Nuvifone GPS phone from Garmin, ASUS soon in India

Sunday, February 8, 2009, 15:59 by Tech Correspondent

GPS location tracking giant Garmin and netbooks and mobile phone maker ASUS are jointly developing a GPS mobile phone, tentatively named Nuvifone. The first Garmin-ASUS mobile phone-GPS device will be called Nuvifone G60, expected to be unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona later this month.

Garmin and ASUS have been working together for some time. Garmin said the GPS mobile phone Nuvifone G60 will not be Android-based. Garmin claimed that it has expertise in designing products on Android,
Windows Mobile an Linux platforms. Though Garmin has been working on Android-based products for some time, the first Garmin-ASUS GPS mobile Nuvifone G60 is expected to use Linux.

Most of the advanced smartphones these days come with GPS functionality. The iPhone, latest BlackbBerrys, Nokias, Sony Ericssons and HTC come preloaded with GPS chips and map software. However, GPS usage in India is still in its infancy, thanks to the unaffordable prices charged by the limited number of map makers.

Garmin, the world leader in GPS satellite navigation technologies and devices missed the mobile phone bandwagon when the segment was in its explosive growth phase. Now, with its Nuvifone G60 GPS mobile phone with ASUS, the company is making a determined push to break into the higher end of the cellphone market.

ASUS said in a statement that ASUS and Garmin will jointly “design, manufacture and distribute co-branded location-centric mobile phones.”  It also said that the first Nuvifone model will be unveiled at the Barcelona trade meet. “We believe that through this strategic alliance we are uniquely positioned to deliver the world’s best integrated and most compelling GPS-enabled mobile devices,”  said Dr. Min Kao, chairman and CEO of Garmin Ltd.

The features and price of the first Nuvifone and photos are unavailable so far. However, ASUS said that the latest GPS phone Nuvifone will harness the power of the Internet and will have social networking facilities built in. The Nuvifone series of GPS phones may also come with a 3.5-inch display, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.

It is also expected to have a touch screen, a mobile web browser and smartphone capabilities. The GPS phone will also come with a vehicle mount. The Nuvifone G60 will also come equipped with a camera, and
possibly some entertainment features too. The Nuvifone series may appear on shop shelves this year itself. It was earlier expected to be launched in the last quarter of 2008. However, the Garmin ASUS GPS
phone will have to contend with strong competition from iPhone 3G, BlackBerry Storm and the Nokia XPress Music 5800.

Garmin, the worldwide leader in GPS personal navigation devices (PNDs) is into satellite navigation technology for the last 20 years. Till date, Garmin has sold about 43 million GPS devices. Garmin, which had initially thought of going solo in the mobile telephony space, later decided to team up with ASUS and co-brand the Nuvifone. However, some observers say that co-branding the Nuvifone series will dilute
Garmin’s brand. The fact that ASUS is not a renowned mobile maker either has added to their concerns.

The leading GPS providers currently in India include Mapmyindia and Satguide. Both companies import GPS devices from abroad, load it with their map data and software and retail in India. Mapmyindia’s GPS
services include GPS navigation devices, mobile phone navigation, vehicle tracking, enterprise GPS services and digital map software.

Mapmyindia’s car navigation products cost Rs 22990 for Navigator 430 Classic, Rs 22990 for Navigator Delphi Nav 300, Rs 18,900 for Navigator Delphi Nav 200, and Rs 17,990 for Navigator A-MAX 06GP5A.
Satguide too has a range of services based on its map data. These are SatGuide Map Software Personal Navigation (PND) for Cars, PDA with Navigation, Mobile Phone with Navigation, Go GPS KitTM for Phones, and Maps & Navigation for Laptops / Desktops. Satguide offers Mio C230 model for in in-car navigation service. The Mio C230 device plus the map data costs Rs 15990.

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