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Garmin to embrace Android with plans for new handset


Article by: Darren Griffin
Date: 12 Nov 2009

pocketgpsworld.comNews that Garmin are looking to the Android platform as the basis of a new phone have been revealed.

In a third quarter earnings announcement, a Garmin presentation slide revealed plans to expand the nuvifone product family with an Android OS handset in 2010.

Despite the less than favourable reviews of the nuvifone G60 which was released in limited markets recently Garmin are determined to score a segment of the rapidly expanding smartphone market and the rising star that is Android OS seems like a much more sensible choice than Linux and Windows Mobile.

The bigger question is should Garmin be bothering with the highly competitive smartphone hardware market at all? Should they instead be concentrating on the software, an area they have great expertise in? Garmin for iPhone and PalmPre anyone?

Comments
Posted by MaFt on Thu Nov 12, 2009 2:15 pm Reply with quote

I'm actually very surprised that they haven't made an app for iPhone - perhaps they see it as helping the competition - with the whole iphone vs nuvifone stuff...

MaFt


MaFt®

 
Posted by jalan on Fri Nov 13, 2009 6:10 pm Reply with quote

Why do these guys have such a love affair with making hardware? Why can't they just focus on making great software and let us use the mobile phone we want to use? I don't want to buy Garmin's Android phone. I want to buy the Droid and USE Garmin software. They addiction to making hardware will be their downfall in my opinion.


Des Moines, IA
United States

 
Posted by Darren on Fri Nov 13, 2009 6:25 pm Reply with quote

Indeed. Garmin's hardware expertise is in GPS and associated technology and not mobile phones.

That market is cut throat and to target it like this is foolhardy in my opinion. Much better that they concentrate on offering excellent GPS software for other manufacturers handsets instead.


Darren Griffin - Editor

 
Posted by jalan on Fri Nov 13, 2009 9:56 pm Reply with quote

That seems to be the consensus opinion of most things I read. So are we all shortsighted or are they? Can you imagine the internal arguments that have to be going on at Garmin about strategic direction? What if it is just one powerful guy calling the shots and everyone else is saying what we are?

Darren Wrote:
Indeed. Garmin's hardware expertise is in GPS and associated technology and not mobile phones.

That market is cut throat and to target it like this is foolhardy in my opinion. Much better that they concentrate on offering excellent GPS software for other manufacturers handsets instead.


Des Moines, IA
United States

 
Posted by X-mass on Sat Nov 14, 2009 12:53 am Reply with quote

Quote:
Android OS seems like a much more sensible choice than Linux


don't mean to burst any bubbles here but android is linux

Ok it uses a different windowing manager

but its like saying Ubuntu, Suse, chrome, android, Debian, Novell Linux,DSL are all different OS's

Linux btw is a close cousin of BSD Unix, which sits at the heart of another famous OS: Mac OSX


 
Posted by Darren on Sat Nov 14, 2009 8:55 am Reply with quote

OK fair point. Appreciate Android is Linux. I 'think' I meant it made more sense to use an existing platform designed with phones in mind rather than re-engineering from the ground up.


Darren Griffin - Editor

 
Posted by gatorguy6996 on Sat Nov 14, 2009 1:21 pm Reply with quote

The current nuviphone was originally Garmin's design. They took it to Asus and partnered probably because the devil was in the details and they were in over their heads. But by that point the features were set. Had the shareholders not been screaming, I don't think this particular model would ever have seen the light of day. The Droid version shouldn't have the same shortcomings since I would hope Asus took the lead on development. If it also is poorly received then I agree that Garmin should probably consider abandoning the phone hardware side. But IMO, that doesn't mean they should jump into mobile apps with both feet. Take the iPhone for example. Currently 12 different turn-by-turn nav apps. Most are very inexpensive since they've found a way to monetize location data or work advertising into the picture. Neither TomTom nor Navigon has any expertise in that area, and neither does Garmin. There's no way that the traditional navigation providers are going to be able to hold prices anywhere near the $100 range and still get more than a tiny market share. Yeah, there's still money to be made in mobile navigation, but not in the straightforward manner that the pnd companies are accustomed to. Here some of the smaller companies (and one great big one) have the advantage. They understand better how the whole game of advertising and mobile are tied together. Honestly I think Garmin has a chance to make just as much money with a phone as TomTom or Navigon will with just an app. None of the three are going to get rich doing it IMHO, without some very major changes and additions to the team. They're each out of their comfort zones.


Garmin 1695 / 255 / 760 w/MSN - Droid w/Google nav + Navigon - Navigon 8100T - Dakota10 - GPSMap76C - GeoMate Jr.

 
Posted by Darren on Sat Nov 14, 2009 2:05 pm Reply with quote

But if Garmin don't embrace mobile apps then they could find themselves missing out on a large market?

The development costs for all hardware is significant but I suspect that of smartphones is higher still than PNDs? So its high risk and low return.

PNDs will always have their place of course but as far as Smartphones go, I don't see the option of a dedicated phone running Garmin software being as attractive to buyers as other phones where the user can choose the solution they prefer as well as access to other apps.

If they do go with Android then perhaps that will answer some of the shortcomings as users should still have access to the Android Market, perhaps Garmin may even launch the app in the Android Market?

But I fear a bigger concern may be the unrealistic pricing of apps for iPhone and Android. Sub £50 price points cannot be realistic in the long term without very high sales volumes. None of the popular solutions available here in the UK have advertising or monetised location data services yet some maintain sub £30 price points.

This will be very damaging in the long term and has possibly been precipitated by the falling prices of PNDs which are also damaging the market.


Darren Griffin - Editor

 
Posted by gatorguy6996 on Sat Nov 14, 2009 8:57 pm Reply with quote

Well, here's where I think I see things going. With Google on the Droid's as the included free TBT app, and Telenav being the not-so-well-hidden provider for Sprint free included navigation, the other handset platforms will end up throwing in a free branded nav app of their own that still sets them apart from the others. WinMo and RIM won't play with Google and will roll out their own labeled nav apps included free and already in development. Symbian won't want to be on the same playground with Google either and will offer their own Navteq-based white label solution. Google's TBT app may end up on the iPhone only because Apple has no ready answer for an Apple-specific/included one yet. Once those things happen, the days of premium-priced mobile nav apps are over. Most buyers will probably just do with the manufacturer or platform-included solution and not nearly enough buyers will opt to spend significant money on a 3rd-party purchase to make it worthwhile to invest a lot of development money on rolling out improvements and upgrades, much less initial development costs. A few months ago I might have guessed at TomTom/TeleAtlas supplying a white-label nav solution to Apple, but I think the fleeting courtship may be over. Apple looks like they're in the process of developing their own mapping and location services. But the key to mobile profits for the traditional navigation players may be this: Partner with manufacturers, wireless networks or OS providers to be their de-facto nav app provider. Garmin, TomTom, Navigon, DeCarta, CoPilot and others should be positioning themselves for just that, putting away their established name-recognition/branding and instead being the "man behind the curtain". Not as glamorous, but potentially more profitable. Simply being a provider of a 3rd-party nav app is not going to be any long-term fix for what ails the pnd manufacturers. I don't see much of a future there.


Garmin 1695 / 255 / 760 w/MSN - Droid w/Google nav + Navigon - Navigon 8100T - Dakota10 - GPSMap76C - GeoMate Jr.

 
Posted by mikealder on Sat Nov 14, 2009 9:19 pm Reply with quote

gatorguy6996 Wrote:
A few months ago I might have guessed at TomTom/TeleAtlas supplying a white-label nav solution to Apple

Apple need to get some help with their GPS receiver first prior to getting external applications as the current (3G and 3GS) isn't very good when compared to what can be achieved within the confines of a Smart phone case, perhaps they should start looking at some HTC hardware specialists as they know how its done.
Lets face it TomTom, Navigon and Navmii are all selling or about to sell external GPS devices that work with the iPhone, sure these will also add the GPS navigation experiance to iPOD Touch owners but I very much doubt the manufacturers would be going after such a narrow market.

At the end of the day they need credible GPS performance in order to sell their software, its a shame additional hardware is needed, perhaps the Apple 5GSS or whatever they call it might resolve the issue, but for now millions of iPhone owners are using GPS technology that simply isn't up to standard other manufacturers are capable of providing.

If I could find an "Emoticon" for a slap on the wrist for posting this then I would have included it - Sure I have two iPhones and they are great devices, but as a GPS platform they are far from state of the art - Mike


 
Posted by gatorguy6996 on Sat Nov 14, 2009 9:31 pm Reply with quote

There's already better gps chipsets for mobile devices and I would hope Apple takes a look at them before making another "hammerhead" move. I was actually very surprised to see them stick with the same chipset from the last generation iPhone with a newer and much better performing Infineon chip available when the 3GS was released. So much for cutting-edge design.


Garmin 1695 / 255 / 760 w/MSN - Droid w/Google nav + Navigon - Navigon 8100T - Dakota10 - GPSMap76C - GeoMate Jr.

 
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