19 February 2010 by Olav Hellesø-Knutsen
Garmin-Asus adds two new devices to their portfolio. The nüvifone M10 and A50 - Esato Special
19 February 2010
Garmin is well known for their navigation solutions. One year ago, Garmin and Asus announced to the world that they would start making navigation devices with integrated mobile phone. Or is it the other way around, a mobile phone with navigation included? It should not matter but I guess many people would say that Garmin's strength is the navigation solution. The two new phones announced are running on Windows Mobile 6.5.3 and Android 1.6. Garmin-Asus advantage over many other navigation solutions is that the maps and POI's are installed on the phone. It is not necessary to be connected to an online service to download the maps.
Putting Android on every device should in theory make it much easier for the hardware manufactures of handhelds as the platform is stable, popular and cheap. My problem, as a consumer, is to find out what the differences between the various Android devices are. At first glimpse, they are all having 3.5 inch HVGA display, 5 megapixel camera, and a 600 MHz Qualcomm processor. (BTW. The same 600 MHz Qualcomm CPU is also found in the new X10 Mini from Sony Ericsson) It is the same thing on the Windows platform. The hardware is hard to differentiate. Brand reliability, price and that single specific feature is what's going to rule my decision. So before even looking at the specifications for the new Garmin-Asus devices, I am finding myself thinking that that these new phone models are very good at helping me with car navigation. For your information, I personally already have a car- and a bike navigation device from Garmin so I know some the strength and weakness with Garmin devices. The main question are: Will the announced nüvifone M10 and nüvifone A50 work well as a mobile phone? Well, they are running on Android and Window Mobile and the two platforms are having strong and weak points. I am familiar with both OS's and taking a sneak preview of the devices at the Garmin-Asus booth didn't reviled many faults. We know the Android platform by now and it seems stable as a rock, but porting the Garmin navigation application over to a new platform for the first time could of course be troublesome. We do not know how well this is done by Garmin-Asus so thats up to reviewers to reviled.
To me, the menu structure and logical implementation of the menu hierarchy felt good on the A50. The home screen is divided in two and the main window has three large buttons for easy access to the Call, Where To? and View Map applications. The other part of the screen is a cusomizable scrollable tools/widget menu. The content here can be customized by dragging icons over from the Android app window. Both devices has accelerometer so the content will adjust automatically and show screen content horizontally and vertically accordingly.
A few other mobile phone manufactures are providing free navigation solutions for their phone, Garmin-Asus are selling the device with the maps pre-installed on the device. The freely available Google Maps service requires a live connection to their online service to use where the maps are downloaded on demand. Having maps pre-installed on the phone when it is bought could be considered a little more reliable than being dependable on a network connection. Garmin-Asus has included integrated direct links to Google Maps and Google Street view from their own applications. It gives you choices. Either use the Garmin-Asus map view or the Google Maps if you prefer that one. It is a nice move by Garmin-Asus.
We are a little surprised by the low battery capacity on the A50. It has a 1050 mAh battery which only 3 hours talk time. Standby time is said to be 250 hours. None of these numbers are spectacular good. The 1500 mAh Lithium battery in the M10 is much better. The standby time given are 600 hours and a 8 hours talk time are promised. This is what we should expect from a mobile phone released in 2010.
The list of Garmin-Asus specific applications are long and similar on the M10 Windows Mobile and A50 Android phones except for one app. It is the Fuel Price application. This service will search for fuel prices near current location and choose grade with results sorted by distance and navigate to the chosen station with one click.
The following services are found in both the A50 and M10
In addition to the usual Garmin-navigation stuff, there are also the standard Android applications installed on the A50 and Windows Mobile apps on the M10. The A50 Android device will even give you access to Google Maps, which could be considered as a competing application.
Garmin-Asus nüvifone A50 Specifications
Garmin-Asus nüvifone M20 Specifications
We have recorded a short video clip of the nüvifone A50 and it should give you a quick impression of the mobile phone and some of it's features.