TomTom iPhone GPS Kit Debuts in Apple Store

tomtom-carkitThose of you hoping to augment your TomTom GPS iPhone experience shouldn’t have to wait too much longer. As Engadget reports, the TomTom iPhone Car Kit page on Apple’s (s aapl) online store temporarily went live earlier today in the UK, with an asking price of £99.95 (around $162). It also later went live for the rest of mainland Europe. Briefly.

It was set to ship in about two or three weeks, according to Apple’s web site. I say “was,” because it isn’t there anymore. At all. The device has been pulled from the product listings for the time being, and Apple isn’t saying why.

Many suspect that the real reason Apple has temporarily stopped taking pre-orders is because TomTom was offering the car mount and GPS signal booster bundled with its actual navigation app, the one that was released awhile ago with its own nearly $100 price tag — the one which many people already purchased, not suspecting that TomTom would offer the software free with purchase of this new hardware. This was apparently generating complaints.

So alienating your No. 1 target user base for a product at launch probably isn’t the best possible marketing strategy. How TomTom and Apple decide to get around this is going to be interesting to see. On the one hand, they could offer rebate vouchers towards the hardware to any customers who’ve already purchased the navigation app on its own. But that would probably result in them taking a huge bath on at least this round of mount sales.

On the other hand, they could simply remove the part in the blurb about the Car Kit including software, and not bundle anything with the device. It’s the solution that makes the most fiscal sense, but as I’m sure TomTom is painfully aware, the cat’s already out of the bag, so it’ll look like the company’s just backpedaling, with customers losing out in the end.

My advice to TomTom: Take the hit and offer the hardware with a discount for existing navigation app customers. Sure, it’ll probably result in a fair size loss until the market of people who already have your app are sated, but you’ll retain customer confidence and good will, and it won’t make you look incompetent and dishonest, which is what will happen if you try to say the bit about the app being included was just a typo.

Those interested in the hardware itself, regardless of selling conditions, will be interested to find that while the Car Kit dock is said to be compatible with all iPhone models, the navigation app only works with the 3G and the 3GS. Looks like the brave claims of iPod touch compatibility have yet to be substantiated. We’ll see if TomTom redacts that particular claim, too.