Review: Nokia 6110 Navigator, w/Route 66 - Review
Nokia 6110 Navigator Review
The concept behind the 6110 Navigator is very simple: You can take the phone out of the box and use it for full satellite navigation straight away, without having to do anything else. You can even use it without a SIM card, as all the navigation information is stored in the phone itself.
Because this is the first Nokia phone to contain a complete navigation system (not just GPS but on-board route-planning software and maps too), this is the first model to use the suffix "Navigator", and we'll presumably see lots more Nokia Navigators in the future.
Surprisingly, the navigation software included with the 6110 Navigator isn't Nokia's own recently acquired Smart2go (aka Nokia Maps) but a third party app called Route 66. The actual Route 66 application is built into the phone's firmware, but the detailed regional map pack is stored on the bundled memory card. Our 6110 Navigator was a Finnish retail version, so the map pack was for the Nordic Countries, and the pack included with your phone will depend on where you buy it (you can buy additional map packs through the phone's internet connection, or through the included Route 66 Sync program for your PC). There's also a free basic world map built into the Route 66 application.
The 6110 Navigator In Real Life
The 6110 Navigator (the Navigator bit is because the original 6110 name belongs to a much older phone) is perhaps a tiny bit bulky by sliderphone standards, but not much, and, considering it has all its GPS hardware built in, it's light at 125g.
The sliding mechanism is extremely sturdy, there's a nice firm clunk when you open or close it, and there's no looseness in either mode. The phone can be opened and closed with one hand, and it's comfortable to hold when making calls as the bulk of the weight is in the keypad section. The front and back covers are a glossy plastic, with a matt metallic silver middle section that allows you to grip the phone more easily. The screen is surrounded by a brushed steel frame.
The back cover has a brushed steel middle section that covers the camera, part of which can be retracted to reveal the lens and flash (opening it activates the camera app, closing it closes the app). The steel camera cover got stained fairly quickly by fingerprints, although the screen frame didn't stain at all.
On the top of the phone there's a charging socket and a 2.5mm audio socket. The left side has a USB port, "My Own" button and hotswap memory card slot. The right side has external volume controls and camera button. The bottom of the phone has a cover removal button.
The front of the phone features a bright QVGA (240x320) screen, a smaller secondary camera for videophone calls, and the usual S60 array of buttons. As with all recent S60 models, the pencil (aka edit) key has been removed, and its functions have been completely replaced by the # key. Making its debut is a dedicated navigation button that looks like the points of a compass, which activates the built-in Route 66 software when pressed (you can assign other navigation software to the "My Own" button if you don't like Route 66).
Overall, the 6110 looks and feels as sleek and business-like as any Eseries or Nseries device. However, the keypad keys are surrounded by a large amount of blank space, and it would have been so much nicer if the designers had made the keys take up all of the room available to them. This would have not only looked better, but also made the phone much easier to use.
One rather strange thing about the sales package is the lack of anything to attach the phone to a vehicle dashboard. Sat nav is at its best when navigating roads, so this seems rather odd, especially as everything else is included. You can buy a clip separately, but it seems that Nokia have missed a marketing trick by forcing the user to do so. It's worth noting however that we reviewed the first European sim-free sales package, and packages may vary if you buy them outside Europe or through a network operator.
As a Phone
The 6110 Navigator is a Symbian S60 3rd Edition FP1 smartphone. It's compatible with Quadband GSM (850/900/1800/1900) and 3G WCDMA/UMTS (2100). In 3G mode, the 6110 Navigator supports HSDPA networks (where they exist of course) which means you can download data at several times the speed of normal 3G networks. This is sometimes referred to as 3.5G, as it's basically 3G with knobs on.
As usual, the telephony is excellent on the 6110 Navigator, it was easy to get a signal, there were no dropped calls, and there was high sound quality during calls. Messages were sent and received without any problems. Interestingly the "My Own" key is set to the text message reader by default, so you can make the phone read any new messages out loud by pressing a button on the side of the phone. Obviously you can redefine the "My Own" key to whatever function you want.
The 6110 Navigator supports all the usual features of S60 telephony including calls, speakerphone, text messages, multimedia messages, push-to-talk etc. It also supports videophone calls using the secondary camera and 3G network connection.
Battery life, as always, depends on what you do with the device. With typical use you probably need to recharge it every other day, but this will vary tremendously from person to person. The official standby time is 11 days in GSM or 3G mode, with talk time at 3.5 hours for GSM calls and 2.5 hours for 3G calls (these all assume you do nothing else with the device, of course).
If you intend to use the 6110 in a car (and that is probably its main purpose), it's well worth buying a cigarette lighter charger. These cost about £10 / €15 for an official Nokia version, even less for a third party one, and work with any new Nokia phone. They let you plug the phone straight into your car's electricity supply so you can charge the phone while you're on the move, and you can still use the phone while it's charging.
As a GPS Satellite Navigation Device
(Please Note: If you're familiar with GPS units, you may want to skip the next few paragraphs as they might seem rather patronising. The reason we're including them is because the 6110 Navigator will probably introduce quite a lot of people to GPS for the first time, so it seems to be worth exploring GPS from the perspective of a complete novice.)
Confession time: this reviewer has never used a GPS device before, and the 6110 Navigator was quite a revelation, not just in terms of this model but in terms of the entire world of satellite navigation.
New features and technological fads are often novelties that are of little use to the majority of the world's population. However, after using satellite navigation for just over a week it's become clear that this is more than a novelty, and could be of as much significance for travellers as conventional paper maps themselves. The price tag on sat nav (not just the GPS hardware but the up-to-date maps and software too) currently makes it too expensive for most people in the world, but if the price drops below $100 its use seems likely to spread into virtually every community, just as ordinary mobile phones are doing right now.
Using a satellite navigation phone for the first time has an enchanting simplicity about it: you switch it on, it finds where you are and it tells you exactly how to get to anywhere else. Not only can you feed in your own destinations as street addresses, the phone can also suggest destinations based on what you're looking for (hotels, fuel stations, hospitals etc) and can do this anywhere in the area covered by the maps you've bought, which usually means your own country and its neighbours. If you need more coverage, you can buy more maps straight onto the phone. When it works correctly, this is mind-bogglingly useful on a similar sort of scale to the babel fish in Douglas Adams' novels, it's the kind of tool that might be useful to almost anyone from any background. For those who remember an age before cell phones were commonplace, using sat nav for the first time matches the wonder of your first mobile call or your first text message. If you haven't tried satellite navigation yet, this reviewer strongly suggests giving it a go.
Of course, life isn't perfect. When you first use GPS, you immediately run into the slight snag of having to lock on to satellite signals first. GPS receivers know where you are by listening for signals from a constellation of GPS satellites that permanently orbit the earth. Once the receiver has spotted a minimum number of satellites, it can work out where you are mathematically, and it will keep tracking those satellites (as well as listening out for more satellites) as you move about. However, if you're indoors, the physical mass between you and the GPS satellites interferes with their signals, and if there's enough mass between you and the satellites their signals will not get through at all. While the same is technically true of phone signals, phone signals pass through the walls of a house far more easily than satellite signals, so even if you can get a phone signal indoors you may not be able to get a GPS signal.
It gets even more complicated: the amount of time it takes a receiver to lock on to satellite signals depends on how long it's been since the last lock on, and how far from your last known location you are. The receiver apparently keeps a log of the satellites' last known positions in the sky, and the closer they match this log the quicker the lock-on happens.
The amount of time it takes to lock on to satellites varies from device to device. When outside and doing a "cold start" (where you start searching for satellites for the first time after a long break), the 6110 Navigator managed to get a satellite fix within one or two minutes. When doing a "hot start" (where the break between satellite fixes is brief, for example if you exit the GPS app and re-enter it soon afterwards) the 6110 managed a fix within just a few seconds. Once the phone had found enough satellites to determine its position, it stayed locked on, and the navigation application could be left switched on in the background all day if required.
The time to lock-on was perfectly adequate for any length of journey, as long as you started the lock-on process outside. Unless you live in the Batcave, you wouldn't even have time to reach your car and turn the ignition key before the 6110 had locked on to the satellites. If you're on foot (Route 66 has a pedestrian mode too) you would barely have left your house before the phone had located enough satellite signals. There's no point waiting for the software to locate your position while you're still indoors, as the thick and dense walls of modern buildings will block out the signals to such an extent that the phone may take ten minutes or more to locate you, or may not even manage it at all if you're deep within a larger structure.
Get Your Kicks On Route 66
The Route 66 software itself is pretty good, and mostly did the job required of it.
As well as showing your current location on a map, it also lets you look up any potential destinations anywhere in the area covered by your map pack (in this reviewer's case the Nordic countries) which can be an exact street address, a keyword search of destinations, or, most usefully of all, a directory of nearby services and points of interest divided into 15 categories. If you fancy getting a bite to eat for example, you simply go to the Eating & Drinking category and it will list all known restaurants nearest to your location in order of proximity. You then click on the restaurant, select "Navigate To", the software instantly calculates a route from where you are now to your desired destination, and off you go...
If you're in car mode, the display will change to a 3D one by default, although you can set it to 2D if you wish, and 2D is the default for pedestrian mode. As you make your way along the route the software will give you two spoken warnings of upcoming maneouvres (e.g. "At the roundabout take the second exit"), one warning well before and one just before. Once the route is calculated, it is possible to navigate completely by the spoken instructions, and during testing the driver made the entire journey without looking at the screen at all. Indeed, this is probably much safer than having the driver look at a screen, and you might well want to switch the backlight off so that the driver isn't tempted to look away from the road.
The animated arrow on the screen which showed our progress moved along surprisingly smoothly, and did not noticeably fall behind or stutter. If we departed from the suggested route, a new route to get us back on track was instantly calculated and displayed. The screen also displays icons to show points of interest that you're passing very close to, such as car parks and hotels, and you can set an alarm to go off when you're getting close to particular kinds of amenities.
There's a large number of of other options which let you fine-tune the Route 66 software, for example you can have the backlight switched off if you're relying on the spoken instructions, you can set the angle of the 3D map, and you can set an alarm to go off when you break a (user-defined) speed limit. The vehicle mode can be set to both cars and lorries, and you can ask the software to avoid toll roads, motorways or ferries. There's six different colour schemes, and a night time colour scheme. You can save maps, routes and positions to memory, and send them to others by multimedia message, bluetooth or email. You can add an optional progress bar that fills up as you complete the length of your journey.
Route 66's drawbacks lie with the accuracy of the maps: all navigation software lives and dies by whether the maps match reality. What was in the maps was accurate, all the roads tested did exist and were correctly classed, but pedestrian-only roads and bridges were often completely missing from the maps. Some of the pedestrian routes it suggested were ludicrous, for example a kilometre-long detour to cross a railway when there was a footbridge that required no detour. The data in Route 66 is very car-centric and though the software does its best with the data that it's provided, the keen walker would do well to take any route advice with a pinch of salt. Having said that, the location of various points of interest is accurate, so walkers could still get a lot of use out of this application even ignoring the route-planning.
Another (perhaps somewhat trivial) use for Route 66 is on public transport, to watch your progress as your bus snakes its way along. As well as showing your progress, the screen also displays nearby points of interest that you pass by, so you may even decide to nip off the bus early if you fancy exploring that art gallery icon you just went past.
All About Symbian did a review of an older version of Route 66 last year, and concluded that "more work is needed". However, it seems that more work has indeed been done since 2006, as the version of Route 66 built into the 6110 contains some significant improvements on the older version:
- Installation is not a problem as it's built into the phone and all set up to go.
- Search results are now shown in order of proximity.
- Less lag on graphical updates while driving.
- The software now includes a road block system which lets you block any element of the entire route plan to make the software suggest a way round it. Alternatively you can blanket block the next 100, 500 or 5000 metres, which is handy if you run into an unexpected traffic jam or roadworks.
- Route calculation happens far more quickly, with virtually instant calculation for local half hour drives, and even an epic journey from one end of the country to the other only takes about 20 to 30 seconds. If you leave your calculated route, a new route based on your current location instantly appears.
- The catalogue of local points of interest (at least on the Nordic map I had access to) was pretty comprehensive, for example almost every local restaurant, art gallery, fuel station and museum was in there. There were still noticeable gaps however, such as a near-total lack of supermarkets. This may vary from map to map though, presumably different teams work on different regions.
The Route 66 traffic news service (which lets you know about roadworks etc) is not included for free on the 6110, you have to buy a 1 year subscription to this service through the application's built-in online store which uses the phone's mobile internet connection. The store also lets you buy extra maps, weather reports and travel guides (voices for your region's languages and alternate colour schemes are included for free). If you don't want to use any mobile data services, you can buy all the extras through your PC's internet connection instead using the Route 66 Sync PC software included in the 6110's sales package.
Alternatives to Route 66 on the 6110 Navigator
It's worth emphasising that you don't have to use Route 66 on the 6110 Navigator, any S60 3rd Edition-compatible GPS software should be able to work with the built-in GPS receiver. Nokia Maps (aka Smart2go) worked fine when tested, and you can even download the Nokia Maps application straight onto the phone through the phone's web browser (just select the PC download option, don't worry that you're not on a PC). The GPS also worked with other apps included with the phone such as Landmarks and GPS Data.
As a Multimedia Device
It's easy to forget that the 6110 Navigator is much more than a GPS device, it's a full smartphone with all the trimmings you'd expect from S60 3rd Edition FP1.
The music player is up to the latest S60 standards, and free of the between-track crackling that plagued earlier S60 music players, although it does still have the annoying one second pause between tracks so you can't have gapless playback. The 6110 uses microSD memory cards and can use cards with a capacity up to 2 gigabytes, which (depending on sound quality and track length) is enough for about 500 to 1000 tracks. As usual the supplied headphones are okay but seem to limit the volume somewhat, and I couldn't get them to stay in my ears as they're completely symmetrical and fairly flat with nothing to anchor them. This is easily solved by just using your own favourite 3.5mm headphones with a 2.5mm adaptor stuck on the end (you can buy them for about £5 / €7.5 nowadays in any good electrical shop). The 6110 Navigator is also compatible with A2DP Bluetooth stereo headphones, and includes AVRCP compatibility so you can control music and video playback on Bluetooth headphones with built-in controls such as the BH-500. (Forum Nokia's 6110 page claims there's no A2DP or AVRCP compatibility, but my retail model 6110 worked fine with A2DP and AVRCP devices, so Forum Nokia's information is clearly wrong.)
The 6110 has external stereo speakers, but for some strange reason the designers put them right next to each other on the back of the phone. This means the stereo effect is minimised, and the sound is muffled if you're holding the phone (although on a table the uneven design of the 6110's back panel keeps the speakers off the tabletop and perfectly audible). The speakers are definitely stereo, the 3D ringtone effects do work in 3D, but you wonder why Nokia bothered installing two speakers if they're going to be badly implemented like this. Looking on the bright side, the speakers are clear and loud, and you can easily hear the spoken instructions in sat nav mode.
There's a built-in FM radio tuner, which lets you listen to normal radio stations, and you can download all of your local presets from an online database. The 6110's gallery application also lets you enter the RTSP addresses of internet audio streams so you can listen to many internet radio stations too (the BBC for example uses RTSP streams to transmit its Listen Live and Listen Again services). You'll have to turn to Google if you want to find RTSP addresses as the stations themselves tend not to advertise them.
As with all recent S60 models, the video player is very good, and you can watch high quality MP4 files in 320x240 full screen mode. The phone will stand on its side although you'll have to put it on a shelf if you want to look straight at the screen. You can convert your own video files to a compatible MP4 format using Nokia's free Video Manager software for the PC, and transfer them to the phone over USB cable or bluetooth using the same software.
The camera is a 2 megapixel point-and-shoot with built-in flash, and it can also shoot video at a YouTube-friendly 320x240. Using the camera is extremely intuitive, and in effect it's as easy to use as a dedicated camera. You simply pull back the steel lens cover and the camera application automatically activates, then take the pictures using the dedicated button on the right side of the phone, holding the 6110 horizontally just like a normal camera. When you've finished, simply close the lens cover and the camera app deactivates, bringing you back to whatever you were doing with the phone before. Here are some sample photos:
|Sample Photo 1||Sample Photo 2||Sample Photo 3 ||Sample Photo 4 ||Sample Photo 5|
|Sample Photo 6||Sample Photo 7||Sample Photo 8||Sample Photo 9||Sample Photo 10|
As a Smartphone
The 6110 uses the 3rd Edition FP1 version of S60, and is compatible with all S60 3rd Edition software. The phone was very stable during use, with no crashes and no unexplained behaviour of any kind.
There's less free RAM than usual on the 6110, 17 megabytes instead of the usual 20, presumably because of the built-in navigation application. This may make it a less attractive phone to power users who routinely have many memory-hungry applications running at once, but there were no problems with the built-in applications.
The 6110's S60 browser, thankfully, supports both horizontal and vertical viewing of websites, which means they are far easier to read and navigate. It also means that flash-based sites like homestarrunner.com can run in full-screen mode without any scrolling necessary (you can see an example of this in the video link at the end of the review). Apart from this, there's no real difference between the 6110's browser and that on previous FP1 devices such as the Nokia 5700 and Nokia 6290.
The 6110 Navigator is a solid, stable S60 smartphone with a user-friendly and pretty reliable satellite navigation package built into it. Car users will get more out of the bundled sat nav application than walkers as the maps don't adequately cover pedestrianised areas, but the maps and guides to local amenities are useful to everyone. It's also worth mentioning again that you don't have to use the bundled application, you can install a completely different sat nav package if you want to.
The relatively small screen size may be a worry for some people. However, the screen is high resolution and bright, and you can zoom out to any distance including the entire route or even the entire country. Plus, as stated above, it's probably much safer if a driver relies on the spoken instructions rather than visual cues.
While bluetooth GPS accessories have been available for many years, most people only use phone features that are built into their device and don't require any setting up. The 6110 Navigator is one of the first smartphones to provide full satellite navigation that works straight out of the box, so it may introduce a lot of phone users to the world of GPS and sat nav.
At about 400 euros (plus taxes) for the sim-free package, the 6110's price may seem a bit steep, but if you consider what you're getting (an S60 3rd Edition FP1 smartphone, a GPS receiver, GPS navigation software and maps for your part of the world) plus the convenience of having it all combined into one small unit, it's a pretty reasonable deal if you are in the market for a GPS phone.
AAS Score: 85%
PS: You can see a video of the 6110 Navigator in action, and some high resolution photographs, on the 6110 Navigator page at the Nokia Duck blog.
Reviewed by krisse at