Garminfone by T-Mobile: First look and mini-review

Announced just yesterday, and already in our hands – the new T-Mobile Garminfone. This is the second navigation/phone from Garmin, and their first device powered by Android. In this first look, we’ll show off the basics, but you’ll need to wait till next week for a full review.

The Garminfone features a 3.5″ capacitive multi-touch display (320×480 pixels), support for quad band GSM/GPRS/EDGE and dual band 3G (on WCDMA 2100 and 1700). Inside the Garminfone is 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 and a 3 megapixel auto-focus camera.
The Garminfone really is two devices in one – a full Android smartphone with browser, mail, market and more, as well as a premium navigation device with the “real” Garmin experience. By combining the two, you get interesting features like dynamic real-time traffic, weather, gas prices, local Google searches and more.

In addition to this, the phone also comes with the Garmin Voice Studio, which allows you to record your GPS voice prompts on the device – a first for any GPS unit.

I’ve only been playing with the Garminfone for an hour – but I’m actually quite impressed. I’ll fully admit (and apologize to Garmin about this) that I did not have very high hopes – their previous gps/phone was a bit of a dud, but I really do think they have a winner this time.

The phone feels snappy, the screen is crisp and the hardware feels really good (albeit a little slippery). Obviously, I’m a little biased due to my love of the Android platform, but Android feels quite at home on a navigation system. To help make the unit more vehicle friendly, Garmin completely redesigned the interface, with a variety of larger buttons.

On my first drive with the unit, it was able to navigate perfectly, as the unit clearly uses some of the same excellent routing logic found on the regular Garmin navigation systems. Maps move very smoothly and manage to keep up with the vehicle quite nicely.

The Garminfone package comes nice and complete – inside the box is an active dash/windshield mount, car charger, headset, USB cable and a 2GB MicroSD card.

There are one or two downsides – for some unknown reason, Garmin-Asus failed to put a regular headphone jack on the phone, opting for the same kind of MiniUSB plug used on HTC devices.

Then there is the price – at $199 (with a 2 year activation) this may appear to be a reasonable deal, but it puts it in the same price range as the Google Nexus One. And while the Nexus One may not be as good at navigating, it does provide more phone for the same price.

I’ll refrain from any real conclusions today, and reserve those for the full review. You’ll be able to order your own Garminfone in June. You can register to be notified of its availability at the T-Mobile Garminfone mini-site. In the meantime, enjoy these photos showing the unit and some of the applications.


T-Mobile HTC HD2 smartphone comes with 6 months free inflight Internet access from Gogo

This spring, T-Mobile will finally start selling the highly anticipated HTC HD2 smartphone.

To be honest, calling this a smartphone is being a little mean to this powerful device – it comes with a massive 4.3″ screen, a 1GHz processor, 16GB memory (MicroSD card), 5 megapixel camera and full turn by turn navigation.

What grabbed my attention in the announcement is the inclusion of a pretty impressive array of pre-installed applications and content.

For starters, the phone comes with Transformers and Transformers 2 ready to watch. In addition to this, you can access the Blockbuster on Demand movie service, or watch live TV with the MobiTV service. Fans of books will appreciate the Barnes and Noble eBook application.

Better yet, you don’t need to be on the ground to stay in touch – the T-Mobile HD2 comes with six months of free Gogo Inflight Internet access, which means you can get online on airlines equipped with the Gogo service.

The phone runs Windows Mobile 6.5, so you also get mobile versions of Excel, Word, Outlook and Windows Media Player.

Pricing of this new phone has not yet been announced, but I’d suspect it’ll be between $250 and $350 when purchased on a 2 year agreement.

You can register your interest in the HD2 on the T-Mobile product page.

Free WiFi access in US Airways club lounges

This is a nice move from US Airways – this morning, they announced that WiFi access in their clubs will be free from now on.

The service is powered by T-Mobile, and used to require a T-Mobile hotspot subscription or a pricey day pass.

Access is free as of today in their lounges in Buffalo, N.Y., Charlotte, N.C., Greensboro, N.C., Hartford/Springfield, Conn., Los Angeles, New York La Guardia, Philadelphia, Raleigh Durham, N.C., Tampa, Fla. and Washington Reagan. All other US Airways lounges will switch to free access during the summer.

To get online, you’ll need a US Airways Dividend Miles account (free) or an access code card from the staff in the club.

Of course, this also means that you’ll have a good chance of getting a signal if you are standing outside the club doors, in the unfortunate event that you are not elite enough to get access to the club lounge, but don’t tell US Airways I told you that. Just be sure to signup for their mileage program so you can log in to the hotspot.

Software quick look – Flightstats for Android

Yesterday, the folks at added the first Android compatible flight tracker to the Google Android market. For those of you not up to date on the latest and greatest in the smartphone world, Android is the operating system developed by Google that powers the T-Mobile G1 (and several other phones).

Flightstats for Android offers several convenient travel features – live flight status, flight tracking with live map updates and airport/airline information.

Searching for flights is very simple, and can be done by flight number, route or even by airport. Search results show all flight numbers as well as any codeshare flight numbers.

The results can be added to a favorites list, making it easy to keep an eye on upcoming trips.

The application can be found in the Marketplace by searching for “flightstats”, it costs $5.99 which is about the most I’d be willing to pay for such an application, especially since a lot of the information provided can also be found for free on the web. That said, the application is very clean and easy to operate, the developers clearly put a lot of effort into designing the interface.

You can learn more about the application directly from Flightstats, or feel free to check out the screenshots I made of the application on my T-Mobile G1.