Garmin-Asus produce smartphone navigation

Garmin-Asus takes another stab at making a smartphone with an emphasis on GPS navigation and this time, brings Google's Android along for the ride.
This isn't the first time Garmin and Asus have collaborated to produce a smartphone with an emphasis on GPS navigation but the A10 is the first in the range to run on Android.
This is a big deal because previous models tended to be very good GPS navigation devices but very poor in the smartphone department because they were let down by a very clunky operating system like the one in the Nuvifone G60.
So here's the A10, with the very reliable Garmin software built on top of a better and more widely-supported Android platform.

Hardware
Right out of the box it's clear the people at Asus have really upped the ante with the A10 - hardware-wise, it fixes all that was lacking in the older models.
BACKLIT: The touch-sensitive Back, Home and Menu buttons are pretty much standard in Android phones.
The screen for one, is a very high-quality LCD panel that has very good viewing angles.
On top of that, the touchscreen technology is now capacitive and so it's sensitive enough to register a very light touch with your fingertips, and yes, it supports multitouch too.
The internal storage is a bit complicated on the A10 - it has 4GB of internal "eMMC" storage and at the same time, 510MB of internal Flash memory.
The problem is that this 4GB is not available for application storage - it's only for documents and multimedia files (music, video, etc) and only the 510MB of internal Flash is available for application storage.
Yes, even though the 4GB of storage on the A10 isn't removable, it's essentially sitting in a subsystem much like a card reader and therefore, Android won't let apps run from it.
This is due to a strange quirk of Android 2.1 which doesn't allow programs to run from external storage cards.
Nevetheless, in use you shouldn't run into problems, as most of this is transparent to you - application files automatically go into the 510MB Flash memory and only when you copy music or files, you should be mindful to transfer it into the 4GB section.
Hopefully, this will be fixed when the device gets the Android 2.2 operating system, which allows applications to be stored and launched from external Flash memory.
Also, the device does not come with a car windscreen mounting kit but you may want to consider the one from Garmin-Asus which is made specially for the A10.
It not only allows you to charge the smartphone while mounted on the suction cup cradle but also has a speaker to amplify the audio for clearer car navigation and handsfree phone calls.
In use
As a phone, there's not much to say about the A10. It works much like any other Android phone but Asus has added its own custom keyboard to replace the standard Android one.
The custom keyboard is similar, but additionally has a "text editing" mode which allows for slightly easier navigation and editing within a large body of text.
However, I didn't like that the editing mode button has been placed in the bottom left-hand corner of the virtual keyboard, taking the place of the number key, which has been moved slightly to the right.
With this layout it took some getting used to since I tended to hit the editing mode button when I intended to hit the number key.
The interface is not much different from the standard Android one - you still get multiple homescreens for storing shortcuts to applications and widgets.

CONNECTIONS: The left side is the mini-USB sync and charge port, while the five gold-plated connectors are specifically for the optional car kit, which charges the A10 when connected and transfers audio to the suction cup cradle's external speakers.
What's different is that the A10 now adds a specific homescreen for the Garmin application so it is always easily accessible.
The A10 performs reasonably well for an Android phone, though there's a hint of sluggishness when running multiple applications in the background.
As we mentioned before, multitouch works and it's really useful to zoom in and out when using the built-in web browser or when viewing photos.
The web browser isn't as smooth when scrolling as Safari on the iPhone but it's pretty usable.
Battery life is actually not bad at all - about one day with heavy use and about 1.5 days if you're not that heavy a user.
Navigation
Obviously, the biggest thing about the A10 is the Garmin navigation software built-in - according to Asus, it's equivalent in features to a Garmin Nuvi 1460 standalone car GPS navigation unit.
In use, we really liked it a lot - the GPS hardware locked on to satellites very fast even when starting from a cold boot - usually in 30 seconds or less - and if you've turned it on recently, it'll be up and running in only a few seconds.
The interface itself is still one of the best. Garmin's front page is always very easy to understand and presents you with a friendly "Where To?" screen with a search bar, a link to your contact list, a "Browse Places" link and a "View Map" option.
USER-FRIENDLY: The Garmin navigation screen is very easy to understand, with its self-explanatory shortcuts and a search bar.
It's all quite self-explanatory and works very well especially when compared to other GPS navigation applications we have tried.
New on this device is the addition of pedestrian mode - obviously, this mode is made for walkers, but it seems a bit half-baked. For example, there are no voice prompts in this mode.
Sure, you probably won't need voice prompts when you're walking, but we would like the option of just plugging in headphones to get voice prompts for where we need to walk without actually having to constantly look at the device's screen.
Also, Asus has built in a very, very good speaker into the device - it's actually the loudest speaker we have tested on a smartphone so there's no problem of not hearing the voice prompts clearly.
If it's still not loud enough, you can go for the add-on car kit which has a built-in speaker, but you'd get it more for the convenience of having it mounted on the windscreen rather than getting louder voice prompts.
The navigation application can run in the background, so when you're sending a message or doing something else, it'll still give you voice directions.
This is great although multitasking in this manner occasionally does result in slightly laggy performance.
Maps on the A10 are also easily upgradeable - they're stored on the 4GB storage area and can easily be replaced with Garmin compatible maps from sites like Malfreemaps.com.
Conclusion
The Garmin-Asus A10 is definitely a big improvement over its predecessors, thanks to the Android operating system.
While the Garmin navigation application has always been good, the various fruits of the Garmin-Asus collaboration have always been lacking in the smartphone department, until now.
With Android, at the very least, the A10 is a fully-functional and reasonably useful smartphone with excellent navigation software built on top of it.
What makes it a worthy buy is that it retails for only RM1,399, which is a steal, considering that most standalone Garmin car navigation units will already set you back about that much without the phone built in.
Pros: Excellent navigation software; Android operating system; loud built-in speaker.
Cons: Interface can become sluggish when too many apps are running.
A10
(Garmin-Asus)
3G smartphone
NETWORK: GSM 850/900/1800/1900, HSDPA 900/2100
OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 2.1 (Eclair)
DISPLAY: 3.2in capacitive touchscreen (320 x 480-pixels)
CAMERA: 5-megapixels with autofocus, video recording
CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, WiFi, USB 2.0, A-GPS/GPS
MEMORY: 512MB RAM; 512MB ROM; 510MB flash memory (application storage), 4GB eMMC flash storage (documents, multimedia storage)
EXPANSION SLOT: MicroSD
STANDBY/TALK TIME: 660 hours/10 hours
OTHER FEATURES: Garmin navigation software
DIMENSIONS (W x D x H): 5.8 x 1.4 x 11cm
WEIGHT: 220g
PRICE
: USD 440
 
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