The Garminfone just got really real. T-Mobile today held a little media event to show off their new Garmin-Asus Garminfone and we had boots on the ground in New York City to put hands on the new GPS navigation-oriented Android phone from the Garmin-Asus duo that brought us the decidedly underwhelming Nuvifone line of half-baked nav phones. This time around, Garmin-Asus has ditched their Windows Mobile and the customized Linux OS that was used on the Nuvifone M20 and G60, respectively. Instead, the company has tapped Google’s Android operating system as the platform of choice for their new Garminfone. From first impressions, the Garminfone looks like a solid nav phone that prioritizes GPS nav functionality over everything else.
The Garminfone surprised us with its high-quality fit and finish. Build quality on the Garminfone is on par with the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10, which is a really good thing. The phone is about the same size as an iPhone 3GS, and so it should be – the 3.5-inch capacitive touchscreen sports similar dimensions to the iPhone’s display. The new Android phone from Garmin and Asus features the aforementioned 3.5-inch touchscreen, a 3-megapixel camera (no flash), 3G data on T-Mobile’s 7.2Mbps HSDPA 3G network, GPS (of course), WiFi, and a hot-swappable microSD card slot. You get 4GB of onboard storage, but 2GB are taken by the Garmin GPS maps.
Speaking of onboard maps, that’s where the Garminfone will outshine other smartphones with pseudo-GPS roots. While other smartphones that use cloud-based navigation services like Google Maps Navigation have to rely on their wireless data connections (WiFi, 3G, 2G) to get map data, the Garminfone puts all its map data right on the device. You’ll have to sacrifice 2GB our of 4GB of the onboard memory stores for the map data, but that’s a small price to pay for the ability to navigate without a wireless data connection – especially with a microSD card slot ready to expand storage space at a moment’s notice.
The Garminfone also comes with an included car dock – a refreshing departure in an age when smartphone makers milk you with all sorts of optional accessories. The dock charges the phone and orients the Garminfone in the landscape orientation that many of you are probably familiar with in your personal navigation devices. Clip the handset into the car dock and you’re automatically whisked away to car navigation mode. And, when you unclip the Garminfone from the dock, it’ll tag your location – so that getting back to your parking spot is never more difficult than firing up the handset’s navigation feature. Talk about a minor detail that could really come in handy!
Unfortunately, the Garminfone’s GPS-centric design precludes a headphone jack. There’s no 3.5mm headphone jack to plug in your headphones. The lack of a headphone jack probably isn’t going to be a deal breaker for people looking for a GPS nav phone, but it does make us question what Garmin-Asus was thinking by not including such a simple feature.