It’s not the first smartphone to double as a fully-functional satnav device, but the Mio A701 is definitely one of the best we’ve handled – smaller and lighter than we expected, certainly more svelte than something like the O2 xda.
The good news: it feels like a phone – admittedly one of the bulkier big-screen smartphones, but at least it’s perfectly usable as a handset. Call quality was good in our tests. And it certainly fits nicely into the hand; it’s compact and pretty sleek. There’s no need for a separate GPS, no flip-up antennae; instead the GPS receiver is an unobtrusive bulge in the top left corner of the handset.
It’s the latest 20 channel SiRFstar III GPS receiver, which among other things is sufficiently sensitive to provide us with a location in the basement of an office block. Very impressive.
Maps of Europe come on a 512MB SD card included in the box. The mapping software is easy enough to use, and it seemed fast – we’ve heard complaints about the sluggishness of past Mio models. Nice touches include a one-button flip from portrait to landscape (depends whether you want to use the A701 as a phone or a satnav unit), simultaneous calling and navigation if you need that, and a function to text GPS coordinates to someone else.
The screen is a 240×320 pixel QVGA display that’s crisp and bright – maybe too bright at maximum setting, which is more a compliment than a criticism. Bad news? We didn’t get anything like the four hours talk time time promised. The keypad on the touch screen is too small; you really need the stylus when you’d rather just stab your fingertip at the screen. And anyone who is really going to make an all-purpose phone should probably include 3G (or at least EDGE) and maybe WiFi too.
But yes, that’s all quibbling. With an end user price around £400, this is a very competitive package – a good all-purpose satnav unit, a decent phone, a good PDA. Three sellers for the price of one: must be a bargain.