T-Mobile’s New Garminfone Trumps Google Navigation

T-Mobile USA today took the wraps off an exclusive new handset from Garmin, the GPS navigation company, that runs the Google Android operating system. Available later this spring, the Garminfone touchscreen handset offers 3G connectivity on T-Mobile’s network, a 3-megapixel camera with geo-tagging support, access to Google’s Android Market for software applications — and pre-loaded maps of North America.

The pre-loaded maps give the Garminfone a key competitive advantage because they allow the device to offer directions without a cellular signal. That’s in contrast to other Android-based handsets, which feature built-in Google Navigation, as they have to pull directions from the cloud. Garmin also integrates the navigation functionality throughout applications on the phone — tapping an address in nearly any app offers directions; the phone can even help you locate your parked car.

This isn’t Garmin’s first attempt to branch out beyond its core competency of dedicated navigation devices, which, much like standalone MP3 players, are rendered largely obsolete by smartphones that offer converged services and features. AT&T carries Garmin’s nuvifone, but the handset uses a proprietary operating system, so consumers don’t have access to a large software application store. By building the Garminfone on the Android platform, Garmin is combining strong navigation features — both online and offline — with availability of the over 38,000 software titles in the Google Android Market.

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