We suppose it was only a matter of time before GPS specialists Pharos broke into the smart phone market. The company has produced a number of navigation solutions for cars, laptops, and PDAs already, so the mobile phone must have seemed like the next natural step. And that is how the Pharos GPS Phone 600 and the Pharos GPS Phone 600e came to be. Both smart phones are equipped with GPS radios for location-based services and feature Windows Mobile 5 Pocket PC Phone Edition, integrated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and a 2-megapixel camera. The 600 also ships with maps of the United States and Canada and Pharos’s Ostia navigation software. The 600e, on the other hand, doesn’t come with any maps and is designed for those who already use and favor other nav applications. Both devices are available now as unlocked phones and carry some hefty price tags; the 600 costs $699.95 while the 600e costs $599.95.
Disappointingly, we received only the Pharos GPS Phone 600e, so we couldn’t test the navigation features, which we consider to be the main draw of this device. We should be getting a review unit of the 600 soon, but in the meantime, we thought we’d see how the 600e performed as a smart phone. We liked its thin design, and Pharos includes some nice utilities to differentiate itself from competitors like the HP iPaq hw6900 series. That said, call quality was subpar, and if you’re going to plunk down that kind of cash for a smart phone, we think you’d be better served by the HP iPaq hw6900 series, which comes equipped with a full QWERTY keyboard for a better messaging experience.
For a Pocket PC phone, the Pharos GPS Phone 600e is pretty darn thin. It’s actually a rebranded version of the E-ten X500 Glofish, which was dubbed the world’s slimmest Pocket PC phone; with its dimensions of 4.4 inches long by 2.3 inches wide by 0.6 inch high, we believe it (though probably not for long). It’s certainly the sleekest Pocket PC Phone we can remember seeing in years. While the thinness helps, the 600e still resembles a PDA, so using it as a phone will take some acclimation due to the wider body. But the device has a solid construction and feels comfortable to hold; in addition, the 600e features a soft-touch finish that makes it easier to grip.
Front and center, there’s a 2.8-inch QVGA touch screen that displays 65,536 colors at a 240×320 pixel resolution. The screen is smaller than the one found on the Cingular 8525, but images and text had sharp definition and vibrant colors. The screen is readable in various lighting conditions, including direct sunlight, and you can adjust the theme, backlighting, and font size, and switch between Landscape and Portrait mode. Unfortunately, the 600e isn’t equipped with a full QWERTY keyboard, unlike the 8525 and the HP iPaq hw6900 series. There is a full onscreen keyboard that you can use for text message, but for heavy e-mailers, you may want to consider getting an accessory Bluetooth keyboard.
Surrounding the display are the 600e’s various navigation controls. There are two shortcut keys above the screen: one with a laser-etched satellite icon for GPS and one with a Home icon for the Today screen. You can, however, reassign these buttons to open any other app on the device. Beneath the display are the Talk and End buttons, two soft keys, and a four-way navigation toggle with a center “select” button. The latter is the only control that gave us any real trouble. The toggle is a slim outline of a rectangle so it’s hard to press it any direction with your thumb and not press the OK button in the middle. Plus, the toggle is a bit stiff.
The Pharos GPS Phone 600e is equipped with a 2-megapixel camera, which is located on the back of the device with a flash and a self-portrait mirror. On the left spine, there are volume up and down buttons, a customizable shortcut key, and a 2.5mm headset jack, while a power button, a reset hole, and the camera activation key sit on the right side. Finally, you’ll find a microSD expansion slot, a mini USB port, and a stylus holder on the bottom of the device. The Pharos GPS Phone 600e comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a belt holster, a wired headset, desktop software, and reference material.
The Pharos GPS Phone 600e runs Window Mobile 5 Pocket PC Phone Edition, rather than the latest Windows Mobile 6, but you can still view and edit Word and Excel documents and open PowerPoint presentations with the full Microsoft Office Mobile suite. The 600e also supports Microsoft’s Direct Push technology for wireless synchronization with Microsoft Exchange and your Outlook e-mail, calendar, contacts, and tasks. In addition to the standard PIM tools, Pharos throws in a handy utility called Spb Menu that, in our opinion, does a better job of presenting and organizing the device’s apps. Other goodies include a calculator, a voice recorder, a download agent, a program manager, two games (Bubble Breaker and Solitaire), and an FM radio.