Garmin has tantalized gadget lovers everywhere with its announcement of the nuvifone, a cell phone/GPS combination that has been billed as the biggest adversary of the iPhone. While it s hard to believe that anything can break Apple s glittering record of success with all things i, manufacturers are looking for any way to get a better foothold in the market. Can Garmin s first foray into the cell phone business do what no one else can?
By comparing the features purported to be in the nuvifone you can see what gives the nuvifone so much potential, and what might hold it back.
There have been touch-screen devices before, but few have got it right like the iPhone. Anyone who has used one knows how smooth the interface is. The main reason why the nuvifone seems to be aimed directly at the iPhone is that it also has a touch-screen interface, and it s the same size as that of the iPhone.
This is a potential deal-breaker for Garmin. No matter how well the phone or the GPS function in the nuvifone work, if the display or the touch interface is off by a little, the nuvifone will automatically lose ground against the iPhone.
One of the biggest attractions for buying the nuvifone is the web browsing capabilities. Besides the obvious benefits of checking your email, watching videos and reading your favorite blogs on the go, the nuvifone promises to integrate its GPS capabilities with Google s maps and address search capabilities. This will allow you to download Points of Interest immediately based on a web search. While the iPhone has web browsing, the extra functionality when combined with GPS capabilities could put the nuvifone ahead in this category.
Garmin has promised that the nuviphone will use 3.5G cell networks, a significant advantage over the iPhone. But Garmin has released no information yet about the carriers the nuvifone will use. One of the biggest problems with the iPhone was that it was only available through one network, requiring people to switch carriers and get out of contracts in order to use the iPhone. If the nuvifone is available on multiple carriers, it would be a significant advantage over the iPhone.
Garmin says that the nuvifone will be able to play MP3 files as well as MPEG4/AAC, but the fact is hardly advertised, suggesting that it won t be a major function of the nuvifone. Unless Garmin magically gets the ability to play music with iTunes DRM in it, this category will probably be a win for the iPhone. The compatibility with iTunes and the fact that most users are tied to Apple DRM makes it hard for music lovers to break away and adopt the nuviphone.
The nuvifone will have a built-in digital camera, though there is no word on the resolution capabilities. This category will probably have little bearing on the iPhone/nuviphone battle unless Garmin includes a horribly underpowered camera.
It s obvious that this feature will fall entirely in the nuvifone s favor. The iPhone has nothing to compare with Garmin s proven GPS track record. But what is more exciting is the various applications you can find for the nuvifone. Garmin has promised that all photos taken with the nuviphone will be tagged with the exact location where it was taken from. The nuvifone will include Garmin maps, turn-by-turn directions and the capability of downloading Points of Interest from Google. The nuvifone can even help you remember where you parked your car since it logs the exact location where it was disconnected from the carjack.
While the nuvifone will have obvious appeal to GPS junkies and geocaching fanatics, these kinds of features will make it useful for anybody. This might be the thing that makes the nuvifone a serious contender against the iPhone.
This is one of the biggest hurdles for the nuvifone. It only has a very vague release date (Q3 of 2008 is all we ve been told) and the iPhone has had a significant head start. At the time the nuvifone was announced (January 2008) the iPhone had already sold 4 million units. And the number will only continue to grow. The nuvifone will have to overcome the brand awareness and chic that the iPhone has built up.
So Who Will Win?
It s still too early to tell whether the nuvifone will be able to compete with the popularity of the iPhone. But the GPS capabilities coupled with web browsing features could give the nuvifone some considerable advantages. It all hinges on the usability of the touch-screen and the number of cell phone networks that will support the nuvifone. If Garmin can bring all these elements together, it s very possible that we might have an iPhone-killer on the horizon.
To see who is currently leading the pack in GPS units, check out our rankings of the top GPS units. You can also see who is ranked highest among smartphones in our Smartphone Review.
At TopTenREVIEWS We Do the Research So You Don't Have To.