Review: Garmin-Asus Nuvifone A50

Garmin-Asus’s Nuvifone A50 is an upgraded version of its A10 iteration, which was released earlier this year. Is this the first true-blue smartphone/GPS combo? Possibly.

There are a few smartphones available with GPS receivers and the likes of Nokia has its Ovi Maps and there is the TomTom iPhone app, but to have a smartphone that can also be used as a standalone GPS is something relatively new. Any GPS manufacturer with a modicum of sense will know that this type of combination is going to be the norm, although vendors – including Garmin when asked – still claim there will be a need for dedicated personal navigation devices.

So what’s it like? Well, it has the size and form factor of a smartphone, so the ‘lumpiness’ of a GPS is not apparent. It is light and fits nicely in your pocket, as you would expect from something spouting to be a smartphone. It has a nice smooth finish, and good-sized touchscreen, which is easy to navigate.

First let’s look at the phone. It uses the older Google Android 1.6 operating system, and comes with an array of widgets that are the staple of most smartphones – Facebook, Twitter, settings, games store, app store etc, etc. However, they are hidden under the ‘big three’ icons – Call, Where To and View Map, which are all self-explanatory.

Garmin-Asus has an endless exclusive with Optus for the unit, which meant it was the only 3G network that could be tested. I used it around town for over a week, and found the reception to be pretty good. It only went down to two reception bars (from a possible five), when I was in a gully in Cumberland State Forest. All in all, though, there was no drop out and the connection was crisp and clear.

Now for the GPS. Garmin-Asus has gone on record saying that one of the main aspects of the unit is how a lot of the features of the smartphone – Phone calls, SMSing, Email, camera – have been designed to integrate with its GPS capabilities. This is true, although I’m not too sure if this is a Wow factor, or more just a handy add-on. You can enter the address details of friends in your contacts list and then be guided to their home address. When you SMS a friend, you can also tell where their location is and find them using the GPS. Finally , you can use the camera feature to geotag and save a place of interest so you can revisit it at a later time.

My two favourite apps are the “Gas Prices” and “Parking” features. Gas Prices tell you the price of petrol within a couple of kilometres radius. Garmin says the prices are updated twice a day on 25,000 petrol stations around Australia by a third party. Another nifty trick is that it automatically marks where you have parked when you stop the car. So if you go into a busy shopping centre or go to a footie match, you don’t have to waste time looking for where you car is parked. It also comes with an array of standard features you will find on a standalone GPS such as points of interest, local search, voice directions, saved locations and map updates.

Overall, for the price and what you get, this is a great little unit. When your 24 month plan runs out and you want a new smartphone, you can utilise the A50 as a permanently mounted in-car GPS device.

All-in-one smartphone/GPS, easy to use, lightweight, good functionality

Battery life could be better (four hours in full use)

Available on Optus $49 cap plan.