Garmin launches GPS feature phone

Garmin unveiled a GSM HSDPA smartphone, called the nuvifone, that runs on its own operating system with GPS at its core. The phone includes Google local search, Garmin online services like traffic, fuel prices, hotel discounts, pedestrian navigation services, email, text, IM, camera and video camera functionality and an MP3 player. The company did not disclose the price or carrier partner for the phone, but said it would launch commercially in the third quarter.

"The real popularity of their products and brand make the prospects for this product better than their previous ones," NPD Group's Ross Rubin said in an interview. "We are starting to see more impressive user interfaces and navigation features on both smartphones and more expensive feature phones, so it's going to be challenging for Garmin to break into that field as a new brand."

Rubin seemed most impressed by the nuvifone's ability to send geotagged photos to another unit so that drivers can use that information to create driving directions on the fly.

That said, "the media features don't seem especially strong right now," Rubin noted. "[Garmin] mentions an MP3 player, but they didn't say anything about video despite the high speed radio they have in there. Garmin might be waiting to see what services their carrier partners want to push over the air. Given that they are supporting HSPA, AT&T seems like the likely carrier to carry it in the third quarter."

For more on Garmin's phone:
- read this press release