Editors' note: after we'd finished reviewing the 6110 we discovered a AU$50 hole in our pockets. In our eagerness to test this phone we'd unwittingly enabled its assisted GPS feature, which requires access to the Internet to work. Read our follow-up article here to find what assisted GPS is, whether it's any good and how to turn it on or off.
In case you've missed the barrage of TV, Internet and bus advertising, the AU$759 6110 Navigator is Nokia's new hero phone. With every phone wielding a camera like a hungry paparazzo, this new Nokia launches itself into the mobile phone fray with the next must-have item: GPS.
It's a pretty sleek looking device, the 6110, with its shiny jet-black body and splashings of metal-look trim -- it also comes in a rather less pleasing white, which is conspicuously absent in all of Nokia's advertising material. To touch, though, the Nokia is a bit of a mixed bag. We could imagine Homer Simpson playing with its Samsung-esque spring-loaded slide mechanism all day -- "slide goes up, slide goes down, slide goes up, slide goes down," he'd say. Yet the 101mm by 49mm by 20mm plastic body is creaky and smudge prone -- especially the screen, which is used to open and close the phone. The keypad buttons have a rather cheap feel to them and initially, it's hard to tell whether you've pressed a key.
On the front there's the usual Nokia array of buttons: two context sensitive, one each for call and hanging up, as well as a five-way controller. Below them are buttons for the main menu, the GPS navigator and cancel. We all too frequently hit the navigator button when aiming for down on the five-way controller. Along the sides are buttons to adjust the volume, take photos and read your messages, as well as covers hiding the mini-USB connector and the bundled 512MB micro-SD card.
There are two cameras on the 6110: a pretty redundant 320x240 unit on the front and a 2-megapixel unit with flash on the back, hidden by a cover which slides open to turn the camera on. There's no mechanical switch for the cover, though, and we accidentally activated the camera when sliding the phone open on several occasions. Photos were acceptable for a phone camera but nothing to really to sing about. Mounted above the front camera is a light sensor which adjusts the screen's brightness level according to current lighting conditions.
The 320x240, 2.2-inch screen on the 6110 was a pleasure to behold: bright, clear and crisp. There's little of the system lag we experienced in earlier Symbian-based Nokias. So, common tasks, like flicking through the phonebook or perusing the SMS inbox is no longer a will-sapping experience.
There's a built-in music player which handles the most popular formats, including MP3, AAC and WMA. A copy of RealPlayer is also bundled to handle MP4 movies. The 6110 ships with a hands-free-kit-cum-stereo-headphones, so if you're inclined to use it as your MP3 player you can. Sound quality was fine for casual or commuter listening, although we couldn't make a definitive call as we were unable to plug in a better set of headphones because the 6110 has a 2.5mm stereo jack -- not the more common 3.5mm variety.
While there's a Web browser on-board, you'll be paying your mobile carrier for the privilege of surfing the Web, as there's no Wi-Fi on-board. The 6110 is capable of both 3G and HSDPA -- so, in theory, it can achieve speeds of up to 3.6Mbps. Bluetooth pairing was pain free, although we were unable to test it with any Bluetooth 2.0 devices (our set of stereo Bluetooth headphones are on the fritz). Given that it moonlights as a navigation device, the 6110 has a decent loudspeaker.
In the spurious feature ledger is the 6110's text-to-speech function; the phone can read out your SMSes but, oddly, not your notes or calendar items, nor street names when in GPS navigation mode. Irrespective of whether you've selected an English or Indian voice, your messages are completely incomprehensible and if you decide to up the reading-rate, comically amusing.
Sitting in its car cradle, a 6110 navigates its way through another peak hour
In its day job as a mobile phone, the 6110 handled its duties with aplomb. Frequent overseas travellers will be pleased to know that the 6110 is quadband. Phone calls had excellent sound clarity, whether through the headset, built-in speaker or paired to a Bluetooth device. And its performance with SMSes was pretty decent too. Its predictive text mode which learns which words you use most for key combinations was neat -- although, oddly, it never seemed to figure out that when we entered 3, 6 and 7 we were more likely looking to spell "for" rather than "dos". As we noted earlier though, the cheap keypad was a bit of a downer.
Although Nokia quotes 11 days of standby time, the most we were able to extract from the 6110 was about two-and-a-half days of very light usage on a 3G network. Battery life drops even further when Bluetooth or GPS are in use. With the phone's GPS receiver running in the background, the battery died within an eight hour working day. Expect even less when it's actually guiding you around town.
Speaking of navigation, the 6110 is a heavily compromised beast. To use the 6110 as a GPS in your car, you'll have to pay an extra AU$84.95 for the phone holder, windscreen mount and mobile charger combo. Although the 6110's screen boasts a similar number of pixels to those found on your average dedicated GPS device, it's significantly smaller (2.2-inches versus 4-inches), so it can be difficult to see when driving. It's also oriented in a portrait manner, not the more common landscape mode, and there's no way of rotating the screen. By default, landmark and point-of-interest icons for every category, from parks to petrol stations and restaurants, clutter the small map display even further.
Without a touchscreen, controlling the 6110's Navigator software is a chore. There's a series of scroll menus for controlling the Navigator, which is fine when you're at home, but the text is too small and too difficult to read when the screen's half-a-metre away and the traffic light is rapidly approaching green. The Navigator software desperately needs a large icon-driven menu, similar to the phone's main menu, because accessing simple functions, like viewing your route itinerary, takes an extraordinary number of clicks -- it's 13, if you're curious.
There are a number of shortcut keys for functions like zooming in, satellite information and setting a new destination, but they're hard-coded, unintuitive and require you to slide the keypad visible -- not exactly the most natural nor best looking position when the phone's in its windshield cradle. The keypad also needs to be visible when entering addresses and the option of predictive text is not available. With the phone in its cradle, it's impossible to adjust the volume via its side-mounted volume rocker switch.
In terms of navigating us around the city, the 6110 scored a pass mark. It'll successfully guide you to your destination but the phone has problems locking on to GPS satellites, especially when you've lost contact whilst on the move -- it took about two kilometres before the 6110 regained its bearing after we exited Sydney's M5 East tunnel. The Route 66 software that's employed by Nokia has a bigger addiction to major roads and prefers more circuitous routes than the software we've seen on the market leading GPS units. Also, it seems less adapatable to you wandering off course. Most systems take the hint after two or three missed turns that you're not interested in following its prescribed route, and re-route you accordingly. Not so Route 66 -- it'll often ask you to make six or seven impossible u-turns before getting the drift.
The recently launched Navteq maps which are used on the 6110 also need quite a bit of work. There were a few major roads in and around Sydney's CBD, like Harris Street in Ultimo and Harbour Street outside the Entertainment Centre, which weren't noted as one-way streets. We've already reported these errors via Navteq's Map Reporter feature, found on its Web site, but, if verified, they won't appear on its maps until the next release early next year.
While GPS may be a handy novelty, like the now ubiquitous camera, those with serious navigation needs like taxi drivers, delivery men, those born without a sense of direction and couples on the edge of divorce due to navigation difficulties should stick to dedicated GPS devices.