Those looking for a smartphone that can also handle satellite navigation will find no shortage of choice at the top end of the market, but for all of the benefits of recent software updates and GPS-oriented deals offered by key manufacturers, few can rival the convenience and speed of a dedicated in-car solution. Garmin looks to address this situation by teaming up with Asus to release the Nuviphone M10, a Windows Mobile smartphone with a clear focus on showing you how to get from A to B.
The M10 is heavy but relatively svelte, and despite being a fair bit thicker than the iPhone it holds its own against most other rivals in the portability stakes. A mini-USB connector offers access to data and power, and a dedicated power dock-connector for the supplied windscreen mount and in-car charger will keep it topped up on the road.
On the inside you’ll find wireless b/g, 3G and Bluetooth 2.0 and access to a typical array of services including Facebook, YouTube, instant messaging, email, and contact synchronisation and Microsoft Office tools via the Windows Mobile OS.
The choice of operating system doesn’t stack up too well against rivals who would choose a more flexible and up to date Symbian or Android alternative, so this is really a phone for those who are looking to take advantage of the core features of the device rather than access a greater range of customisation and support, and thankfully the few key areas where the M10 excels may be enough to reel in some doubters.
Of course GPS functionality is what the device is really being sold on, and we’re pleased to report that it does a great job in this area. Taking many features from the high end of Garmin’s satnav range you’ll find advanced lane guidance, safety camera alerts, traffic updates, text to voice instructions, an accurate speed limit display and the ability to ‘geo-tag’ photos taken at a certain spot to add a more visual element to navigation.
It’s fast and easy to plan a route or navigate to one of thousands of points of interest and we were impressed by how clear both the voice instructions and visual prompts were on the tidy and colourful maps provided. Features such as a trip computer, turn-by-turn instructions and the ability to zoom in and out and browse around a map are easily accessible via the on-screen prompts, and we’d be happy to place the M10′s capabilities in this area alongside many of the more capable in-car sat-navs on the market today.
Having said that, both this and many of the other features of the phone would have benefited from a capacitive display; as it stands the resistive screen provided omits any multi-touch functionality but makes up for this somewhat by being extremely crisp and clear, rendering both maps and stored images and video with an excellent degree of clarity and accurate colours.
This also makes the 5-megapixel digital camera a joy to use, being extremely responsive when scanning for and snapping photos, though we were a little disappointed to note that when we transferred images to a computer for analysis, they were distinctly less vibrant and the colours less accurate on a larger screen. For the most part this can be corrected with a bit of photo enhancement but this does mean that the M10 is no real substitute for a digital camera, aside from casual snapping.
In terms of its capabilities as a resistive display, we’ve seen better, but then we’ve seen far worse. While it’s sometimes difficult to discern whether it’s the fault of the screen or the operating system, it can appear a little sluggish at times and when using the on-screen keyboard to type emails or text messages we found letters aligned on the sides of the display to be rather difficult to hit accurately first time.
We also found the soft-keys beneath the screen to be rather temperamental, though in truth this can be compensated for with practice and would be a fairly minor grievance for most, especially if you haven’t had the privilege of being used some of the excellent headliners in this area from rivals such as Apple, Samsung and HTC.
While icons and keys are usually large enough to operate with your fingers, a stylus is embedded into the bottom of the device for those who require more precision, so while some elements of tactile operation could certainly be better, there’s nothing here that’s serious to undermine the device.
The media capabilities of the phone are fairly good, with a decent range of file support for audio and video formats, and the welcome 3.5mm jack at the top makes it easy to replace the rather meagre headphones supplied with your own set. Data access is also pretty good and it’s easy to customise the interface by prioritising placement of your preferred applications, and an all-encompassing “search” tool allows you to browse phone contents, contacts and GPS locations quickly and easily.
Finally, a quoted battery life of 600 hours standby and 8 hours talk is typically overstated for general use, but it’s still ahead of many rivals in terms of longevity, and is capable of breaching the four-hour mark when used for satellite navigation alone.
The M10 certainly isn’t capable of competing with some of the excellent entries into the smartphone arena purely based on its general operation and functionality, but as a GPS device it beats most for speed and ease of use, so this will have to be important to anyone considering a purchase. Thankfully the additional benefits such as the impressive display and reasonable price mean this isn’t all the M10 has going for it, and those who aren’t overly concerned about what may soon become a rather out-dated operating system should find plenty to like.
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