T-Mobile Garminfone drops to a more reasonable $130

When we reviewed the new T-Mobile Garminfone, the $199.99 price tag was the only real downside we could find. In fact, our review concluded that the Garminfone is the best GPS unit ever made. Thankfully, T-Mobile clearly understood that the price was indeed out of line, because they have dropped it down to just $129.99.

Naturally, this price is only applicable when you open a new line of service, or add it as an eligible upgrade. Still not cheap enough for you? Amazon is offering it for just $49.99, but it is out of stock, which is not surprising at this price. The purchase page at T-Mobile is here, and you can read our review here.

T-Mobile Garminfone review – is this the best GPS unit ever created?

Three weeks ago, Gadling was one of the first to post a real hands-on with the the upcoming T-Mobile Garminfone. In this full review, you’ll get a closer look at the hardware, software and additional applications of this Android powered GPS navigation device.

If you are in the market for a new (smart) phone, then your timing is good – because the Garminfone will be available on June 9th for $199 (after a $50 mail in rebate and a new 2 year agreement).
The hardware

The Garmin-Asus designed Garminfone is an Android powered smartphone – even if you never plan to use it as a GPS device, you’ll still have yourself a very competent mobile device. Under the hood is Android 1.6 – not the most recent version, but thanks to the hard work of the designers, you’d never know.

The phone itself feels more like a phone than a GPS unit – on the front are four touch sensitive buttons and a D-Pad with center button. On the left side are contacts for the charging cradle, and on the right are buttons for the camera and volume control.

The only other connector on the phone is a MiniUSB jack on the bottom – which also means the designers chose to outfit the phone without a 3.5mm headphone jack – a crime in today’s phone market if you ask me.

The battery cover slides off and provides access to an 1150mAh battery, a MicroSD slot and a SIM card slot. The memory card is “hot swappable”, so you won’t need to remove the battery to change cards. On the back of the unit is also where you’ll find the 3.2 megapixel autofocus camera, but no flash.

Photos from the camera are “OK” – certainly no replacement for a point and shoot camera, but adequate for capturing spur of the moment shots.

Inside the device, is a 600MHz Qualcomm processor, 256MB of ram and 256MB of rom. Connectivity comes from a quadband GSM/GPRS/EDGE radio, 3G HSDPA on 1700 and 2100MHz, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

The phone weighs 4.9 ounces (with battery) and measures 4.57 x .49 x 2.46 inches.

The Garminfone next to the Google Nexus One and Verizon Droid Increidble.

Included with the Garminfone is a 2GB MicroSD card (installed in the phone), a USB car charger, dash mount and active (powered) cradle. This cradle means the unit will switch to landscape mode when plugged in – and makes it very easy to install or remove the unit from your vehicle.

Audio in phone calls is very clear, and callers on the other side of my conversation never complained about the quality. The speakerphone is sufficient for a call at your desk, but I found it lacking volume when used in a noisy car.

UPDATE: The low volume is only an issue when you use the phone as a speakerphone – spoken GPS directions are very loud and clear.


The interface on the Garminfone is probably one of the best designed I’ve seen in a long time. The UI designers managed to make the phone look like a regular Garmin navigation unit, while still keeping some of the look and feel of Android on the device.

Best of all – the interface is perfect for using in your car. Of course, I’d never suggest you use it while driving, but if you happen to press a few buttons when on the road, the large icons won’t distract too much.

The list of features included in the navigation portion of the Garminfone is endless – this goes way beyond what you usually get on a GPS device. Some of the navigation features include:

  • Navigate to Google search location
  • Local gas prices
  • Navigate to events
  • Panoramio local content (photo searches)
  • Store and navigate to saved parking spot

Navigation itself is also very efficient – maps move very smooth and recalculations are swift when you miss a turn.

GPS reception did become an issue when I was driving in an area with tall buildings – in downtown Chicago the unit managed to lose track of me several times – and took a while to lock on to the signal. A Gamin Nuvi next to the Garminfone did not have these issues.

Other features brought over from the regular Garmin devices include the ability to pick a vehicle picture and create your own voice recordings for navigation.

Besides the navigation portion, the Garminfone comes with a very good selection of pre-loaded apps:

  • Movie times
  • Flight status
  • Traffic incident search
  • Facebook
  • Unit converter
  • Garmin voice studio
  • Weather

And of course, you also get access to the >50,000 apps in the Google market.

Final thoughts

I’m just going to say it – this is the best GPS unit I have ever tested. Not just the best connected GPS unit – but the best, period. Yes – the reception issue was rather annoying, but it was rare enough to overlook, and something that could be fixed in the final version, or updated with software. The phone is fast, looks good and the user interface is exceptional.

The price is a little on the high side, especially when it has to go up against the new iPhone 4. Still, when you consider that a GPS unit with these features can cost over $300, the $199 (after $50 rebate) really isn’t all that bad.

To learn more about the Garminfone, or to register your interest in this new device, head on over to the T-Mobile Garminfone site.


Add the Zagat guide to your Garmin GPS unit with Spot It Out – the Gadling review

Do you rely on the Zagat guide to find good places to dine? And do you use your GPS unit to get around? A new product from a company called “Spot It Out” may be the perfect product for you.

Spot It Out has produced an assortment of MicroSD based GPS guides that can be added to almost any Garmin navigation unit. The current lineup offers the 2010 Zagat Guide, the Golf Digest 2010 golf course of America guide and a road hazard and safety guide.

In this review, I took a quick look at their Zagat guide, and will explain how it is installed, and how to use it.

The Spot It Out content is stored on a MicroSD card, and comes in a neat looking package. To get the information on your unit, you simply pop the MicroSD card in your GPS unit. Devices with a regular SD slot can use the included SD adapter. Once inserted, the unit will ask whether you want to install the new data. Once copied, you can remove the card and put it back in its protective case.

To access the data, you simply hit the “extras” button on your GPS device, and select from the available Zagat cities.


Once you have selected a city, you can select from the available restaurants, sorted by distance to you. Alternatively, you can type a restaurant name to find its entry.

The “more” button displays the entire Zagat entry for that specific restaurant, listing the review, contact information, web site, the year they opened, payment methods accepted and more.

A fun way to find new Zagat rated restaurants is to enable the “alerts” feature found on most Garmin units – this will ping when you get close to a location included in the guide, making it easy to just drive around till you find somewhere decent to eat.

Final thoughts

The Spot It Out 2010 Zagat Guide retails for $29.99, and is available from Amazon. If you enjoy finding new Zagat rated restaurants, being able to add the guide to your GPS unit is really convenient.

My only minor complaint about the product is the way Garmin units pronounce the destination name – if you have a text-to-speech unit, it’ll read the entire restaurant name, along with the rating numbers, prices and more (as seen in the photo above). It isn’t a deal breaker, but still pretty annoying.

PROS: Entire Zagat guide in your GPS unit for under $30. Up to date information, easy to access
CONS: Text to speech GPS units will read the entire name, along with the rating numbers. Guides sometime suffer from poor layout/spacing

At the moment, the guides are only available through Amazon, in an ideal world, they’d also sell them as a download, removing the need to purchase the entire kit. Still, the content is well implemented, and by placing the entire Zagat guide in your GPS unit, you can leave the printed version at home.

Let your own voice tell you where to go with the Garmin GPS voice studio

Do you often get bored of the voice in your GPS unit? I’ll usually switch between the British male and female voices once a week, just to keep things interesting. If none of the standard voices interest you, how about recording your own? The new Garmin Voice Studio was announced at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, and is now available to download.

It’ll work on almost any recent Garmin unit, including most nüvi series devices. Recording your own commands is pretty simple – you download and install the program, then record the 68 voice commands using a microphone. I tried it with the built in microphone in my laptop, and the results were not too bad. Once recorded, you connect your GPS device and click the “send to GPS” button. Then, you simply change the voice setting to your newly recorded version.

Of course, nothing is stopping you from asking someone with a sexier voice to do the recording for you, or you could even recruit your kids to make your GPS unit a little more human.

The program is free of charge, and is available directly from Garmin.com. It is currently Windows only, and any device with text-to-speech will still use a Garmin voice to speak the street names.

New Garmin nüvi 1690 includes 2 years of free online services and lots of exclamation marks

GPS units are announced almost every day – but this newest unit from Garmin immediately grabbed my attention. It is the the first “connected GPS” unit from Garmin, which means the device has a built in cellular modem, allowing it to connect to the Internet and grab real time data, instead of relying on an (often outdated) internal database. Current Garmin units can only receive data in one direction.

The nüvi 1690 uses the new Garmin nüLink! (gotta love! names! with exclamation marks!). NüLink! provides access to online Google searches, traffic, weather, fuel prices, local events and whitepage telephone listings.

In addition to this, the nüvi 1690 provides some basic social networking using Ciao!, the new Garmin location based social networking portal.

Now, Garmin is by no means the first to introduce a connected GPS unit, but they are the first to introduce one that comes with 2 full years of free online service. After this, service is only $5 per month. Other units like the now defunct Dash Express wanted $12.95 for each month, so Garmin clearly did their homework picking the perfect price point for their service.

It is obvious that connected GPS units are the future – and at first glance, the nüvi 1690 looks like a true winner – its initial $499 purchase price is a little on the high side, but still in line with what most other high-end GPS units cost, even though this one contains a cellular data modem.

It is on schedule to be released in the fourth quarter of this year, which means it should be available just in time for Christmas.