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Nokia 6110 Navigator – new GPS phone oozes class and features

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The new Nokia 6110 Navigator is the first in a new line of ‘Navigator’ handsets which feature on-board GPS for navigation, and it’s a lovely piece of work. I’ve been playing with one for a few days and I’ve got to say I’ve fallen in love. Let’s be clear, this is not a pretty phone by any means. If the iPhone is Miss South Carolina, then the 6110 Navigator is her distant cousin with the slightly crooked teeth. But with a feature set like this, who cares?

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First impressions. The first thing you notice about the handset is the fact that it crams quite a lot of technology in a pretty small form factor. It’s not slim and elegant but it’s not too clunky either, which means that it’s surprisingly pocket friendly. The second thing you notice is the small screen. How can the GPS work with such a small amount of real estate, you wonder derisively. Well we’ll see later on. Apart from that, this is vintage Nokia from top to bottom, so no real surprises there. Nice set of documentation, USB and charging cables, pretty box.

In use. It’s a great phone to use. Hmm….is that because I’m coming back to Nokia from the Windows based HTC Touch? Dunno. Don’t care. All I do know is that it’s an absolute pleasure to return from a touchscreen to a Nokia keypad. From a sluggish snail of a Windows menuing system to a snappy, crisp Symbian UI. From a Windows Mobile system which can’t/won’t install a data feed for my Virgin service after 4 weeks of trying (including calls to the manufacturer office), to one which installs 3G for me in 3 seconds via the Nokia on-screen wizard.

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You know what, Symbian S60 is such a superior mobile phone operating system to Windows it’s not funny. OK, back to basics. The slider operation is solid, tactile and a cinch to use with one hand. Yep, it’s back to one handed texting and calls, yay! It’s also back to a screen which is visible in daylight rather than the washed out touchscreen on the HTC. I’m sounding down on the Touch, but in fact it’s not a *bad* phone, it’s just that a well designed Nokia is a pleasure to use in comparison. Do I sound like a fanboy? Sorry.

The keypad works well. It’s small, but good enough that you won’t hit many mis-keys, even when on the move. The only fiddly bit on the controls is the Call and End buttons, which take a bit of getting used to, as they are a little too close to the soft keys above. The other slight annoyance is the fact that you keep inadvertently pressing the My Own key on the side when using the camera or adjusting the sound. It’s in the wrong place. Minor quibble but a bit annoying. The main camera shutter cover is also a little stiff and awkward to use for catching a quick snap, but again it’s not a huge thing. Overall, the camera is very easy to use, and generally things like removing the cover to get at the battery/SIM card and removing the microSD memory cards are easily accomplished without broken nails or the use of a screwdriver. Thank goodness!

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Audio quality on calls is superb, as is the sound/loudness from the twin internal speakers. There’s the standard S60 music player software built-in and you can quite happily play your MP3 tracks from the internal speakers and annoy a whole train carriage, such is the power of the phone’s amplifier. The twin cameras are a bonus (although has anyone ever made a video call to someone else as yet?) and the 2 megapixel main camera is pretty good for the usual type of shots – head shots, close up groups, your mate being sick in the bar, that kind of thing. Don’t expect too much with landscapes or very busy shots although the indoor images with or without flash are surprisingly all right. A ‘real’ camera will blow it away, but it’s good enough for your party shots. In an ideal world the shutter release button would be a little more tactile, but that’s being petty isn’t it?

Bottom line, this is a great little phone in its own right. No question. But really you want to know about the GPS right?

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GPS in use. The big surprise is the fact that the GPS works brilliantly on such a small screen. The resolution is fine, the UI from the Route 66 software makes optimum use of the screen real estate and you’ll enjoy the convenience of having a permanent navigation system at hand a lot. Why? Because you can use it for locating info on local amenities at any time, which is simply awesome. Just press the dedicated Navigate button and the software powers into action in seconds – a direct bonus of having it built into the handset’s firmware, as opposed to on memory card. It takes a bit of time for the GPS satellites to lock on the first time you use it in a location, but thereafter it synchs in a few seconds, which means that you really can use it for fast navigation and local information.

I have been a fan of the Route 66 package for a while now, so there’s no surprises, it’s just got better over the years. The navigation is crisp (recalculations are all but instant), the maps are excellent and the voice directions superb. Nice touches like automatic screen dimming when it gets darker are sprinkled throughout, and there’s a comprehensive set of options you can tweak to get the program working the way you like. In other words, the GPS navigation on this handset is a full on, no compromise system, the only thing you are missing is a 4.5 inch screen, but you won’t miss it, trust me. The UI is such that it magnifies at important points in the navigation, and the voice direction is so clear (and loud) that you’ll find it simple to use in just about every situation. No satnav system is foolproof of course, but this one has a long heritage which means that you’re getting a quality product rather than something banged together by the Nokia dev team in a hurry.

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The only niggle I have with Route 66 is the somewhat strange postcode matching algorithm, which means that if you put a full postcode into the search it barfs, but if you put in a partial code and scroll down the results list you’ll find the full code eventually. It’s a really weird way to do things, and can be frustrating, but maybe there’s a logical reason behind it?

Once you’re on the route you have all the usual options, like diverting around obstacles, looking for local amenities or shops and saving points of interest. There are also a bunch of optional extras you can buy to add on, including TMC traffic jam reports (via €29.95 annual subscriptions only though, tsk!), weather, speed cameras and travel guides, all of which you store on the memory card, so it might be wise to invest in a super sized 2 GB card ASAP. The one very strange thing that I can’t explain is that I tried using the navigation on my bike and found that the navigation still worked even when I put the handset in my inside coat pocket, which is kind of freaky. I thought it had to be line of sight, but maybe this is a feature of the AGPS (Assisted GPS) which is also supported? Whatever, it’s a pretty cool feature indeed.

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The big question mark over any full featured Smartphone like this (and remember this is a real 3G, HSDPA high speed handset, none of your cut-down Apple nonsense here) is battery life and here this product scores very well indeed. The phone sports a relatively modest 900 mAh battery but it copes admirably with day to day use. If you’re going on a long run with constant display GPS maps up on screen, then you’re going to need to plug it into your car lighter socket. But if you’re just using GPS now and then on battery conservation mode (i.e. backlight on only during voice directions) then the battery will last an impressive amount of time. I suspect, although I haven’t had it long enough yet to tell definitively, that you’ll get away with generally charging up every couple of days or so if you aren’t hammering the GPS, which is excellent for a Smartphone of this calibre.

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Conclusion. Worth getting? Abso-chuffin’-lutely! It’s one of those landmark phones that define a new era. Yes I know the N95 was supposed to do that, but problems with its naff battery life have kind of put people off, so really it’s going to be left to the 6110 Navigator to put the score straight for the time being. And the Navigator has the legs to do it, believe me. It’s not a sexy, fashionable handset, and first off it won’t impress the ladies down the bar that’s for certain. But like the hugely understated Audi RS4, once you open it up, and start showing off the usefulness of knowing where the nearest pizza bar is (search, show on map, navigate to or call them), they’ll be hanging off your pen protectors like moths to a flame. A great product, Nokia, well done!

[Update: nice video of the GPS functions from Expansys]

Standout Features:

  • 3.5 G HSDPA quadband
  • 2.2 inch colour screen
  • Voice guided 3D GPS/AGPS navigation built-in
  • Map download via 3.5G
  • 2 megapixel main camera with panorama mode
  • Video call camera
  • Voice text message reader built in
  • Light sensor for optimising screen brightness and power drain
  • Symbian S60
  • Configurable My Own key for launching frequently used applications
  • Push email on-board
  • Size – 101 x 49 x 20 mm
  • Weight – 125 g with battery
  • Volume – 89 cc
  • Price – £375.00 SIM free from Nokia Direct.

 

Red – who has written posts on The Red Ferret Journal.


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