Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Technophilia: Garmin Nuvi 360 + Sprint Sanyo Katana

One of the most frustrating things in this supposedly standards-based technology era is figuring out if your two high tech devices will work properly together. Bluetooth is a great example of the great failure of technology standards; assume nothing when it comes to Bluetooth interoperability.

This post, should the Google gods deem it index-worthy, shall address the question of whether my two latest gadgets play well together.

My favorite new toy, the Garmin Nuvi 360 portable GPS navigator, has Bluetooth support to function as a hands-free phone interface. In theory it can make and receive calls, download your phone's address book, and send and receive text messages (why you would want to send text messages from your portable GPS navigator is another question entirely).

It was about time for me to upgrade my old cell phone and I figured I may as well get one with Bluetooth that will work with the Nuvi 360. There are discussion threads on compatible phones for the Nuvi line at gpspassion.com but they are incomplete or confusing; the Garmin Website lists compatible phones but it is very incomplete.

Well I am happy to report that the Sanyo Katana for Sprint does work. Dialing, voice, and address book features seem to be working just fine, including the Katana's limited voice-activated dialing; text messaging is not supported.

The Nuvi's built-in speaker is not very capable (almost unusable for phone conversations) but in normal usage the audio is piped through my car speakers anyway (via aux input to car stereo). Even over the car speakers the phone audio quality is not great and is clearly worse than the otherwise good sound quality of the phone itself. Blame Bluetooth - the audio can get choppy and broken up depending on where the phone is located in relation to the Nuvi.

The built-in mic is also just okay and, according to the person I called, sounds like a bad speakerphone connection. I had to speak rather loudly to be heard clearly on the other end. There is also a faint echo effect for the person on the other end of the conversation. The Nuvi mount has a jack for an optional external microphone that I have yet to try.

The initial Bluetooth pairing was easily accomplished (I initiated it on the Nuvi and accepted the connection on the Katana). Now the two "trusted devices" automatically reconnect whenever they are within communications range of each other (i.e. when I get into the car with my phone and turn on the Nuvi). The connection is established very quickly, pretty much as soon as the Nuvi is powered up.

The Nuvi's copy of the cell phone's phone book is updated, but only when the phone is actually accessed through the Nuvi (e.g. I make a call). The Bluetooth auto-pairing does not update the phone book on its own.

The Nuvi's interface for the various phone features is quite nice and gives you all the controls you'd expect. The most important one--transfer audio back to phone--is just one click away during phone calls.

I have not compared the Nuvi's performance to the Katana's built-in speakerphone capabilities. Interestingly the Katana's speakerphone function is overridden by the Bluetooth connection while they are paired. If you hit the "Speaker" button on the Katana, it will activate the Nuvi's hands-free mode. I don't like that, but it does make sense.

All in all the hands-free functionality is really only useful for short calls, such as when calling ahead for a dinner reservation or when an unexpected call comes in and the phone is buried in your pocket or purse. If a longer call is in order, plan ahead and plug a headset directly into the phone.


Post a Comment

<< Home