Garmin to enter cellphone market with Apple iPhone lookalike

Garmin today announced its entrance into the mobile phone market with the nuvifone, an all-in-one touchscreen device that combines a premium phone, mobile web-browser, and personal navigator.

“The nuvifone is an all-in-one device offering unmatched integration of utility and function in a single mobile device,” said Cliff Pemble, Garmin’s president and COO, in the press release. “This is the breakthrough product that cell phone and GPS users around the world have been longing for — a single device that does it all.”

The nuvifone is a touchscreen device featuring 3.5G mobile phone capability with an internet browser, data connectivity, personal messaging, and personal navigation function. When powered on, the 3.5-inch touchscreen display reveals three primary icons — “Call,” “Search,” and “View Map.”

Calls are initiated by tapping the “Call” button and selecting a name from the contact list or by using the on-screen keypad. When the nuvifone is docked onto the vehicle mount, it automatically turns on the GPS, activates the navigation menu, and enables hands-free calling.

Customers familiar with Garmin’s industry leading nuvi product line will be familiar with the nuvifone’s personal navigation features. It includes preloaded maps of North America, Eastern and Western Europe, or both, and allows drivers to find a specific street address, establishment’s name or search for a destination by category using the nuvifone’s built-in database with millions of points of interest. Turn-by-turn, voice-prompted directions guide the user to their destination. If they miss a turn along the route, nuvifone automatically recalculates a route and gets them back on track, speaking the names of the streets along the way.

The nuvifone is Garmin’s first device to include Google local search capability, which harnesses the vast point of interest information available from the world wide web. Nuvifone users can search for locations like “coffee shops” and Google will sort the results based on the user’s current location and relevance. Information provided by Google includes a web-based rating so that users can select the most appropriate destination and route directly to it. In addition, the nuvifone includes a web browser incorporating premium features and touchscreen operation for an optimum mobile browsing experience. The nuvifone also includes personal messaging functions, including email, text, and instant messaging.

The “Where am I?” feature lets users touch the screen at any time to display the exact latitude and longitude coordinates, the nearest address and intersection, and the closest hospitals, police stations and gas stations. The nuvifone also helps drivers find their car in an unfamiliar spot or crowded parking lot by automatically marking the position in which it was last removed from the vehicle mount.

In addition to navigation, the nuvifone includes access to Garmin Online, an online service offering constantly-updating information such as real-time traffic, fuel prices, stock prices, sport scores, news reports, local events and weather forecasts.

The nuvifone also includes numerous mobile entertainment applications. The built-in camera allows individuals to take a picture that will automatically be tagged with the exact latitude and longitude reference of where the image was taken. The user may then save the image so they can navigate back to the location, or email the image to a recipient who can navigate directly to the location. The nuvifone also provides direct access to millions of geo-located landmark and sightseeing photographs available through Google’s Panoramio picture sharing site. The Panoramio photo search feature enhances the enjoyment and adventure of sightseeing in an otherwise unfamiliar location. Other multimedia functions of the nuvifone include a built-in video camera, MP3 and MPEG4/AAC.

Garmin anticipates that the nuvifone will be available in the third quarter of 2008. Specific details about pricing and sales partners will be announced in the future. Additional information about nuvifone is available here.

MacDailyNews Take: Competition is good. That said, we’re sure Apple’s attorneys – especially when it comes to iPhone (200+ patents that Apple CEO Steve Jobs has stated that Apple plans to vigorously defend) – are on the lookout for patent infringement, trade dress protection, etc.

79 Comments

  1. I’d like to see the interface before saying one way or the other, but this looks like a serious contender in the mobile space.

    Funny, isn’t it, that Garmin chose Google’s mobile OS to power this thing, rather than the OSs from ‘legitimate’ cell phone manufacturers.

  2. I will say those GPS features do seem pretty sweet, especially since the exact longitude and latitude would be perfect for sharing with people who can only rely on web-based Google Maps..Here’s hoping iPhone 2.0 incorporates similiar ideas. Curious what the battery life is like on this, or the virtual keyboard…strong competition will only make the iPhone better…

  3. Hmmm, this does indeed look interesting for a specific market (eg business folks who are on the road a lot and navigating unfamiliar territory). Looking at 3G wireless + GPS, however, I would wonder how long the batter lasts on this beastie, or how big it is. Could be quite a brick–can’t tell from the pictures!

  4. At last, a worthy competitor to the iPhone. I’m not opposed to other awesome phones being on the market, it’s just that much better for the consumer!

    Now let’s just hope these are even more awesome in 2-3 years when my iPhone needs to be replaced!

  5. I’m drooling here.

    Everything the iPhone should have been and more.

    Well Apple just has to release iPhone II now to combat this threat.

    With the iPhone mega security issues, this looks like a worthy contender.

    Wonder if it will be locked to a carrier?

  6. I will note one thing I don’t like is the recessed screen. I know it protects it that much more, but I like having the screen flush against my head when I’m using it. It helps to support it. Although, that’s why they make bluetooth headsets…

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