Saturday, February 2, 2008

What The...?!? Garmin Enters Cell Phone Market With iPhone Look-Alike

by Eric Zeman

Cell phones must really be the in technology this year. Garmin -- you know, maker of GPS hardware -- has leaped into the cell phone business from out of nowhere with the nuvifone. Announced at an event in NYC last night, this wunderdevice has it all: GPS, 3.5G, Wi-Fi, gobs of Google (NSDQ: GOOG) services, and a touch screen-based userinterface

I think this one threw everyone for a loop. Garmin and cell phones? Who knew. Here is the skinny.

The nuvifone resembles the iPhone in that it is a large slab of hardware with a generously sized touch screen on the front. Rather than being just another nuvi-branded GPS product, it packs a high-speed cell phone under the hood, too. Word is that it is a quad-band GSM phone (meaning it can roam in the U.S. and Europe) and will come with HSDPA 3.5G wireless data capabilities. If 3.5G isn't fast enough for you, it also has Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth for headsets and other accessories.

Of course, GPS and LBS are the heart of this device, and it has GPS services to spare. The home screen has three buttons for Call, Search, and View Map. It has preloaded maps of North America, Eastern, and Western Europe. It also has built-in safety and convenience features. The "Where am I?" feature lets users touch the screen at any time to display the exact latitude and longitude coordinates, the nearest address and intersection, and the closest hospitals, police stations, and gas stations. It also helps drivers find their car in an unfamiliar spot or crowded parking lot by automatically marking the position in which the nuvifone was last removed from the vehicle mount. (It doesn't help you find your keys, however. That's still your responsibility.)

If you want Google, it's got Google. It has a Web browser and users can access Google's search capabilities, including Local Search. Local Search automatically correlates search results to the users location. So if you type in "Burger King," it will show you the closest ones. It also has quick access to Google's Panaramio picture-sharing Web site.

Lastly, it has some entertainment features. That means MP3 playback and the ability to shoot video and still pictures. The press release doesn't mention how many megapixels the camera has, but it does automatically geotag pictures with the exact coordinates. The user may then save the image so they can navigate back to the location, or e-mail the image to a recipient who can navigate directly to the location. Neat-o.

Of course, no carriers have agreed to carry this phone, and no pricing information was made available. Garmin did say, however, that the nuvifone will be in stores sometime in the third quarter.

No comments: