Garmin Nuvifone: Best in Barcelona Show

The real show-stealer is Garmin's m20 nuvifone, which runs on Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional.
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BARCELONA, Spain -- After investigation of most of the nooks and crannies at the expansive Fira, home of the 2009 Mobile World Congress, I can confidentially say that

Garmin's

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nuvifone has been one of the highlights. Yes, there were a few other interesting items, but overall Garmin's offerings were among the most interesting - if only because they were working properly.

We get to see, touch and road test the Garmin gear as soon as we arrived. We got into a car and literally test drove the device to my hotel. Actually, the first surprise was that Garmin is introducing two nuvifones here.

First Look: Garmin Nuvifone

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First up was the nuvifone G60. That's actually the same phone that we got to see (and not touch) at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show and also 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.

The G60 is a 3.5G (HSDPA), quad-band GSM world phone with Wi-Fi. It has a large 3.55-inch touch-screen display that features the 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 as 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 (for direction finding speed). The G60 supports POP3 and IMAP4 email such as Yahoo!, Hotmail and Gmail. The rechargeable battery is user-replaceable (unlike

Apple's

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iPhone).

But what makes the nuvifone different is the feature that Garmin is best known for: GPS. These new phones come with real GPS as standard. Many cell phones have a feature called aGPS -- which determines your location by gauging where your phone is compared with nearby cellular broadcast towers. The Garmin phones contain the tried-and-true nuvi location circuitry that uses the global satellite positioning system (hence GPS) 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

T-Mobile's

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G-1

Google

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/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-stealer is Garmin's other new nuvifone, the M20. This mini marvel is also a touch-screen smart phone but this model runs on

Microsoft

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Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional. That means not only the Garmin GPS turn-by-turn directions system but also a smart phone featuring 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 smart phone 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 and also three nifty "hip" shades.

Overall, these are two very cool smart phones. 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, hopefully before the beginning of the summer driving season.

Garmin is also 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

AT&T

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, although I'm hoping that something could be worked out for T-Mobile,

Verizon

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and

Sprint

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models.

Gary Krakow is TheStreet.com's senior technology correspondent.