A couple big players are about to crash the global mobile phone party. Following Apple's ( AAPL) lead last year with the iPhone, device makers including Garmin ( GRMN) and possibly computer giant Dell ( DELL) are set to unveil a new generation of wireless phones. Unable to contain its excitement, GPS device king Garmin jumped into the market just ahead of the annual 3GSM conference in Barcelona next month. Late Wednesday, the company announced its hotly anticipated ultrathin touch screen phone called the nuvifone.
The phone, set for release this fall, promises to have a Web browser, a camera and, of course, a GPS navigation screen. While only a prototype at this stage, the nuvifone marks a big win for Google's ( GOOG) early wireless efforts. Garmin says the phone will include Google's local search function that gives users the ability to find food, stores or services nearby.
The nuvifone marks Garmin's second attempt to crack the phone business; its first device was a GSM phone that enjoyed minimal success in China in 2002. There is no indication of whether the nuvifone will work on the Google-sponsored Android open-standard operating system. The move is a bold gamble by Garmin, which could use a big win to help offset the encroaching competition from navigation device rival TomTom and the invasion of handset king Nokia ( NOK) into the GPS mapping business with its purchase of Navteq ( NVT). Observers say there has been speculation that a few key Android phones will be announced at the big industry show in Barcelona, with rumors pointing to an entry from Dell. Ever since Motorola ( MOT) handset chief Ron Garriques jumped to Dell, speculation swirled around whether the PC manufacturing giant would one day dip a toe in the cell phone market. Tech watchers are guessing that Dell may take a stab at making a mobile phone using Google's Android software. But industry veterans say the operating system has far too many bugs to make a commercial appearance. For its part, Dell has kept mum on any plans to enter the phone space. A company representative declined to comment on the rumors. Industry watchers also expect a Google phone and an entry from smartphone specialist HTC, which has been showing off a touch screen-phone that it plans to run on Android. TheStreet.com will have gadget guru Gary Krakow on the scene for coverage of the 3GSM conference starting the week of Feb. 10.
The Unauthorized Garmin Phone Review