo said:

    With all the nuvi's on the road connected via bluetooth with a free traffic service they could collect a ton of data for their traffic trends feature.

    See how easy it is for us to want to give up our privacy in return for a free app <<GRIN>>

    Not that I don't do the same thing, but I cry....... see the tears....... every time I think about how we willingly allow data that can be mined by advertisers, n s a, c i a, and other less reputable entities.

    I think this privacy thing is overblown. What do I care that me driving to the nearest walmart place is somehow that invades my privacy?
  • Boyd said:

    Zemartelo said:

    But if they can offer traffic with the app why cant they offer it with the nuvi app?

    A little confused by your use of "app".

    First, there is an app called "StreetPilot Onboard". It basically turns your iPhone into a Nuvi, but it is not cheap and traffic must be purchased separately.

    image

    Then there is another app called "Smartphone Link". This is the one that sends traffic and other data from the phone to the Nuvi over bluetooth. Again, traffic must be purchased separately.

    My *guess* is that you will get the same traffic data either way. And this system is much more advanced than any of the standalone Nuvi traffic receivers because it's actually connected to the internet at LTE speeds.

    Garmin's traffictrends feature is so horrible, it's hard to believe that they actually care about it. ;)
    The smartphone link app is the one I was referring to but I didnt remember the name.
    Because its 20bucks per year I imagine not alot of people use it and its a shame because garmin could use to improve tremendously their traffic feature.
    Imagine you get stuck in traffic and your nuvi sends that to their server and then it gets broadcasted to anyone nearby?
    Thats how the Waze app already does that, but I would prefer that feature in the Nuvi. Waze is free so why am I going to pay $20 to Garmin for an inferior traffic report?

  • Zemartelo said:

    Boyd said:

    Zemartelo said:

    But if they can offer traffic with the app why cant they offer it with the nuvi app?

    A little confused by your use of "app".

    First, there is an app called "StreetPilot Onboard". It basically turns your iPhone into a Nuvi, but it is not cheap and traffic must be purchased separately.

    image

    Then there is another app called "Smartphone Link". This is the one that sends traffic and other data from the phone to the Nuvi over bluetooth. Again, traffic must be purchased separately.

    My *guess* is that you will get the same traffic data either way. And this system is much more advanced than any of the standalone Nuvi traffic receivers because it's actually connected to the internet at LTE speeds.

    Garmin's traffictrends feature is so horrible, it's hard to believe that they actually care about it. ;)
    The smartphone link app is the one I was referring to but I didnt remember the name.
    Because its 20bucks per year I imagine not alot of people use it and its a shame because garmin could use to improve tremendously their traffic feature.
    Imagine you get stuck in traffic and your nuvi sends that to their server and then it gets broadcasted to anyone nearby?
    Thats how the Waze app already does that, but I would prefer that feature in the Nuvi. Waze is free so why am I going to pay $20 to Garmin for an inferior traffic report?

    What exactly is $20 a year? From what I can tell, the smartphone link app is free and traffic is a one time $20 fee. I just want to find out where that traffic info actually comes from, and obviously how reliable it is. The fact that the Garmin website shows coverage as a list of cities (http://www8.garmin.com/automotive/nulink_traffic_coverage.html) doesn't fill me with confidence. It doesn't sound like it uses any type of crowd sourcing, which Google/Waze and TomTom do. I don't have any experience with TomTom's traffic so I don't know how it compares to Google/Waze.
  • Boyd 1781 Points
    In the StreetPilot app it lists "Navteq Traffic" as the source. That would imply they are using the same service as the old "connected" Nuvi devices such as the 1695: http://www8.garmin.com/automotive/nulink_traffic_coverage.html

  • mpb2000 said:

    Zemartelo said:

    Boyd said:

    Zemartelo said:

    But if they can offer traffic with the app why cant they offer it with the nuvi app?

    A little confused by your use of "app".

    First, there is an app called "StreetPilot Onboard". It basically turns your iPhone into a Nuvi, but it is not cheap and traffic must be purchased separately.

    image

    Then there is another app called "Smartphone Link". This is the one that sends traffic and other data from the phone to the Nuvi over bluetooth. Again, traffic must be purchased separately.

    My *guess* is that you will get the same traffic data either way. And this system is much more advanced than any of the standalone Nuvi traffic receivers because it's actually connected to the internet at LTE speeds.

    Garmin's traffictrends feature is so horrible, it's hard to believe that they actually care about it. ;)
    The smartphone link app is the one I was referring to but I didnt remember the name.
    Because its 20bucks per year I imagine not alot of people use it and its a shame because garmin could use to improve tremendously their traffic feature.
    Imagine you get stuck in traffic and your nuvi sends that to their server and then it gets broadcasted to anyone nearby?
    Thats how the Waze app already does that, but I would prefer that feature in the Nuvi. Waze is free so why am I going to pay $20 to Garmin for an inferior traffic report?

    What exactly is $20 a year? From what I can tell, the smartphone link app is free and traffic is a one time $20 fee. I just want to find out where that traffic info actually comes from, and obviously how reliable it is. The fact that the Garmin website shows coverage as a list of cities (http://www8.garmin.com/automotive/nulink_traffic_coverage.html) doesn't fill me with confidence. It doesn't sound like it uses any type of crowd sourcing, which Google/Waze and TomTom do. I don't have any experience with TomTom's traffic so I don't know how it compares to Google/Waze.
    Thanks for the correction. I was under th impression that it was an annual fee but my point is still valid why pay for a traffic service that like you said dont know where its coming from and how reliable it is compared to the free crowd sourcing report of Waze?
  • Boyd said:

    In the StreetPilot app it lists "Navteq Traffic" as the source. That would imply they are using the same service as the old "connected" Nuvi devices such as the 1695: http://www8.garmin.com/automotive/nulink_traffic_coverage.html

    Right, they both provide the same source link: the list of cities. How does your experience with traffic align with the cities on that list? Have you used it outside those cities? What about on major interstates between cities that are essentially in the middle of nowhere?

  • mpb2000 0 Points
    edited December 2016
    Zemartelo said:


    Thanks for the correction. I was under th impression that it was an annual fee but my point is still valid why pay for a traffic service that like you said dont know where its coming from and how reliable it is compared to the free crowd sourcing report of Waze?

    Waze is great for traffic, but that's about it. Turn by turn directions don't provide the detail of GPS. I want everything in one package, and personally, I prefer something separate from my phone (although I'm fine with an app that provides information to the GPS).

  • mpb2000 said:

    Zemartelo said:


    Thanks for the correction. I was under th impression that it was an annual fee but my point is still valid why pay for a traffic service that like you said dont know where its coming from and how reliable it is compared to the free crowd sourcing report of Waze?

    Waze is great for traffic, but that's about it. Turn by turn directions don't provide the detail of GPS. I want everything in one package, and personally, I prefer something separate from my phone (although I'm fine with an app that provides information to the GPS).

    Thats what I was saying. Garmin already has in place everything just needs to get to speed with 2017 and use it to its full potential.

    I would like to be able to get traffic on my Nuvi as well even if it means using the bluetooth to connect to the phone to use the garmin app and use my mobile data.

  • Boyd 1781 Points
    edited December 2016
    mpb2000 said:

    How does your experience with traffic align with the cities on that list?

    I have been using the app for less than a year and my travels have basically been between my home at the far South end of New Jersey to New York City. The traffic updates have appeared pretty much everywhere in that area, not just in cities. Very good coverage all along the Garden State Parkway for example, don't think I've seen a traffic jam that was not indicated there. The screenshot I posted above is from Route 73 in Mt. Laurel NJ.

    But let me be clear… I am not recommending that you purchase the StreetPilot app. It isn't cheap and while it was stable in the past, I'm not sure that is still the case since I had problems on my last trip to NYC. There's been a new update I have not yet installed though. I like it because it's familiar, it looks like the Nuvi, and the style of the map is very readable. More often than not, I use GPS as a "moving map", so I can see all the roads and decide the way I want to go. It works well for that.

    But I am not happy that Garmin has crippled it by not allowing you to import/export routes/waypoints/tracks. And the problem I had awhile ago was especially annoying: http://forums.gpsreview.net/discussion/30680/garmin-streetpilot-app-crashes-at-startup

    Really, the app that looks the most promising to me is TomTom GO: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tomtom-go-mobile/id884963367?mt=8

    They have a nice user manual - something that Garmin does not offer: http://download.tomtom.com/open/manuals/GO_Mobile_app_for_iPhone/refman/TomTom-GO-Mobile-RG-en-us.pdf

    You get 50 miles/month for free, so there isn't much downside to trying it out. Another nice feature is that you get maps of the whole world (locally stored on the phone) at no extra charge. If they offered a better map color scheme, I would probably switch.
Sign In or Register to comment.
↑ Top