Pharos GPS Phone 600 Hands-On: Rarely Get Lost Again


As much as we've enjoyed Windows Mobile phones and GPSes, we haven't actually had the pleasure of using something that combined both into one device. That's why Pharos's GPS Phone 600 is a welcome addition to our gadget arsenal whenever we have to go anywhere and we're not driving.

We'll skip the Windows Mobile 5 stuff that the Pharos has in common with all other WM5 phones, and just say that reception and call quality are on par with HTC's phones. Which is to say, pretty great.

Let's focus on the GPS features. How did we like them? A lot, once we got past the arduous task of learning how to use the UI. Oh, and it's definitely not for use when actually driving.

The phone itself is like a thinner version of the Cingular 8525, which makes sense since the 600 doesn't have a keyboard. This in turn means you're not going to be doing a whole lot of text input like you are on the 8525, but that's not a huge deal. You're mainly using this for going places.

First off, when you're using the GPS, you're going to only get about 4-ish hours of battery life on a single charge. Your phone has a hard enough time reaching the nearest cell tower, so imagine how much more juice it needs to talk to space. You never see the Star Trek communicators in the original series being recharged because they run off sweat. Sweat and bad acting.

When you're actually using the mapping app, you can toggle between a combination of 3D, 2D, and list directional view. Searching for directions is pretty easy despite not having a hardware keyboard thanks to its large on-screen virtual keyboard.

Its GPS features are pretty great once you've learned how to use the device—which is actually the hard part. The GPS screen is totally non-intuitive, with not very many controls on the main screen. If you want to do just about anything, you're probably going to have to dig deep down into the menus to find your option. Don't do this when you're driving unless you really feel like finding out how your steering wheel tastes.

Examples. Switching from 3D to 2D views requires clicking on the sky (wtf?), but switching from 2D back to 3D requires going into the second screen of the menus and hitting 2D/3D view. Also, centering back onto your current location isn't wired to a hard button. You'll have to hit the "cancel" button for that. Again, that's not at all intuitive.

But once you've played with it for a couple hours and figured out its tricks, you'll know that the actual navigation is quite fine. There's no huge delay between making a turn and having the phone tell you verbally what your next move should be. Although it didn't always give us the best directions to where we wanted to go, it did get us there, which is a hell of a lot better than not.

All in all, we're happy with the phone both as a Windows Mobile phone and as a GPS mapper. The price may be a bit steep ($600), but it's about as much as you'd expect to pay for a GPS and a WM phone together. Thanks to its only mediocre UI, it's not a phone that you should be using while in the driver's seat. You should either let the passenger use it to navigate or pull over altogether.