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Test-driving the Garmin-Asus Nuvifone A50, M10

Garmin-Asus showed off its first Google Android device, the Nuvifone A50, at Mobile World Congress 2010, and it doesn't look half bad.

BARCELONA, Spain--It's no secret that we weren't huge fans of the Garmin Nuvifone G60. How could we be when half of the product (the smartphone half) barely worked? So when we heard that Garmin-Asus would be showing off its latest Nuvifone models, the Android-powered Nuvifone A10 and Windows Mobile-based Nuvifone M10, at Mobile World Congress 2010, we didn't have the highest of hopes. However, after getting some hands-on time with the devices, we may just be changing our mind.

Now playing: Watch this: Garmin-Asus Nuvifone A50

To start, the hardware is much improved. Both the Nuvifone A50 and M10 have sexier, slimmer designs that make us want to show off the phone, instead of hiding it away like we wanted to do with the G60, which looked more like a dull slab of meh.

The A50's HVGA touch screen looks gorgeous and the M10's WVGA touch screen is also quite sharp and clear. We did notice that the accelerometer was a bit slow to change the screen orientation, which is a bit worrisome considering all the problems we had with the Nuvifone G60's accelerometer. Hopefully, this is an issue that will be resolved when the devices ship some time in the first half of 2010.

As we mentioned earlier, the Nuvifone A50 is an Android device (believed to be running Android 1.6) and the Nuvifone M10 is a Windows Mobile 6.5.3 machine, but you wouldn't be able to tell just at a glance. Garmin-Asus has customized the home screen with its own user interface so there's hardly any indication that the smartphones are running their respective operating systems.

Once you hit the Start button on the M10, it will launch into the traditional Windows Mobile Start page, so from there the UI will be familiar to any WinMo users. However, aside from the appearance of Android apps and services in the main menu page, the A50 hardly looks or feels like an Android phone. It's hard to say right now whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, since we weren't able to spend more than a few minutes with it. It'll be interesting to see how notifications will work and if there will be any sort of customization capabilities.

One thing is for sure. The use of Windows Mobile and Android should make these two Nuvifone models much better smartphones than the G60. The e-mail, contacts, and calendar apps (yes, the A50 offers Microsoft Exchange sync support for all three) and their integration with the rest of the phone should be better with these proven platforms. Plus, you'll have the ability to download more apps from their respective app stores and better multimedia features, among other things.

Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take the devices out for a joy ride in Barcelona, but given Garmin's track record in the GPS business, we're confident in the smartphones' navigation capabilities. With all this in mind, we are cautiously optimistic that the Garmin-Asus Nuvifone A50 and Nuvifone M10 offer a better experience than the company's first smartphone. Check out our First Look video and photo gallery for more and tell us what you think.