Nuvifone Launch Getting Closer

Garmin plans to start selling its oft-delayed nuvifone in Asia in late June or early July, Chief Operating Officer Cliff Pemble told shareholders at the company’s recent annual meeting. Unfortunately for the rest of us, Pemble said a release date for North America and Europe is still on hold. In response to a question from an investor, Pemble did say, “We believe we're getting very close.”

As you may recall, the nuvifone is a touch-screen smartphone that includes features from Garmin’s line of GPS devices such as turn-by-turn driving directions, traffic warnings, and a search engine to help you find nearby points of interest.

Garmin-Asus G60

The nuvifone has been shown in two models—the Linux-based G60 and Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional-based M20. We first heard of the nuvifone back in January 2008. The line is Garmin’s entry into the cellular phone market. It is considered by many to be a key to the company’s future, especially since cellular carriers have been chipping away at Garmin’s market as they have begun to offer navigational features on phones.

The nuvifone has experienced many delays—it was originally suppose to be on sale in the first half of this year. Some of the delays have been due to technical issues with the phone, while others have to do with negotiating with wireless carriers to offer the device. Garmin initially planned to release the nuvifone without a dedicated carrier but later changed its mind. “Originally we thought we’d launch the phone into the open market, but because of the strong interest we had from carriers, we chose to focus on a carrier-centric launch and meeting carrier requirements is a lot of work,” Pemble said.

Garmin-Asus M20

Pemble explained that the company hasn’t performed the way it had hoped in releasing this product and also explained how the company had to develop the phone's operating system from scratch. In February, Garmin teamed up with Asustek Computer to develop and produce a co-branded line of phones.

During the annual meeting, Pemble declined to provide additional details about the phone, such as which carriers Garmin is working with in North America or a price for the phone in Asia. A North American version of the phone is still expected in the second half of this year. It has been reported that Garmin is in the second stage of carrier certification with the phone. At this point, it’s still uncertain which of the phones the launch will center on, though the G60 has been the longest in development.