The M10 hopes to prove there's something still extraordinary about GPS on a mobile phone. Can it possibly succeed?
There aren't many reasons to buy a Windows Mobile-based phone at the moment, but the Garmin ASUS nuviphone M10 aims to persuade you that there's at least one. A hybrid GPS-smartphone, it skims the best from sat-navs and mobiles and attempts to roll them into a whole that's better than one or the other.
The specs are promising. A large, 3.5in multitouch screen is the same size as the iPhone 4's and the resolution only a fraction lower, while the GPS interface is identical to the excellent Garmin nuvi 3790T. If it's just the sum of its parts, it should be a winner.
Sat-nav on smartphones
There is, of course, nothing revolutionary about loading GPS software onto a mobile phone. Androids, iPhones, Ovis and even Windows Mobiles all come with rudimentary turn-by-turn systems built in, and apps are available to add on most of the features of a high-end standalone sat-nav.
The M10, though, has a smart interface that switches between the two functions seamlessly, and a single search function acts as a gateway to both address book and route finding. There's enough clever integration to almost make you forget you're using a Windows-based phone. Almost.
It's well designed, too, with a slick glassy front and a rounded, slimline rear. Two touch-sensitive buttons sit below the screen under the glass, with a proud nuviphone badge on top of the aluminium base.
You can get a decent sat-nav app like Co-Pilot for the iPhone for just £25, but Garmin's speed and responsiveness is a slicker experience that’s better than dedicated devices like the Mio Navman 575. Plus, you get full UK and western Europe maps included.
It also has some 3G features – like pulling down geotagged photos of your destination – which are fun but not essential.
Crucially, we had no problems with dropped satellite signals – an issue that can plague other smartphones. That could, however, be thanks to the convenient windscreen mount that is supplied with the nuviphone rather than a more powerful receiver.
Runs for miles
What is indisputably impressive is the battery life. Unlike iPhones, which drop 10 percent of their charge just opening up the GPS settings, the nuviphone M10 can dish out dashboard directions for around two and a half hours even if you don't connect it to the cigarette lighter.
The screen is small compared to a nuvi 3970T or TomTom 1000 Go Live, but the nuviphone is, in every other respect, as good as a dedicated device.
For all that, however, we wouldn't buy it over the HTC Desire or Samsung Galaxy S and third-party app.
The shadow of Windows Mobile, in the background thus far, makes its presence felt: the nuviphone works best with a stylus. Stubby-fingered stabbers wanting to visit the picturesque market town of Burgh le Marsh, for example, will more than likely end up at her majesty's pleasure in Belmarsh.
It's a shame, because otherwise the M10 is very likeable, but ultimately we'd rather get a different OS and a slightly inferior sat-nav app.
Garmin ASUS nuviphone M10 review
Almost as good as a dedicated device, but held back by Windows Mobile’s quirks