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Glimpsing Garmin's New Phone

BARCELONA, Spain -- OK. Now I feel complete.

I've finally seen and held a Garmin (GRMN) nuvifone.

In all honesty, it wasn't a real nuvifone. It was a sorta nuvifone.

Let me explain.

Garmin brought a few semi-operational nuvifones to display here at the 2008 Mobile World Congress. I call them semi-operational because the screen lights up. But we're not sure what else they can do.

That's because they're kept locked away. In display cases. Under glass.

I'm now nicknaming it the Pheasant phone!


On the show floor, there are two display cases with a few nuvifones in each -- all show what might be the official nuvifone home screen. Or maybe not. We have to take Garmin's word for it.

There was also a nonworking model that I was allowed to touch. I can report that it's black and looks and feels like a smartphone. I wish I could tell you more.

A Garmin spokesperson couldn't really go into great detail of what features we should expect to find on a working nuvifone. That will be explained as we get closer to its release.

But I'm sure I'm guessing correctly by thinking that this will be a GSM world phone (Why else would it be shown at a GSM world phone exposition?) and that it will have a bunch of Garmin's nifty GPS features built inside.

Past that, your guess is as good as mine.

Probably better.

In all fairness, Garmin is very excited about the nuvifone and couldn't wait to get the word out. That's why all the handsets are under glass. It wants to create a mystique without being locked in to features that might not be in the release version of the phone.

I think the strategy is working.

Nuvifone is one of the hot topics at the show. Unfortunately, we're now going to have to wait until later in the year to free the Pheasant phone from under glass. Garmin is aiming for a proverbial "third quarter" release -- which really means it'll have them out in plenty of time for this year's holiday shopping season.

Nokia Makes Its Own News

European mobile-phone giant Nokia (NOK) has created the largest, most hospitable display booth at the show.

The multilevel masterpiece is turning out to be the hip meeting place at the show. The free refreshments also play a part in the appeal.

Nokia N96

But if you got past the large crowds, you got to see a bunch of new Nokia products, including the company's big push toward what it calls "context-aware Internet services," including Maps 2.0 (multimedia city guides along with satellite images) and Share on Ovi (a free, personal media-sharing community).

Nokia also announced a bunch of new handsets, including a top-of-the-line N96. The updated model sports a large 2.8-inch screen, along with 16 gigabytes of built-in memory and support for high-quality video and mobile television (in a whole bunch of digital broadcast formats).

The N96 will take over for Nokia's current flagship handset, the dual-slide N95, sometime later this year. You can bet we'll see it in 3Q (there's that third quarter again). Prices will remain on the high side -- figure on shelling out upward of $800.

The BlackBerry Blackout

Some thoughts about BlackBerry's North American service outage Monday afternoon.

From the European point of view, it was only a big deal for visitors from North America. They were the Crackberry users who went without their email for hours.

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