A bigger problem is the GPS hardware, which doesn’t appear to be up to the job. The first sign of this is that navigating around the MioMap software isn’t particularly snappy. Route calculation is swift, as it is with all the Mio products I’ve seen, but moving from screen to screen isn’t and often you’re waiting for a second or two for the next screen to appear. It’s particularly irritating when entering address details.
The second sign of trouble is that when the A501 has to recalculate a route – because you’ve gone the wrong way or driven through a tunnel – it sometimes takes several attempts to finally re-establish a route. And getting a lock on a satellite signal from cold can also take a minute or two.
You could probably live with this but for the phone’s screen, which is reflective and becomes difficult to see on a bright day, even with the brightness turned right up. Furthermore, it’s just 2.7in in size which also means that some of the smaller buttons in the navigation software are very hard to press accurately. Fortunately, address entry isn’t too fiddly as the MioMap software gives you the option to use larger keys when typing in details.
Finally, the volume control method isn’t particularly elegant either – a couple of tabs on the windscreen mount cradle in turn activate the buttons on the side of the phone when pushed. It works, but you have to push the tabs in a certain way to get them to work properly.
Mio’s A501 is a reasonable stab at melding both smartphone and sat-nav. It has a touch-screen, which mobile phones with sat-nav bolted on generally don’t, and it’s also smaller than most PDA phones with GPS. If you truly don’t want to be bogged down with yet another gizmo when popping out and about, it’s worth considering for these features alone – especially as the driving guidance is so good.
Overall, though, there are just too many other flaws for a wholehearted recommendation. The screen’s too reflective, the software slightly laggy and the phone itself isn’t the prettiest or the most fully featured. And if that lot doesn’t put you off maybe the £334 price tag will.
Take one technological gizmo into the car? Not me – I’m sticking with two.
Score in detail