Garmin-Asus unwraps first Android phone ahead of MWC

Garmin-Asus unveiled its first Android phone, the nuvifone A50, boasting that it has more sophisticated location technology than any other smartphone. The device is the latest attempt by Garmin-Asus, the smartphone partnership between Garmin and Austek Computer, to branch out in the mobile market. All of Garmin-Asus' previous devices have been based on Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform.

The nüvifone A50, left, and the nüvifone M10 will be on hand at the Mobile World Congress show.The A50 runs on Android 1.6, and has a 3.5-inch HVGA capacitive touchscreen display, a 3-megapixel camera, 4 GB of internal memory with an expandable microSD slot and an accelerometer. Jessica Yers, a Garmin spokeswoman, said that the device  has a Breeze UI with enhanced ActiveSync, and that the company had added its own flourishes as well, including multi-touch and geo-tagging contacts. The main draw, of course, is Garmin's pre-installed maps and turn-by-turn navigation software, which it is trying to push for mobile phones.

However, the company has come under increasing pressure recently on that front. In October, Google debuted its own free navigation application, called Google Maps Navigation, which offers spoken, turn-by-turn directions. The application comes standard with devices running Android 2.0 or later versions. Additionally, Nokia recently announced its own free Ovi Maps application, which also offers turn-by-turn directions. Both efforts are seen as challenges to premium navigation service providers.

Garmin-Asus did not announce specific pricing or availability information for the A50, but said it is expected to be available in Europe in the first half of 2010.

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