Sunday, July 5, 2009

full-featured Windows Mobile

Getting a jump start on CES 2009, location-based provider Pharos officially introduced on Tuesday the Pharos Traveler 137 smartphone, a Windows Mobile 6.1-based handset with integrated GPS and navigation software. The unlocked, quad-band GSM phone will be available late in the first quarter for $599.95 and has been awarded a 2009 CES Innovation award for its navigation solution.

The Pharos Traveler 137 differentiates itself from other GPS-enabled smartphones in that it doesn't require a cellular connection to operate as a navigation device. The unit comes preloaded with Pharos' Smart Navigator software with the vector map and routing calculations, so you'll be able to view maps, create routes, and get turn-by-turn directions without a network signal. Other features of the Smart Navigator service include real-time traffic, points-of-interest search, and a feature called Follow Me, which lets friends and family view your GPS locations via the Internet or a Windows Mobile device.

There is a fee to use the Smart Navigator service on a pay-as-you-go basis: $1.99/one day of access, $4.99/one week of access, $6.99/one month of access, or $49.99/one year of access. The Traveler 137 will initially come preloaded with maps of the United States free of charge, and you'll be able to purchase maps for Canada, Western Europe, and Eastern Europe on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis. China, Russia, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and other country maps will eventually be added as well. If you choose not to go with the Smart Navigator service, you will be able to use the smartphone's Windows Live Search application to get maps and directions, though this will require a cell phone or Wi-Fi connection.

Navigation aside, the Pharos Traveler 137 is a pretty full-featured Windows Mobile smartphone. It offers Bluetooth 2.1, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) and tri-band 3G support (1700/1900/2100MHz). Note that the 3G compatibility is with T-Mobile and not with the AT&T 3G network, which runs on the 850/1900MHz bands. The handset also has a 3-megapixel camera; a 3.5-inch, VGA (480x800 pixel resolution) touch screen; 256MB DDR SDRAM/512MB Flash ROM, and a microSD/SDHC expansion slot.

In addition to the Traveler 137, Pharos also announced on the Tuesday the retail availability of three previously announced GPS-enabled smartphones: the Traveler 117 ($529.95), Traveler 127 ($529.95), and the Traveler 619 ($199.95).


Garmin's been quite busy at CES 2009, and the show hasn't even officially started yet. In addition to introducing the Garmin Nuvi 885T, Garmin Zumo 660, and the nuMaps Lifetime Map Update Program, the GPS manufacturer announced something called EcoRoute.

EcoRoute brings a new routing option to Garmin Nuvi devices (in addition to faster time and shorter distance) and creates itineraries based on the most fuel-efficient course. You can even select your vehicle type under the "Vehicle profile" option in the Tools menu and enter your car's fuel economy.

Other features include a Fuel Report and a Mileage Report that tracks and monitors your mileage and fuel usage on a per-trip basis. Plus, you get fuel-saving tips and the ability to enter current gas prices so the Nuvi can calculate your savings when using the EcoRoute option.

Garmin's EcoRoute is available as a free software download from the company's Web site, where you can also check for device compatibility.

Apple TV

I've got a pretty awesome remote control. I'm a home theater nerd, so it's a must. But the new Amulet Remote by 2-year old Irish start-up Amulet Devices does something mine does not: respond to voice commands.

I can see why this device--demoed this week at CES--would be handy to some people. Even if you lose the remote in the couch cushions, you can still yell, "Turn it up!" and not have to leave your La-Z-Boy.

The downside I can easily see is that if your family is anything like mine was growing up, this thing would go schizoid. I'd be yelling for Transformers while my brother would be yelling for Thundercats. If channels 11 and 12 had just scheduled them in different time slots my brother wouldn't have that scar on his chin.

Anyway, the remote is for more than just changing channels. It's smart enough to run your Windows Media Center. That part is pretty cool. According to the company, you could, for example, tell it to "Play Coldplay," and it would. (We'd recommend a less rip-offy band though.)

It's not the first voice control solution for Media Center, but combining the technology into a remote you'd need anyway makes for a pretty slick device if you're going that route. No word on pricing yet, but the Amulet is set to ship in March.

I hope I can hack it to work with my Apple TV.

Mio Moov S300

Mio Technology unveiled four new models to its Moov line of portable navigation devices at CES 2009, along with an improved software platform called Mio Spirit.

Calling 2009 a "watershed year for Mio," the GPS manufacturer debuted the Mio Moov S300, Mio Moov S500, Mio Moov S556, and Mio Moov S700, which will all come preloaded with the Mio Spirit navigation software. The revamped interface was designed to simplify map views and searches, including those for points of interest and other key navigation tools. Responding to customer feedback, the new search capabilities make it easier to search for POI close to your current location, destination, or along your route. Mio has also increased the POI database to include 12 million entries.

As far as the individual products, here's a breakdown of what each has to offer. All models are expected to ship during the first half of 2009.

Mio Moov S300: The entry-level Moov S300 features a 3.5-inch touch screen and comes preloaded with maps of the United States and Canada. Text-to-speech functionality is also available in English, Spanish, and French. The S300 will cost $199.99.

GPS wrap-up

CES 2009 didn't dish up any major surprises in the GPS department, but that doesn't mean it was a complete snoozer. A handful of new portable navigation devices were introduced at the show, as well as a number of services for both standalone PNDs and GPS-enabled smartphones.

As expected, we saw a new connected GPS debut, this time from TomTom. While not the first PND to offer an Internet connection, we feel the TomTom GO 740 Live promises the best combination of features and design (compared to the current Dash Express and TeleNav Shotgun offerings) and might just be the one to get people onboard with connected GPS. As a result, we picked it as our Best of CES winner for the GPS category.

Another Best of CES GPS finalist was the Dual XNAV43HD, which is the first PND in the U.S. market to have built-in HD Radio technology. The benefit of HD Radio is that it offers more bandwidth, allowing you to receive more information about traffic and beyond, such as gas prices and weather information. The technology has been available in European GPS units, but we suspect we'll be seeing more of it in the United States this year.

Mio Technology started the year fresh with four new Moov models and revamped navigation software. Meanwhile, Garmin introduced the Garmin Nuvi 885T and the bike-specific Garmin Zumo 660. The company also announced its nuMaps Lifetime Map Update Program, and a new routing option called Garmin EcoRoute to help drivers save money and fuel. Unfortunately, there was no sign of the Garmin Nuvifone, but Pharos revealed its latest GPS-enabled smartphone, the Pharos Traveler 137.

So what does 2009 have in store for GPS? More content-driven services, such as real-time traffic, weather information, gas prices, and so forth. And while we believe standalone PNDs will continue to have their place in the market, the increasing availability and adoption of GPS-enabled cell phones, smartphones, and location-based services should not be underestimated.

T-Mobile's HotSpot in Home service

The interior is silver and shiny in the style of the Nokia 6263. The display is big and bright and the controls are tactile.

The feature set is solidly mid-range. It includes a 2-megapixel camera, a music and video player, support for T-Mobile myFaves, messaging and e-mail, instant messaging, Bluetooth, an expandable memory slot, a speakerphone, and a personal organizer. It also has integrated Wi-Fi for use with T-Mobile's HotSpot @Home service.

The Supernova 7510 should be out by the end of the month.

Nokia Supernova 7510

Nokia Supernova 7510 doesn't offer a lot on paper, but it remains an intriguing cell phone in a couple of ways.

The chunky flip phone comes in three colors--brown, fatal red, and espresso--but you're not married to any one hue. The front covers are removable so you can change colors as often as you like. Nokia says the phone will come with one cover attached, but you should get another cover in the box.

The Supernova's skin has a smooth, soft feel and the phone feels comfortable in the hand. The exterior controls are about what you'd expect. There's a volume rocker, a camera shutter key, and the headset/charger ports.

The 7510's external display is its most eye-catching feature. It is invisible when the backlighting is off, but when it's lit the numbers and text are large and visible. The display also has nifty animation that flashes intermittently.