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Belgian company Mio has quietly been producing competent navigation products for a few years now. It still hasn't managed to crack TomTom's grip on the top-end of the market, but in the mid-range and low-end it's got things sewn up, at least from a value-for-money point of view.
Its latest device, the A501 GPS smartphone, looks like an attempt to consolidate that, adding to a range that includes pocket GPS devices aimed at walking and cycling as well as those targeted at car drivers. In a world where all sorts of gizmos are adding GPS hardware and navigation software, it still represents a bit of an unusual move, though. Up to this point, we haven't seen the likes of TomTom or Garmin do anything other than a sat-nav with bells and whistles. With the A501, however, we have a sat-nav company venturing into the highly competitive world of smartphones.
It's probably not that much of a stretch for Mio to do this. After all, on most of its other sat-nav products, the MioMap satellite navigation products run on the Windows Mobile 5 Core platform anyway. So with the A501, instead of Core, you get full blown Windows Mobile 5 with all the software bits and pieces that entails. However, it's a shame that Mio couldn't run to version 6, as this older version is beginning to look dated now.
On top of the standard install there are a few extras. First is Mio's proprietary launcher software, which gives quick and configurable, thumb or finger-based access to common functions - such as the MioMap software. This is handy, but sooner or later you'll have to resort to using the stylus because the screen's simply too small to let you access the tiny buttons so commonplace elsewhere in Microsoft's fiddly operating system. There's also an emergency location utility that will send a message and your position via SMS to your chosen number(s), and MioCalc - a calculator application that includes unit and currency conversion tools.
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