Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Garmin-Asus A10 smartphone
The Garmin-Asus A10 Android smartphone has a focus on GPS navigation
- Excellent navigation capabilities, included accessories, 4GB internal memory, multitouch, great value for money
- Screen isn't always completely responsive, sluggish at times, interface lacks polish, widget home screens not immediately accessible, battery life
The Garmin-Asus A10 is far from the best Android smartphone available in Australia, but its excellent navigation software and low price make it great value for money. If you're on a strict budget, there aren't many phones at this price point that can match it.
Price$ 459.00 (AUD)
The first Garmin-Asus branded smartphone to be released in Australia, the A10 combines Garmin's GPS expertise with an Asus-built Android smartphone. A relative newcomer in the Australian market, the Garmin-Asus collaboration has delivered an interesting but unpolished smartphone. However at this price, the Optus-exclusive A10 represents excellent value, making its various faults easier to live with.
At first glance, the Garmin-Asus A10 smartphone looks like a smaller, thicker version of the iPhone 3GS, with a similar speaker and rounded edges. It’s a little thicker than the iPhone and has its own distinctive touches — three touch-sensitive buttons are positioned below the display (back, home and menu) and a connector that mounts the included car holder sits on the left side of the handset.
The Garmin-Asus A10 smartphone has a 3.2in capacitive display. Though it possesses reasonable viewing angles and is relatively bright and clear, it is hard to see in direct sunlight and isn't as responsive to touch as some of its competitors. When mounted in the included car window cradle, we quickly became frustrated at its lack of responsiveness, often having to tap the screen two or three times to register a selection. In addition to the window mount, Garmin-Asus is generous with included accessories, offering a USB cable, in-car charger, AC adapter and headphones.
The Garmin-Asus A10 runs the older 1.6 version of Google's Android operating system and has been skinned with an interface that's slightly different to the regular Android one. The main point of difference is the home screen which forgoes the traditional live widgets in favour of a navigation-oriented feel. The A10 features extra-large Call, Where To and View Map icons on the home screen, with a right mounted shortcut bar providing access to commonly used functions. This bar can be dragged towards the left side of the screen to open the main menu, and icons can be dragged to and from the shortcut bar.
To access Android's regular widgets, you need to tap an icon that is placed in the shortcut sidebar on the home screen by default. There are five home screens available to populate, but they're not as quick to access as they are on regular Android phones and their usefulness pales into comparison to the likes of HTC's Desire and Samsung's Galaxy S. We also feel that Garmin-Asus' changes to the regular Android menus and icons don't provide any real benefits — the regular Android menus look much more polished in our opinion.
The Garmin-Asus A10 smartphone possesses excellent GPS capabilities. Based on the same software as Garmin's standalone GPS units, the A10 user interface is simple and very effective. The map screen is clear and straightforward, despite the small screen. Features include a dedicated pedestrian mode, two Australian text-to-speech voices, advanced lane guidance with junction view, the ability to download new safety camera information, live traffic, and a handy save parking spot feature, which automatically saves your location as a parking spot when you remove the A10 from its in-car cradle. The A10 borrows some features from Garmin's Net-connected standalone GPS, the nuvi 1690. These include the ability to access to real-time online information including TrueLocal.com.au search, traffic and flight information, weather and fuel prices. The Garmin-Asus A10 also includes the Ciao! friend finder service. This location-based social networking system connects multiple Garmin devices, so it can act as a location tracker and make it easier to find friends, family or workmates.
Unfortunately, you can't adjust any navigation settings while in the GPS application itself. The A10's speaker isn't loud as we'd have liked and the sensitivity of the screen is poor, detracting from the overall user experience. The keyboard is also a little small when entering address information. We really liked the use of Android's notifications bar though — dragging it down during navigation gives you the option of quickly ending the current route, as well as accessing any saved parking spots. The A10 can also navigate to an address directly from your contacts list or to a location from a geotagged photo.
Outside its navigation capabilities, the Garmin-Asus A10 offers the regular features and functions of Android, including the Android Market for third-party apps, an excellent notifications taskbar and automatic and seamless synchronisation with Google services. The A10 automatically synchronises your Google calendar, mail and contacts over the air. Unfortunately, you can't save downloaded apps to the microSD card, and Android remains an inferior multimedia platform when compared to the iPhone. However, there is a wealth of customisable music player applications downloadable from the Android Market.
The Garmin-Asus A10 often feels sluggish, especially when performing basic tasks such as opening and closing applications. While we aren't expecting blistering speeds on a device that's not a high-end Android smartphone, it's still disappointing.
Web browsing on the Garmin-Asus A10 is aided by the inclusion of multitouch technology, meaning you can pinch the screen to zoom in and out. It lacks Flash support though, and the pinch to zoom function isn't as smooth as it is on many competing smartphones, Text is not automatically reformatted when zooming. Other features of the Garmin-Asus A10 include a 5-megapixel camera with autofocus (but no flash), a built-in accelerometer, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a digital compass and a healthy 4GB of internal memory plus a microSD card slot.
Predictably, the Garmin-Asus A10's battery life isn't great. We were able to get a full day out of the device off a full charge. However, our A10 barely lasted a full day with an hour of navigation use, regular push e-mail access and half a dozen short phone calls throughout the day.
Ultimately, the best thing about the Garmin-Asus A10 is its price — it's available for $0 upfront on a $29 Optus 'Yes Social plan', which includes $150 worth of calls, 200MB of data, and unlimited access to social-networking services like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter. Though the A10 is far from perfect, its excellent navigation capabilities and low price mean it offers excellent value for money.
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