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The Garmin-Asus Nuvifone A50 is an Android smartphone that brings Garmin navigation to your handset. It may not have the power and pizzazz as other phones currently on offer, but it does a great job in making the user experience as easy as possible.

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As it is both a navigation device and phone, Garmin has included a lot of accessories out of the box. The unit comes with a suction cup arm, cradle, vehicle power cable, and dashboard disc for the car, as well as a USB cable and charger for charging the device indoors.

The A50 is a solid handset. Up front, users can find the 3.5-inch TFT capacitive touch screen, five-way navigation pad, and four touch sensitive controls (Back, Menu, Call, and Home). The camera and volume keys are located on the right side of the unit, while the power connector for the navigation cradle is located on the opposite side.

In terms of specifications, the A50 runs on a Qualcomm processor (600Mhz), has 4GB of memory, 256MB of RAM, and runs on Google Android 1.6. The A50 also comes with a 3-megapixel camera, Bluetooth 2.1, Wi-Fi, and is HSDPA-enabled. What’s missing though is a dedicated 3.5mm jack for listening to audio while on the go. Instead, a user would have to connect the proprietary jack via its mini-USB connector (located at the bottom of the phone) just to enjoy your favourite pair of headphones.

 
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The A50 has a different user interface compared to other smartphones running on the Google Android platform. The Home Screen only has three main icons – Call – a shortcut that provides access to contacts and the number pad; Where To? – a shortcut that brings a user to the main navigation menu; and View Map – a shortcut that brings up the map. Located on the right side is a tray that launches applications (this can be customised by dragging icons to and from the sub-menu).

Pressing and holding the home screen button allows a user to add widgets, although we feel that this feature won’t be used a lot as it is not as quickly accessible and ‘integrated’ as compared to other Android-based phones. However, Garmin made sure that the Home Screen is simple and easy enough to use by just about anyone, which should always be priority number one in our book.

Like any other Android phone, users can sign-in to their Google account to gain instant access to various Google services like Gmail, Market, and Gtalk. As the handset is exclusive to Optus, the A50 also has quick access to various Optus services such as Optus Zoo, App Store, Games Store, MobileTV, My Account and SocialView. Other applications include Weather, Flight Status, Traffic Search, and Ciao!

Our overall experience with the handset is good, with the virtual QWERTY keypad being responsive, installed applications were running smoothly (so long as it was compatible with the current 1.6 version), and the calls were loud and clear.

 
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Getting from point A to B is not a problem, as Garmin did an excellent job with the phone’s navigation system. The A50 has a different way of searching an address – a user would have to enter the house number and street name first, and enter the city later (if the street is in various suburbs e.g. George Street).

A user will then be prompted to choose whether to use the driving or walking mode. The map is void of unnecessary icons to maximise the space, but the map is clear and instructions were straightforward.

The unit offers lane assist with junction view, text-to-speech function, traffic updates, gas prices, Panoramio – an application that show the nearest attractions (taken by other users) and takes you there, and Points of Interest (Fuel, Lodging, Food, Bank/ATM, Shopping, Transportation, Parking, Entertainment, Recreation, Attractions, Hospital, Auto Services, and Community).

The Garmin-Asus Nuvifone A50 is available to customers for $0 Upfront on the ‘yes’ Social $49 plan over 24 months and to small business customers for $0 Upfront on the ‘yes’ Business Complete Max $49 plan over 24 months.

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