updated 07:55 am EST, Thu February 11, 2010
nuvifone A50 and M10 official ahead of MWC
Garmin-ASUS today formally unveiled its two answers to the lackluster uptake of the original nuvifone. The nuvifone A50 is the partnership's first Android phone and combines both Garmin's nuvi-based GPS navigation with a more modern operating system than either the Linux-based G60 original or Windows Mobile devices. It supports newer Android features like multi-touch in the web browser and voice recognition for search.
The company claims an added edge over Google Maps Navigation or even stand-alone apps for iPhone and Symbian: since maps are already preloaded and depend entirely on a local app for the commands, A50 owners won't lose map access when outside of the cell network or have to pay for more maps. Those that do want more also have access to Garmin's urban map packs, and the handset comes with its own car mount to cradle and power the phone on a drive.
Google Maps is still present on the phone, as is Android Market to download third-party navigators or other apps. As a phone, the A50 carries a 3-megapixel camera, a 3.5-inch display and 4GB of internal storage with a microSD slot for more. 3G is guaranteed, but Garmin-ASUS doesn't say whether Wi-Fi is also part of the design.
Joining the launch is a more public introduction for the nuvifone M10. It becomes the first shipping phone to use Windows Mobile 6.5.3 and has a much more touch-friendly interface than in the past. Its feature set is virtually identical to the A50 with the exception of a less precise resistive touchscreen.
The M10 is already available in Taiwan and should spread to other parts of Asia soon. Both it and the A50 should reach Europe within the first half of the year. North American launches haven't been mentioned for either; typically, Garmin-ASUS has reserved its Windows Mobile phones for Asia but has had at least one phone available through AT&T in the US.
The nuvifone was first unveiled in early 2008 as an iPhone competitor by focusing heavily on GPS, a feature which the iPhone lacked at the time. Numerous delays led to the original nuvifone G60 shipping to the US only later in 2009, however, and eroded much of its advantage. Its use of a custom Linux variant also put it at a disadvantage as it had no significant support for third-party apps.