Hands on with the Garmin M20: Meh.

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This may give you an idea of how crazy Mobile World Congress can get: the first hands on demo of our trip went down when we were still at the airport. Well, in a car right outside of it – but still. Garmin/Asus offered us a ride to our hotel along with a hands-on of their newly announced nuvifone M20; a free ride and a product demo? We couldn’t resist.

While we appreciate them sparing us a cab ride, we didn’t walk away too impressed with the M20. Read on for our impressions.

It’s important to note that the hardware we played with was a prototype (note the temporary straight-out-of-the-label-maker badge on the front, for example), with the software considered pre-beta. It’ll no doubt see a good bit of polish before it hits the shelves.

What we liked:

  • The Garmin GPS software was quite polished, as their mobile apps usually are. It had the look and feel of a standalone GPS unit.
  • Nice and lightweight, notably smaller than the first to be announced (but still unreleased) nuvifone G60.

What we didn’t:

  • The asymmetric design, with the stripe of color only running down one side. It looks accidental, rather than aesthetically pleasing.
  • That it’s Windows Mobile; Garmin-Asus developed a custom UI, which we had hoped would go deeper than just the main screen. That didn’t happen. Once you click into anything past that top layer, it’s back to standard Windows Mobile.
  • Because it’s Windows Mobile, it’s not very finger friendly. Garmin took a specific approach with the G60, making everything almost humorously large for the sake of those of us with normal sized fingers; on the M20, you’ll want a stylus.

We weren’t quite sure what Garmin was doing in the hardware business when they announced the G60, and we’re even less sure with the M20; they claim that it’s because they’ve really got a lock on the location-based services market – but it seems like everything they’re bringing to the table could (and probably should) be done with software. I’d buy the Garmin for Windows Mobile app, for example, but I probably wouldn’t buy the Garmin-Asus M20.

Garmin did assure us that they’ve got Android stuff on the way, but had no further details to share. We look forward to seeing where they go with that.

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