Pharos GPS Phone 600

It's a phone; it's a PDA; it's a GPS navigation system; it's a camera; and it's an FM radio. The Pharos GPS Phone 600 is the first Windows Mobile device to be released in the U.S. that features all of the above. There have been other devices that include an integrated GPS receiver, but until now, they've lacked a full-featured navigation application. The 600 comes with Pharos' OSTIA software built-in, including its full-featured, turn-by-turn navigation system and suite of navigation utilities. (The GPS Phone 600 is manufactured for Pharos by a Taiwanese company called Quanta, which also manufactures devices for the likes of E-TEN, Dell, and HP. Pharos has not announced a WM 6 upgrade. However, a similar machine, E-TEN Glofiish X500, is available as WM 6).

Thin and good looking

While no iPhone, the 600 certainly has a sleek look and pulls off a "retro meets 2050" design quite well. As of early May, it was one of the thinnest Windows Mobile 5 Pocket PC units available--with or without GPS. It has a minimal number of buttons on the face of the device: Phone activation and Home (Today screen) buttons above the display, and the call, end call, and left and right soft key buttons below it, flanking the central navigation pad. In addition, immediately below the two top buttons are a Bluetooth/GPS LED indicator and a green phone active/status LED indicator. The latter launches the OSTIA navigation software; multiple pushes will cycle through various GPS utilities. I had two minor issues with this button arrangement. The first was the noticeable lack of the Start menu and OK keys, which have become standard on almost all Pocket PCs. The lack of these two keys makes one-handed use more difficult. The second was the directional pad, which I found to be occasionally unresponsive.

The power on/off button is found on the upper right edge. Below it is the soft reset hole, and the camera button is located on the bottom right edge. The stylus silo is located on the bottom, along with the MiniUSB port and the opening for the microSD card slot. A 2.5 mm stereo headphone jack, a record button, and two volume buttons. On the back of the unit, you'll find the lens aperture of the 2 megapixel camera, an accompanying (weak) flash, and a small self-portrait mirror. Alongside these is a decent speaker. The back is overlaid with a soft rubber paint cent, similar to what's found on the Palm Treo 750 and Motorola RIZR. It makes for a comfortable grip, as well as a good preemptive measure against accidental drops.

The 600 comes with a 1530 mAh removable/rechargeable lithiumion battery. Pharos rates it as having 5 hours of talk time and 160 hours of standby. This is a fairly accurate estimate, but does not take into account GPS, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth usage. If you are using the GPS in a vehicle, you should connect it to a power source using the power adapter that comes with the device.

A Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and EDGE-capable GSM phone

The 600 boasts an unlocked quad-band, EDGE-capable GSM/GPRS phone, winch should work anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, the device does not have 3G data capability. If you want to run data-intensive application like Slingbox or ORB, you'll want to use the built-in Wi-Fi (802.11b or g) to connect to a hotspot. There is also integrated Bluetooth 2.0 that will connect to most Bluetooth headsets on the market. It supports A2DP as well as FTP-good enough so that you don't experience any music interruption (as long as you aren't running too way applications in the background). The call quality running on the Cingular network was similar to other Windows Mobile Phone Edition devices-fair, but not as good as a high-end Nokia phone.

Full accessory package includes a car cradle

The 600 comes with just about every accessory you'll need, including a fitted leather belt case, a car charger, and a 2GB microSD card for map storage. What really blew me away, however, was the car cradle--not one of those cheap universal dashboard mounts, but a windshield cradle customized for the 600. Once attached to your windshield, you can easily slip the device into the cradle and adjust it for optimal viewing. Better yet, it includes a cigarette lighter power adapter to charge the device whenever it's in the cradle.

Also included is a stereo headset, microSD to SD adapter, home charger, and USB sync cable, quick guide to the OSTIA navigation software, an OSTIA quick reference card, a quick start guide for the 600, and a CD with free version of Spb Time and trial versions of 11 other Spb programs (which can be purchased with a 10% discount). You also get a full copy of MS Streets and Trips 2005, a CD with various manuals, and the standard Companion CD with ActiveSync and a PC version of Outlook.

Easy to use; plenty of perks

I truly enjoyed testing the Pharos GPS Phone 600. It was easy to use and came with plenty of perks--I came away feeling good about the fringe benefits. As I mentioned, however, learning to use the OSTIA Navigation software required an investment of time. (Hopefully, Pharos will simplify the UI in future editions.) Since the device is targeted squarely at the GPS and navigation market. OSTIA's usability problems impact its overall score - I'd have to give it a 6.5 out of 10. The other issues I mentioned were mostly minor. One last important note about Pharos, they have unsurpassed customer service! Should you have an issue with the device or software, they have a wonderful support team that really listens.

The Pharos GPS Phone 600 is priced at $699 and is available directly from Pharos( can also find it at Circuit City, CompUSA, on Dell's Web site, and from other retailers. As we went to print, Pharos informed us that they had just inked a deal with T-Mobile (, which will allow you to save money on the device when you purchase it through T-Mobile with a service contract.


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