Measuring 59mm wide, 117mm high and 21.8mm deep, the Mio DigiWalker A702 is a neat, if slightly chunky-looking device. On the front there's a shroud of grey faux-metal surrounding the A702's 2.7-inch touchscreen. Below this there's a keypad with all the usual suspects for a Windows Mobile smartphone -- call/pick up, end call, Windows key, back and number pad. Along the top of the keypad there are buttons that mirrors the functionality of the Windows Mobile's button ribbon, which runs along the bottom of the screen. Not only are these hard buttons redundant, they're also rather too small to be of any use.
There's also an OK button nestled between these hard buttons which, in our time with the phone, did less work than Paris Hilton. Of marginally more use is the clickable flicker switch along the left-hand edge of the phone. It lets you scroll through lists, messages and options on the Windows Mobile Today screen, although we mainly used it for changing speaker volume.
While we're not particularly keen on these design features, we're saving our stash of barbs and arrows for the designers who laid out the A702's number pad. The numbers one through nine are in their usual three-by-three grid yet the #, 0 and * are located to the side, not along the bottom. This meant that we often keyed 8 instead of 0, and if we had forced ourselves to donate a dollar every time that happened, we'd have fed the starving millions in Africa. We thought that with practice, time and effort this situation would improve, but old habits proved nearly impossible to break.
Locking and unlocking the A702 is done by quickly pressing the power button, located on the right edge. This works fine most of the time, although occasionally when our keys and the A702 co-habited a pocket, the keys unlocked the A702 and the motion of walking or sitting down brushed the screen in such a way as to switch the phone into flight mode.
The A702 comes loaded with Windows Mobile 6 Professional, which includes Office Mobile. Mio also bundles in two apps to make life in Windows Mobile world slightly more pleasant: Mio Menu and Mio Settings. The former is like Palm OS's launcher screen, while the latter groups together phone settings like voice speed dial and GPS configuration. Pity then that Mio didn't throw in an app for displaying the phone's MAC address.
Naturally, being a GPS phone from Mio, there's also a copy of MioMap pre-installed. It's basically the same software that's used in the Mio's C-Series dedicated in-car GPS units. Although MioMap functions in both landscape and portrait formats, the design of the A702's windscreen mount effectively precludes this. As with other Mios we've tested recently the A702 guided us safely -- well, except the instances where no right turns were missing from Mio's Aussie maps -- if not efficiently to our destination. Text-to-speech, which allows the GPS to read out street names in turn instructions, isn't included with the A702.
The A702's screen, which is bright and clear in indoor environs, is too glossy and reflective. The screen proved impossible to read when walking around town on bright sunny days and, although the reflections were both annoying and distracting, we were still able to make out the map and turn instructions when driving.
There's no 3G capability with this phone -- it's 2.5G -- so mobile Internet addicts should probably look elsewhere. Other features include a 2.5mm headphone jack, a telescoping stylus, Wi-Fi and a decent 3.2-megapixel camera with built-in flash and self-portrait mirror.
The A702's performance as a GPS navigator is on par with dedicated portable GPS devices, but its performance as a phone is sub-standard. Largely our issues with the phone stem from its Windows Mobile operating system -- a necessary evil for running the MioMap software. For instance, alarms only function when the phone is switched on, although this makes for a wonderfully techie excuse for turning up to work late.
The A702 comes equipped with 64MB of working memory and 1GB of storage space for applications, photos, music and other files. Its 200MHz processor, however, struggles to cope with the operating system's resource demands. Opening the mail application, required for sending or reading SMSes, takes a small eternity at times (five seconds or so in some situations). Couple that with the number of clicks, and the pauses between them, that it takes to start entering a message and you may well have forgotten what you wanted to say.
Worse, though, is Mio's T9 predictive text implementation called MioKeyboard. MioKeyboard works like this: as you tap in a word on the number pad, a list of possible words is displayed along the bottom of the screen. When you're done tapping in the word, you press and hold the desired word's corresponding number in the option list. So for "hello", you'd key in 43556 and press and hold 1. At first glance this seems like a reasonable way of doing things but the press and hold required to select a word takes a good second or so to register. And because pressing space won't automatically select the first option, typing a simple message like "sorry, gonna be 10 mins late" is like writing War and Peace. Add in the fact that fast typers can often outpace the unit's key recognition and you have a thoroughly frustrating texting experience.
We got around the A702's text limitations by opting for Windows Mobile's on-screen virtual keyboard or hand writing recognition. While these options are fine in the comfort of our lounge room or when seated at our office cubicle, they're impractical when riding in a car or on public transport. Not to mention impossible to use whilst walking.
If you want a good GPS system with a phone and you're definitely going to be using the GPS on a regular basis -- be honest now -- then the A702 is a good bet. However, its odd keypad layout, slow responses and woeful texting ability make it a poor choice as a phone.