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MWC: Garmin-Asus Nuvifone M20 Review

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garmin-asus-nuvifone-m20-live-hands-onBARCELONA, Spain – The official partnership between Garmin and Asus brought a stronger venture to the mobile handset market. It also pushed for the launch of the more-attractive Nuvifone M20 from the company.

The Nuvifone M20, unlike the company’s first device Nuvifone G60, will run on Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, and is Windows Mobile 6.5-capable. Unfortunately, it is not yet the time when Garmin-Asus unveils a Google Android-based phone. The fact that the M20 runs on this platform, and not on Garmin’s native one, means that there is additional support for features, because Windows Mobile isn’t  new to the market.

The M20 is more attractive because it contains a smaller display of 2.8″ against the G60’s, which has 3.55″, and this gives it a more compact form. It also comes in different colours, few of them not previously announced: yellow, red, blue, black, pink, brown, and purple, while the G60 will be available in black only. Not all colours will be available to all markets, it would be up to the networks to introduce the colours which are likely to be most successful in certain areas.

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The phone has a specification list which positions it among high-end devices: dual-band HSDPA, tri-band GSM, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 4GB or 8GB internal memory, 2.8″ display with VGA resolution (480×640 pixels), a 3 megapixel camera, and the most obvious, Garmin Sat Nav for GPS functionality.

Few of the features that the G60 does not have, but the M20 has, thanks to the operating system in choice, are MP4 playback, video recording, and as stated previously, additional colours.

It was clear from the beginning that the Nuvifones are LBS-focused devices. Garmin concentrated all its knowledge on the phones, and Asus built them, but it was understood that a Garmin-Asus venture would be beneficial in this business, especially as Asus already has a name in the handset industry.

Although colours are a strong visual feature of the M20, business components are not left out. Garmin-Asus emphasizes that the M20 has a desktop-like web browser, push email, document viewing, multimedia capability, and that it can sync with a computer so that contacts and emails are always available.

The device has an accelerometer (motion sensor) to enable auto-rotation, like most high-end phones in the market, and for GPS purposes, it comes with a car holder, and a car charger.

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The GPS also makes it possible for the camera to geo-tag images captured, and the phone also adds geo-tags to emails, a feature not present in any other device, besides the G60 and the M20.

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Garmin improved LBS capabilities by allowing users to check weather forecasts of their current location; to identify addresses on messages, and being able to see their location on a map; search for restaurants, fuel price, transportation, lodging, shopping, and banks; search for local events; and the best of them all is the Garmin Sat Nav application, which displays some of the features stated above, and has the high-end GPS-capabilities, such as traffic reports, and speed cameras.

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The weather forecast is displayed graphically, making the experience intuitive.

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The message screen is clean, it shows the message itself, and three most common options: Call, View Map, and Go?. The only option missing is Reply.

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An obvious benefit visible throughout the phone is that there are large, well-spaced icons. The fact that the phone has a resistive display, which is not fully-friendly to finger touch, can be ignored, thanks to the large options and icons. Scrolling through menus was done as it would be done in capacitive displays, so the latter’s absence didn’t change much.

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The Garmin Sat Nav is one of the strongest features of the Nuvifone M20, having clear navigation options, large icons, and in-depth LBS functionality. Garmin-Asus say that “the GPS features of the nüvifone M20 usher in a level of sophistication never seen before on a Windows Mobile smartphone. It has the navigation capability of a premium Garmin nüvi® sat nav, and comes with preloaded maps and points of interest (POIs) – hotels, restaurants, stores, fuel stations and more – for North America, Eastern and Western Europe, or other regions. Selecting a destination is straightforward and requires limited input from the user. For example, users can search for a destination by typing in the specific name or address of an establishment, search by category, or navigate to addresses in the nüvifone M20’s contact database or on the web. The device then gives turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions and automatically recalculates if a turn is missed along the way. In addition, the nüvifone includes quick access to online points of interest through internet enabled local search. The nüvifone harnesses the power of the worldwide web and information about local merchants and attractions are continually updated.”

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The menu is customized by Garmin-Asus, and is not Windows Mobile’s native one, even though there is a Start bar at the very top of the screen. The device makes use of auto-rotation to represent the menu in landscape position, most likely to be used in a car while navigating.

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Music Player

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Well-laid out call menu

The Garmin-Asus Nuvifone M20 has a candy-bar form factor. Above its 2.8″ display, there is a ear speaker, and a secondary camera for video calls. Below the display there is a d-pad, and call keys on either side of it.

The nuvifone brand is printed between the display and the keypad.

It is visible that a blue stripe is located on the right side of the phone, from this perspective.

The phone’s front colour is a glossy black, which attracts fingerprints and other marks, but it also adds a sense of style to the phone, making it look less serious.

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On the right side of the phone, there is what could possibly be a lock switch, and a speaker. This side is completely coloured in the secondary colour of the phone. In these cases, they are blue, and yellow, respectively.

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On the left side of the M20 there is a volume rocker; what could be Garmin-Asus’ native port (its use is not specified); and also a lanyard loop. These components are sitting on a metal stripe that contrasts against the phone’s primary colour, while below this stripe the secondary colour prevails.

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The top of the phone is left untouched.

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The bottom of the phone has a miniUSB port on the left side. This port is used for earphones and power, according to indication, which points that the Garmin-Asus native port will be used for data transfer.

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The back of the phone has a 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus, but no flash. Around the camera there could be speakers, or simply a decorative item. This section is painted with the phone’s secondary colour, and glitter is added to it.

From the perspective below, a stylus can be seen on the bottom left corner of the phone.

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The Garmin-Asus Nuvifone M20 is yet incomplete in what concerns to software, but the hardware seems to be well-built, even though we haven’t tested it in-depth. The brand is yet not famous in the market, but the hype created by the fact that it is focused on GPS features, might make it a hit in the market.

Price and available are to be announced in the first half of 2009.

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By , Editor-in-Chief, Johannesburg office

Published on Mar 7th, 2009 GMT +2

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