updated 10:25 pm EST, Wed January 30, 2008
Garmin Wednesday night surprised the cellphone industry by taking its own leap into smartphones. The Nuvifone aims both to compete with the iPhone as well as to bring Garmin's experience with GPS navigation to the forefront. Almost entirely controlled by a 3.5-inch touchscreen interface, the device centers around its native GPS unit: in addition to straightforward navigation, a host of Google apps allow it to search for local businesses, check traffic, and view nearby weather. Any photos or videos taken with the built-in camera are automatically geotagged for positioning in location-based services.
The GPS maker also seeks to improve on areas underserved by its current rival at Apple. In addition to Wi-Fi, the Nuvifone connects to the Internet through a 3G HSDPA connection with AT&T or other worldwide networks. This helps with multi-network instant messaging (including Google) and easy access to GMail, according to the company. It also supports MMS media messaging in addition to SMS texting.
Garmin will preload the Nuvifone with North American maps that store "millions" of points of interest and plans to ship the phone during the summer of this year. Neither a price nor carriers have been identified, though the phone's quad-band GSM and use of HSDPA point to an American release either paired with AT&T or as a separate, unlocked device for use with any provider.