TomTom Hands-free Car Kit for Smartphone review

Mounting your smartphone in your car has never been much of a problem. Windscreen suction mounts are ten a penny, with any manner of mounting options on offer. Going hands-free is also well catered for through headsets, visor mounts and many other choices.

Looking to cover all bases, the TomTom Hands-free Car Kit for Smartphone is exactly what it sounds like: a hands-free kit that will accept any smartphone powered by a Micro-USB and offers Bluetooth - so that includes Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and others. If you're looking to mount an iPhone in your car, TomTom has a separate mount. 

At first glance the £79.99 asking price might seem a little high, especially as this is TomTom in name and doesn't bring TomTom's navigation with it: you'll be left to use the navigation you have on your smartphone, be that Google Maps Navigation, Nokia Maps or whatever. 

Design

However, TomTom has considered the design of its hands-free car kit rather well. It can cater for any number of different devices because it is flexible, not in the sense that it bends, but that it's highly adaptable. The kit can sit in landscape or portrait or landscape orientation and the arms that clamp your phone securely can be moved and adjusted, depending on the size of the device.

To confirm this point, we tried the TomTom Hands-free Car Kit for Smartphone with the Motorola RAZR i, BlackBerry Bold 9900 and HTC One X. Very different devices, but none posed a problem, which is a testament to TomTom's catch-all design. The maximum acceptable dimensions are 127 x 75mm, the smallest 54 x 75mm. 

The car kit sticks to the windscreen using a conventional suction mount with a twist lock action. We found it wasn't as sturdy as the wider and deeper suction mounts on TomTom's PNDs, but a little moistening and a firm action soon had it securely in place. 

The mount is on a ball joint, allowing for rotation and adjustment of the angles to best suit the driver's position. However, all this is basic windshield mounting stuff. The real magic that you're paying for is the tech that TomTom has included.

The mount goes smart

The TomTom Hands-free Car Kit for Smartphone will power your device once you've plugged it into your car. It comes with a 12V socket plug, although the cable that plugs in is USB, so if you have a newer car with a USB socket you can use that for power, leaving the 12V socket free. 

At the other end, on the mount itself, the Micro-USB connection is on a short length of cable, long enough to cater for different socket positions on phones, but not long enough to ever look messy.

But power isn't all that the TomTom Car Kit provides. It's also a hands-free kit, so it packs in everything you'll need for taking and making calls while driving. You connect via Bluetooth (A2DP and HFP supported), which is simply a case of pairing with the TomTom mount and this will then allow you to use the mic and speaker that come as part of the package.

The speaker is built into the rear of the mount. Rated at 2W, it means you don't have to depend on the smartphone speaker for navigation or speakerphone functions. The speaker quality is reasonable given its size and has it has a volume control, so you can pump it up over the noise of your roaring V8, or your rattling tailpipe. You'll also have to remember the output volume of your device is turned up too. 

The external mic again means you're not dependent on that built in to your phone. TomTom has taken a smart approach and made this flexible, with an extension cable in the box, so you can relocate the mic closer to the driver. There are various clips and mounting accessories to keep the cable tidy, if you want a more permanent installation. 

The mic performance is pretty good too. In our test calls, callers reported that we sounded as if we were on a hands-free kit, so although it wasn't entirely natural, the words were distinct and normal conversation was possible. Using the extension cable to move the mic closer does improve the quality, so it's worth doing if you spend a lot of time calling from your car. 

Considering that you might not always want to mount your phone - perhaps if you don't need navigation - the TomTom Car Kit will work perfectly as a simple hands-free kit, with two calling buttons built into the backplate. These will allow you to accept and reject calls when your phone is connected via Bluetooth, but still in your pocket, again so you can take advantage of that mic and speaker.  

Verdict

The TomTom Hands-free Car Kit for Smartphone is adaptable and we like that, because it's not going to be limited to one device. This might help to convince you that the asking price is worth it, as it will last you beyond your current handset, unlike a device-specific mount.

The performance is pretty good overall, with plenty of volume on offer to hear commands and take calls and a mic that offers a flexible arrangement. All in all, if you're regularly on the move and want one mount that does everything, then TomTom's offering is well worth a look.

Now all we're waiting for the TomTom for Android to launch.