The original Garmin nuviphone is the perfect example of what can happen when you design a potentially game changing product, but can't get it to market in time (you could argue the same about the Palm Pre). Since then all has been rather quiet, but could its partnership with Asus now finally be about to bear fruit?
Signalling that Garmin's hugely ambitious plan to build its own smartphone OS is now well and truly dead are two new models, the 'A50' and 'M10' - the former running on Android, the latter on Windows Mobile 6.5.3.
Of the two we'd go for the A50. It sports a 3.5in HVGA capacitive touchscreen, 3G, WiFi, 4GB of internal storage + microSD expansion slot and aGPS with full Garmin satnav functionality which includes the likes of weather, traffic, fuel prices, safety cameras, flight status, and even movie times. The camera is a bit more run of the mill at three megapixels and without flash. As for the M10, this matches the A50 spec for spec and has the same satnav functionality, but is based on Windows Mobile (even if 6.5.3 looks a welcome improvement).
Now the big question here - and what brings me back to my opening paragraph - is whether Garmin GPS, good as it is, on a handset really still has the appeal it did when the first nuviphone was announced in January 2008? In short, no - and what's more the free Google Maps Navigation turn-by-turn satnav has already been launched for Android in the US with a global roll-out to follow. This is a trick recently repeated by Nokia too with Ovi Maps.
So Asus-Garmin may have missed the boat. Then again, if it can get the pricing (and/or network subsidies low enough) the duo may stand a chance. That said, I'm not overly convinced. Right idea, wrong timing...