The Garmin nuvifone G60‘s user interface has major strengths and weaknesses. Overall I really like it because it’s so easy to use — you don’t have to crawl through layers of menus just to get to your most used applications, for example — but in other ways it’s relatively clunky.
My immediate impression when I first turned on the device is that it reminded me of the Jitterbug, the “dumbed down” phone designed for the elderly. That is not an insult, because I actually like things that are easy to use.
Everything you could possibly want to do with the G60 is right there on the home screen, with big buttons that are easy to activate. Want to make a call, search for something nearby, or view a map? You can do that.
The lower edge of the screen has icons for secondary functions such as contacts, text messages, e-mail, the web browser, camera, weather, tools, settings, Ciao! (a friend locator social networking app), music player, and calendar. Just swipe the bottom bar to access all of the icons, though it took me longer than I care to admit to figure that out, because there aren’t any visual cues such as arrows to tell you how it works.
One of the nicest features of the UI is that it is consistent across all applications, enhancing the ease of use. No matter what you’re doing, a side or bottom bar (depending on the orientation of the device) is there with your available options — to go back, to access the menu or keyboard, etc.
The user interface isn’t entirely perfect, but it’s a nice one — especially for folks who are tired of complicated electronic devices.
Call quality is a bit above mediocre — nothing exceptional, but not bad either. My test callers could definitely tell that I was using a mobile phone. There was some background noise, but nothing that caused any conversational difficulties.
Navigation is of course the main attraction for the nuvifone, and my results were generally very good. I got the feeling that I was using a true GPS device, not the hacked-together solution that seems to be the standard for most other smartphones these days.
No matter where I was or how fast I was traveling, my location was always displayed in just a couple of seconds, and with pinpoint accuracy.
Current direction and speed are displayed, and you can choose between an overhead view and a street-level view. The car button in the top left corner takes you straight to information about local traffic conditions.
When you want to go somewhere, you can enter a specific address or search for local points of interest. When you’re ready you just tap go and the device automatically gives voice-guided directions as necessary. It would be nice if it were possible to actually see the suggested route before you start, as you can in Google Maps, especially if you want to give directions to a friend and you’re not so sure how to get there yourself.
In my testing I found that the directions were always accurate, though they weren’t necessarily based on the shortest route or the route that “locals” would take to a given direction. Of course I intentionally missed turns here and there, just to see what would happen, and the G60 recalculated and got me back on track very quickly.
This really isn’t meant to be a smartphone beyond the obvious navigational features, but it does cover some of the productivity basics. The calendar application allows you to add appointments and reminders, and since this is a Garmin device the location field ties into the GPS function. You can also add reminders, repeats, and notes, but that’s about it.
The Contacts function is a little more full-featured, with an impressive number of fields for the various phone numbers, e-mail addresses, screen names, and such that we’ve all accumulated these days. You can also add a photo if you like, and/or choose a specific ringtone for each contact. Like the Calendar application everything is pretty basic, but it gets the job done.
E-mail works fairly well, but the interface is a bit clunky. Instead of showing me a list of Gmail folders, I have to bring up the menu each time I want to switch folders. A minor inconvenience, though not a big deal especially for those who don’t use folders as extensively as I do. Even stranger is the fact that HTML e-mail messages don’t render in the e-mail application at all — you simply get a link you can touch to view the message in the web browser. It works, but I really don’t like having to jump through hoops to see my messages. At least hitting the back button in the corner of the screen takes me directly back to e-mail, as opposed to dumping me out in the home screen.
The web browser works, but it’s somewhat slow and suffers from the same issues I’ve had with several other devices I’ve tested. I’ve become so spoiled by the pinch-zoom feature on my iPod touch that other browsers have a really hard time measuring up. The browser is fine once you hit the plus sign on the screen to zoom in a couple of times, and renders even complicated sites full of advertising quite nicely.
The weather application is another bright spot — the extended forecast is displayed neatly on screen with attractive graphics. Tap on a particular day to get more information such as sunrise and sunset. The home screen icon also displays the current temperature, which is a nice touch if you’re in a hurry and don’t really care what the weather will be like tomorrow. Unfortunately weather (along with the traffic alert and fuel price search features) is a premium application that will cost you $5.99 a month after a thirty-day trial.
Under the Tools menu you’ll find a calculator, clock, unit converter, notepad, checklist app, traffic search, and a flight status app. The Flight status application is particularly nifty — just choose your airport and your airline, and you can enter a specific flight if you know the flight number, or else just search arrivals and departures within a four hour window. There’s also a Where Am I? application that provides your latitude, longitude, and elevation, as well as buttons you can press to find the nearest hospital, police station, or gas station.
The music player is the only sort of entertainment application on nuvifone, and it only works with MP3 files. It works, but it’s even more basic than the included productivity applications. You can sort songs by artist, album, etc. but that’s about it.
No other entertainment applications are included. In a way, that’s refreshing — some of the devices I’ve reviewed lately have several pages of games, apps, and carrier-specific offerings that require premium monthly fees that tend to bloat your wireless bill. There are no games on the G60, and no way to add them. The phone does support AT&T’s Media Mall for ringtones, graphics, and themes.
The 3.2 megapixel camera takes fairly good pictures, though I had a few issues with camera shake even when holding the G60 with both hands. That’s mainly due to the camera button, which is almost flush with the side of the device — it’s hard to depress fully without moving the phone just a bit.
There are no settings available for the camera, which was somewhat surprising. You can choose whether or not to geo-tag your photos with your current location, but that’s the only option.
The G60 comes with a 1200 mAh battery that is rated for four hours of talk time and up to 250 hours of standby time. The results you can expect from the battery will vary widely, and they depend quite heavily on the GPS coverage in your area. I had to dig down into the settings application to find the spot where I could put this device into airplane mode in order to turn off the GPS function. That’s necessary for me since I’m at the office an average of ten hours a day; otherwise the battery would drain way too fast.
In my testing I found that I was able to go about four days with the GPS function always on, which is better than I expected considering the low network signal strength inside my office. I wouldn’t feel compfortable leaving the charger at home on a two or three day trip, but I didn’t feel the need to run to an outlet at the end of the day either, which is nice.