If you were wondering why Steve Jobs sneaked in some enhancements to the iPhone’s location capabilities in advance of the February SDK unveiling, tonight may have provided a clue. In advance of its official release at GSMA Mobile World Congress (and the first shipments of the Dash Express), Garmin unveiled its Nuviphone, which combines communication, navigation and some basic MP3 playback features — Industrial design inspiration courtesy you-know-who. Wilson Rothman has captured my pointing out the name’s similarity to a certain popular interactive voice response system.
Garmin isn’t releasing specifications or a features list given that the device won’t ship until the third quarter. On the data front, though, the Nuviphone will support at least POP and IMAP email and Web browsing. It also takes digital stills an video and — here’s the slick part — geotags them so you can send a photo to another Nuviphone, after which that recipient can be directed to where the photo was taken. The Nuviphone has a 3.5″ screen but a wider aspect ratio than the iPhone.
As for other comparisons, it’s not a smartphone in that it does not have an open OS. Garmin says that developing an SDK is technically possible but not something the company is pursuing. (I think it should.) And I also don’t expect the Internet or media features to set a new bar.
However, for those for whom navigation is an everyday task, the product stands to be formidable competition for the Dash Express if Garmin plays its cards right. The GPS market leader didn’t talk price or much about how the cellular connectivity could supplement the Nuviphone, but considering the fancy tricks that the Express can do using just a GPRS connection, having access to its HSDPA connection could enable an unprecedented location-aware experience.
Garmin also didn’t announce a carrier partner, but to utilize HSDPA support in the U.S. in 2008, it’s practically assured that it will be joining the iPhone as an AT&T portfolio handset.