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.

Daily deal – Garmin Forerunner 301 wrist mounted GPS unit with heart rate monitor

Yeah, I know what you are thinking – “oh please not another GPS unit”. This product is different though; it is a wrist mounted GPS unit with a built in heart rate monitor.

With the Garmin Forerunner 301, you can track your performance at a very detailed level. The Forerunner captures your heart rate (when you wear the included waistband), plus it stores your GPS location. The GPS location can be used to calculate your lap time, lap speed, distance and even how many calories you burned. Think of it as a super accurate pedometer. Once you are done working out, you can connect the unit to your PC and download your performance, plus it can display a “breadcrumb” track, showing where you ran.

The Garmin Forerunner contains a rechargeable battery, with enough juice to keep the device powered for 14 hours. It is also waterproof, so you’ll be able to take it out for a jog in bad weather. If you regularly jog in the dark, then you can even use the built in backlight to keep an eye on your progress.

The Forerunner 301 is perfect for fast paced jogs, but also if you just want an idea how far you have walked on your sightseeing trip. Included in the package is the Forerunner, the heart rate waistband, an AC charger, USB cable for connecting the device to your computer, a CD-ROM with the Forerunner software and of course a selection of user manuals.

The Garmin Forerunner used to retail for $227, but it can be yours for just $99.99 from Amazon.com, and since it is over $25, it ships for free with “super saver shipping”.

To avoid confusion; this device is NOT capable of directing you through traffic, or navigating you. It does not contain any maps, and the GPS is only used to track your performance. Do not purchase this device if you are looking for a portable product that can help guide you home when you are lost.

Daily deal – Garmin c580 GPS device with MSN Direct service

Sorry folks, my daily deal for today is yet another GPS unit, but this deal was too good to keep from you.

Inside this Garmin c580 is a special FM receiver that can pick up a data stream being broadcast on some radio stations. This data sends the most recent traffic information directly to the GPS receiver. In addition to traffic, you even get the local weather, gas prices and movie times. Imagine being able to tell your GPS unit that you want to be direct to the cheapest gas station within a 5 mile radius!

And to make things even better, the Garmin c580 has a built in handsfree carkit, which allows you to make phone calls though the integrated speaker and included microphone. You will need a Bluetooth enabled phone to use this feature.

The MSN direct service is not nationwide, so please check the MSN coverage site if you are thinking of purchasing this for the online services. The Garmin c580 comes with a full year of free service from MSN direct, and once this year is over, you can renew for just $49.95 a year (or $129.95 for the lifetime of the unit).

The device itself runs the familar Garmin interface, with their comprehensive Navteq maps, and with the built in text-to-speech feature, you’ll get real spoken instructions (turn left on main street).

A device with these specifications normally runs around $499, but it is on sale today for just $179.99.

So, to recap; you get comprehensive maps of North America, handsfree calling through Bluetooth, text to speech for directions and street names, an MP3 player, online services from MSN direct with traffic, weather, gas prices and movie times, the patented Garmin lock theft protection system and even the ability to add your own custom points of interest.

You’ll find the Garmin c580 on Amazon.com, which means free shipping and no tax for many states.