Speed cameras are everywhere these days and you can’t seem to drive a long distance anymore without coming across either fixed cameras, mobile or average speed.
Most dedicated Satnavs will have a standard subscription service included in the price which provides speed camera detection, but the majority of App related alternatives will require subscriptions.
TomTom’s Speed Camera App is no different, but unlike its own main stream navigation software the app is dedicated for one purpose only and that is to detect the above speed cameras (including Red light cameras).
The latter price is quite steep when you consider some provide this feature as standard or charge roughly £9.99 for an update. Mind you it’s marginally cheaper than Pocket GPS World’s Camera database (which is also out on iOS) which costs a penny under £20.
However the app does slightly more than detect the speed cameras as it also detects the current road speed and displays this clearly on the screen. It will also warn you if you go over your current speed.
For testing we used an iPhone 3Gs running the latest iOS 5.1.1 - with the data and location services switched on.
For the areas we tested we drove around Birmingham, Solihull, M6 and on the A38 towards Lichfield. Of course we can’t vouch for all areas but our opinions/score was based on the above test areas and the thoughts of two testers (one was driving and the other was observing the cameras).
Before setting off you can adjust a few settings, such as the warning time (i.e. when to play the alarm before approaching the camera). The alarm itself can’t be adjusted, however it’s not an alarm that gets on your nerves.
When setting off the app tended to be marginally behind the car’s own speed (though most GPS devices are behind the car’s own speedometer), but it does display your current speed in a large font next to a large road speed sign. For the most part the latter was detecting the current road speed quite accurately.
Additionally the screen showcases when you go over the speed limit by changing your current speed font to orange for marginal increases or red for severe. An alarm will also bleep for short while – nothing to annoying – to make you aware of your speed increase.
As for the camera detection when you approach a speed camera the screen will change and display a camera icon with the yardage marker at the base of the screen indicating when the camera is approaching. An alarm will also be raised.
Now it doesn’t tell you what type of speed camera is approaching (you have your visual awareness for this) but in all fairness as long as it works that’s the main thing.
The question is did it work well enough? While we can’t vouch for everyone, from our own experience the results were quite positive. Every speed camera we came across on our test journey managed to flag up correctly. It even coped with dual-carriage-way speed cameras, where sometimes the speed cameras - on certain apps/dedicated units we have used in the past - would flag up the speed camera but it was the one on the other side of the road! TomTom's Speed Camera app had no such issues.
On the Motorway (M6) it also detected the position of all the speed cameras and the yardage seemed to be accurate.
When driving on the A38 towards Lichfield the app managed to detect the position of the average speed cameras ok, however its road speed indicator was out – it was showing a 70, when in fact the road was a 60 miles per hour speed limit. This would prove problematic if not for the 60 signs dotted along the road side. However on a positive note we were impressed that it was calculating our average speed and displaying this on-screen (something we have not seen before).
Like TomTom’s own map share services the speed camera app does have its own Report/Remove button which you can press quickly when you pass a camera. So if a camera is missing on route or reported incorrectly you can press the button and the data is then flagged and sent off to TomTom wirelessly.
As for how quickly TomTom update the speed camera database and send the fixes back to the device, we spoke with the company (via our PR contact) and they state they will be sent out in real-time. So from this we can gather that as soon as TomTom verify a camera has not been reported properly they will send out the fix to the device on the fly. So if you do have an issue with a speed camera on-route at least it can be resolved. Though this does make the camera app more of a community driven product, but if you participate then the service should improve over time.
We had fairly positive results with the TomTom Speed Camera app, every camera we came across on our test route was detected. Though on one occasion the road speed warning was out - this was also an average speed camera which made things worse.
However as with most apps of this nature the problem is we can’t vouch for all areas (or the efficiency of your handset) and for any new product it does take time to bed in. You could argue that TomTom already have an existing database in place, which it surely tapped into when creating the speed camera app's database, so the results out on the road should be spot-on out-the-box. Additionally TomTom have got strong competition in the speed camera arena and the yearly price is a touch on the expensive side. However for drivers who only need the occasional camera use the monthly fee is probably the best option and from our own experience the app does have its uses and should improve as time goes on.