<sarcasm>A GPS receiver in a cell phone? What’ll they think of next!? </sarcasm>
But seriously, Pharos (motto: “lighthouse of the 21st century”) is hardly a household name in the mobile phone world, and the company’s Traveler 127 isn’t likely to make it one. The overall idea is fine on the surface: It’s a QWERTY-enabled 3-G smart phone with a capable GPS receiver inside. Better known for its stand-alone GPS devices, one would assume that the company knows what it’s doing in the navigation world.
Turns out, it does. The GPS on the Traveler 127 is top-notch, and Pharos’ big selling point is that its smart phones offer GPS service natively, not through a carrier or a third-party subscription. All the software and maps are stored on the phone instead of downloaded on the fly, the advantage being that, if you lose your cellular signal, your GPS keeps rolling.
Though the interface takes a little getting used to, the GPS is accurate and quick to update your position, offering a great way to get your bearings when you’re hopelessly lost. It’s less cut-out for auto use. Even if you don’t need to input an address while you’re driving (dicey whether you’re tapping on the unit’s cramped keyboard or the too-small touchscreen), the 127’s voice directions aren’t very thorough, consisting mainly of “turn left,” “turn right,” and “make a legal U-turn” — no street names. If you’re facing a number of turn options with streets closely spaced together, you’ll have to find the right street by squinting at the screen for the readout. Still, it’s a relatively minor issue.
While the GPS is generally quite good, the rest of the phone’s features are pretty hit-and-miss. Built on Windows Mobile, it’s skinned with a baffling OS that makes finding what you want a game of tapping and hoping for the best. The Traveler gives you tons of options for getting around the interface — keyboard, stylus, touchscreen and trackball — it just doesn’t offer any help in telling you how to get to what you want. (Ultimately I resorted to the good-old Windows Mobile Start menu more often than not.)
Battery life is unimpressive: 3½ hours of talk time with the GPS radio turned off, and that’s aggravated by the generally slow response time of the phone. If the Traveler were snappier to accept commands, load apps and update its screen, I’d be more inclined to forgive its power-hungry ways. Instead it feels like you spend most of those 3½ hours guessing about which button to hit and then waiting for a response.