BARCELONA, Spain -- At long last, we get to see, touch and test the much anticipated Garmin (GRMN) - Get Garmin Ltd. (GRMN) Report nuvifone. Actually, make that nuvifones, because Garmin is introducing two models at the Mobile World Congress. We were among the first to get a hands-on road test of the new designs.
First up is the nuvifone G60. That's actually the same phone that we got to see (but not touch) at both the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show and last year's Mobile World Congress. At that time, I joked that the device was actually a "cell phone under glass" because all the handsets were displayed inside giant bell jars. Garmin is not doing that anymore.
First Look: Garmin nuvifone
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The G60 is a 3.5G (HSDPA), quad-band GSM world phone with Wi-Fi. It has a large 3.55-inch touch-creen display that features three primary icons: "Call," "Search" and "View Map." Other icons appear on the side of the home screen. As you might expect from any modern-day, touch-screen device, you can scroll through the icons by swiping a finger across the screen, and the built-in accelerometer allows portrait and landscape views.
There's a 3MP auto-focusing camera on the back. The on-screen keyboard gives you a choice of QWERTY or A to Z. The G60 supports POP3 and IMAP4 email such as Yahoo!, Hotmail and Gmail. The rechargeable battery is user-replaceable (unlike the battery on
But what makes the nuvifone different is what Garmin is best known for: GPS. These new phones come standard with
GPS. Many cell phones have a feature called aGPS, which determines your location by gauging where your phone is compared with nearby cellular broadcast towers.
But the Garmin phones contain the tried-and-true nuvi location circuitry that uses the global satellite-positioning system to figure out where you are and help you get where you're going. You have a choice of either North American or European mapping for your new nuvifone.
In terms of size, the G60 is about the same height and width as
/Android handset. The Garmin, though, is thinner (as you might expect from a phone that doesn't have a slide-open, hardware keyboard).
The real show-tealer, however, is Garmin's other nuvifone -- the M20. This tiny marvel also is a touch-screen smartphone, but this model runs on
Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional. That means it not only has the Garmin GPS turn-by-turn directions system but it also features Exchange Mail, Word and Excel capabilities, all in a very handy handset size.
The built-in 3.5G access, Wi-Fi, 3 megapixel camera and all the other smartphone and multimedia features that come standard in a Windows Mobile device make the M20 a very interesting prospect. The M20 will be offered in the now infamous Garmin Black as well as three other "hip" colors.
Overall, these are two very cool smartphones. All Garmin is saying is that the G60 will be available first, but both should be for sale sometimes in the first half of 2009. Let's hope they arrive before the beginning of the summer driving season.
Garmin also is busy working to secure a U.S. cellular carrier to sell the phone. Unfiortunately (or fortunately), in their current configurations, the nuvifones will only do 3.5G for
, although I'm hoping that something could be worked out for T-Mobile,
Gary Krakow is TheStreet.com's senior technology correspondent.