The Apple effect is reaching far and wide. The iPhone has had a huge impact on what people expect from the interfaces on their mobile devices. Now even sat-navs are following the lead, in particular Navman's new S100, which sports the Spirit interface it has developed in tandem with Mio.
For those familiar with previous versions of SmartST, Spirit (aka SmartST 2009) will be quite a shock. It's completely different. The menu docks behind one side of the screen, with a small edge peeking out. Touch this and the menu pops out ready for use. In order to reach portions hidden below the bottom of the screen, you touch the edge again and motion upwards to reveal the remainder, in a similar way to an iPod touch or iPhone. This does take some getting used to, however, and we regularly managed to re-dock the menu rather than scroll it upwards.
A touch of an innocuous blue line in the bottom right corner of the device calls up an iconographic menu which provides access to the main sat-nav features. This also scrolls up in the same way as other menus. But this isn't obvious, so you might initially miss the bottom two icons, which list nearby parking facilities and call up the media playing app. There is also an icon to find the nearest petrol station, but no other POI categories are given such direct access, unlike TomTom's earlier devices which include cash machine and food options, among others. There is also no FM transmitter or audio mini-jack, making the S100's MP3 playing abilities mostly pointless. The Navman S200 will include this, but hasn't been released in the UK yet.
The S100 itself is probably the sleekest sat-nav design yet, again clearly with more than a small nod towards Apple. The body is made from brushed aluminium, and is thinner than you would expect for a device with a 4.3in widescreen. However, although the S100 itself is a design tour-de-force, Navman hasn't focused its renewed flair on other aspects of its functionality. The car adapter power connection still uses USB, and must be attached prior to slipping the S100 into its screen mount. The cradle feels flimsy, and it's fairly easy to miss the notches either side which secure the device in place. It's a shame Navman didn't round off the S100 with the kind of cradle found in top-end Garmin and now TomTom devices, where you can simply slip the sat-nav on its mount and head off.