Design wise, the nüvifone G60 is perfectly engineered for what it is. It's light and compact enough to be respected in the world of today's thin and light smartphones, yet it's stocky and hefty enough to be taken seriously as a dedicated navigation device. The non-slip rear surface keeps it in place when laying on your dashboard (or wherever it may end up within your vehicle), and the dark chrome accents give the phone a touch of class. The camera and rear speaker are nicely placed, and the volume rocker is sufficiently large and easy to find. Thankfully, Garmin-Asus decided to use a standard USB port for connectivity, but the 2.5 millimeter headphone jack is decidedly not awesome.
Speaking of the rear speaker, this thing is loud. Really loud. Which, to be honest, is completely expected given that a robotic gal by the name of Lucydroid-4000 will be belting out turn-by-turn directions within your vehicle and reminding you in an all-too-stern tone whenever your ineptness forces her to "recalculate." And then there's the screen. The resistive WQVGA display has an exceptionally unique feel to it; the coating is essentially the exact same coating found on Garmin's nüvi PNDs, and it's easily one of the best resistive screens we've had the pleasure of touching. It reacted to our finger presses remarkably well, and swipes were also registered with impressive accuracy.
Software / user interface
So yeah, the design is just fine and dandy, but it's the software that'll make or break this thing. For $299 on a two-year contract, you'd expect nothing less than Garmin's full-on navigation suite, and that's exactly what you get here. The user interface is beautiful to us, but then again, we've always had a soft spot in our heart for this company's navigators. If you've used a nüvi, you'll be immediately familiar with the nüvifone. The dialer screen, contact list and recent calls tab are all fairly basic, and the threaded text message screen helps you keep track of conversations. The email application had no qualms setting up our Gmail account and downloading our most recent messages onto the phone, but as with the iPhone's native Mail application, many of the more advanced features (stars, labels, etc.) are nowhere to be found. In other words, it's plenty sufficient to check your mail and even reply, but if you're looking for an Android-level Gmail client, you'll be sorely disappointed.
The "extras" that Garmin-Asus throws in (movies, weather, flight status, converter, Yellow Pages, local events, fuel prices and Ciao!, a location-based social networking platform) all seem like half-hearted attempts to add apps to a phone that's really only built to navigate and make calls, and considering that these so-called "Premium Connected Services" will run you $5.99 per month
after a 30-day trial, it's even safer to call them worthless. Seriously -- even ancient Windows Mobile phones can get this kind of information for free if attached to a data plan, why should G60 owners be forced to pony up $30 per month plus
an extra $5.99?
We should also point out that booting this phone up takes a bit longer than your average iPhone, and waiting for a satellite lock is just as annoying here as it is on a standalone PND. Another curious quirk was the G60's inability to accurately reflect signal strength; for whatever reason, the signal meter was always around 2 to 3 bars lower than reality. When placed beside another AT&T handset, the bars would indicate far worse reception, but when making a call, the connection was fine. We suppose that's better than finding out this thing has awful reception, but still, it's a bit befuddling. Finally, the omission of some sort of "home button" really bothered us; having to manually press a "back" icon each time we wanted to get out of where we were grew tiresome. To each his / her own, but there it is. We should also note that typing on the G60 was a true joy; key presses were recognized instantly, and the word correction feature was surprisingly useful. As far as typing on resistive touchscreens go, this is about as good as it gets.
And then there's the web browsing. As you'd probably expect, it's not stellar. It's bearable, but it's nowhere near exceptional. Sites that aren't optimized for mobile load extremely slowly, and while zooming in and out can be done with "+" and "-" buttons, it's still a laborious task. Mobile optimized sites fare much better, but seriously, a phone ringing up at three bills on contract should be able to surf with more poise than a three year old WinMo 5 device; sadly, it doesn't. Put as simply as possible, the G60's web browser will get the job done on basic sites, but don't expect it to have the browser prowess of a low-end MID, let alone Mobile Safari. Oh, and that music player that's throw in? Yeah, it works, but it's not like you'll be using it much thanks to the 2.5 millimeter headphone socket. Sigh.
Usage / navigating
Switching from panel to panel and application to application was shockingly quick; we never experienced any major software lag anywhere within the G60. By and large, it seems the code was well written to run on this hardware, and given just how aged the internal components are at this point, that was a delightful surprise. Onto the mapping aspect, we were initially (and still are, actually) perturbed by the inability to enter an address from within the map
. As you can see in the screencap below, your in-map navigation options consist of "Go!" (which directs you to the most recently entered address), "Save" and "Send Location." Sadly, there's no "Go to..." option, which is a glaring oversight in our humble opinion. It's logical to think that users would want to enter an address from a map screen, and regrettably, no such option exists.
Instead, you're forced to manually hit a "back" icon, tap an ambiguously named "Search" icon, and then tap an "Address" icon. Nothing about the word "search" leads us to believe an "Enter An Address" option will be behind it, yet -- for whatever reason -- that's where it's hidden alongside Home, Points of Interest, Favorites, Recently Found, Cities, etc. Once you finally get to enter an address, the screen looks essentially like the one found on standard Garmin PNDs, and we never had any issues getting the G60 to find the places we were looking for.