Garmin Nuvifone G60 GPS Phone Review: Do Not Buy

Illustration for article titled Garmin Nuvifone G60 GPS Phone Review: Do Not Buy

Garmin makes the best portable navigators out there. Millions of people, including me, are fans. But following notoriously lengthy delays, the first Nuvifone should have been euthanized, not put on AT&T shelves next to the iPhone—for $100 more.

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The Nuvifone G60 GPS phone is out this week for $300, an absurdly high price for even a smartphone in this age. But the Nuvifone is not a smartphone, not even a clever one.

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What's Bad

• The resistive touchscreen reminds me of phones circa 2006, bad for everything but big-button tapping.

• There's no homescreen button, to quickly take you out of a mire of menus.

• It's crashy—screens froze twice while I was writing this, forcing a full-on hard restart.

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• Sometimes the accelerometer just stops working completely.

• The camera is terrible—if the hardware button required for the shutter even works—and there's no video of any kind.

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• The web browser is all but useless, because it relies heavily on zooming in and out, and the touchscreen easily confuses swiping and tapping.

• The interface looks cool at first, but there are strange design choices throughout. Want an example? The QWERTY keyboard only appears in horizontal mode—it's ABCDE in vertical mode. Also, no "Where To?" button, a la older Nuvi devices.

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• You have to pay a $5/month premium charge to check the weather, traffic, local events and other services—all of which can be found on free apps from real smartphone platforms (not just iPhone).

• Even when using email (let alone calendar), there doesn't seem to be any awareness of the rest of the internet: The email wizard lets you enter any address and password, but it doesn't say whether it can actually get mail. This tenacious little phone is still trying to log onto my Hotmail account.

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• The battery ran down completely during my first day of testing, after a few phone calls and some modest GPS navigation, and the battery indicator drops fast when it's just on standby. In fairness, you shouldn't use this phone or any other phone without a car charger, if you intend to use it for GPS navigation.

• There is no car charger. It's missing the $7 USB-to-cig-lighter adapter. AT&T probably wanted to sell it separately, but when I asked at my local AT&T store, they didn't even carry it.

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• Since it's an AT&T phone, it has to compete with the iPhone and other handsets that are way better. If the Nuvifone were on Verizon, it would at least have a network advantage in certain markets that it could lord over the iPhone herd. But even Apple haters would have a hard time spending an extra $100 on this—with the exact same phone reception.

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The Verdict

Unlike most reviews, this verdict isn't for you. If you made it to the end of the headline, you already know what to do. But because I care, I thought I'd say something to the makers:

Garmin: Please get your act together in the phone space. You have two choices: Either make tidy useful navigation apps for the major platforms, or make real phones. There's no such thing as a PND that also makes phone calls (though I think that was the original plan for the G60).

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You are great in your field, but even teamed with Asus, you aren't better than the lowliest phone maker, so you have to play catchup: Pick a mobile OS and stick with it. Skip Windows Mobile (for now) and make a serious push into Android. To do that, you'll have to see what everyone else is doing. Don't just set yourself up to lose in the end to an HTC running a TeleNav or TomTom app. You're good at making tough hardware, so why not differentiate with a rugged outdoor Android smartphone?

I urge you to re-consider your premature departure from the mobile app business. Garmin brand equity would sell a lot of iPhone apps, especially if they came with the Nuvi interface most people love more than TomTom's or Navigon's. It may bruise the ego a bit to focus on software instead of hardware, but I just don't see how successful you can be by doing what everyone else is doing, only later and worse. I didn't mean to be this harsh, but I also didn't expect the G60 to be so bad.

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In Brief

Illustration for article titled Garmin Nuvifone G60 GPS Phone Review: Do Not Buy
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The home screen is cool for a dumbphone, with three major buttons and a slider of auxiliary options

Illustration for article titled Garmin Nuvifone G60 GPS Phone Review: Do Not Buy
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The navigational experience I have enjoyed on regular Nuvis is here, almost completely intact, but since you can already get that without buying this phone, it's not a major plus

Illustration for article titled Garmin Nuvifone G60 GPS Phone Review: Do Not Buy
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See above—like, every single word of this piece

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DISCUSSION

Well one thing is being forgotten here, the general rule that with many things "build it and they will buy."

The "they" I am referring to is the everyday consumer who does not get into the level of detail that your review covers.

IMHO 90% of the consumer market buys phones with the idea that they 1) look cool; 2) are simple to operate; and 3) actually make calls.

The rest of it is stuff that Joe consumer does not give a rip about. (Back when I bought my Blackberry Pearl, in 2006, I was shocked a year later to find out that three of my friends who also had Pearls had not used the camera or accessed the Net. By that time I had hacked it, shot video, colored the trackball, etc.)

I doubt Joe consumer cares about the phone's OS, the history of WinMo or other aspects of this phone. If there are crashes, yes, that is a concern. But I am sure that issue will be addressed with a firmware update.

As I understand the concept behind this device, it is a Garmin NAV with the added benefit of a phone. Your criticisms cover a lot of things (functions) the Garmin is not intending to be. And it is NOT meant to compete with an iPhone or multi-media smartphones.

E.g., the camera is more an after-thought, tossed in because it's so easy and inexpensive to include a camera. However, the camera is not a main feature of this device. Fact is, while few people use cell phone cameras, it is on the list of things some people ask about. So being able to say "Oh yes, it has a camera" will cinch the sale, but after that, Garmin knows, the camera lens will collect dust, never to be thought about again by the happy consumer.

With this reality, why put a higher spec camera on the phone. When selling to the mass market who cares that a self-declared amateur photographer opines that the camera takes lousy pics. Such opinions just don't matter when trying to sell to the 200 million handset purchasers who will never bother to find out how to use the camera feature.

IMHO the device succeeds where it is supposed to, a NAV/phone combo. No one is going to care that it is missing video capability. Why? Because it's a NAV system that also functions as a phone.

Personally, I prefer to run with my dedicated Garmin Nuvi NAV and have a separate smartphone. This is because on either device if I tried to add in what the other device provides, well as the saying goes on that TV game show, "That's too much."

And I also like redundancy. Backup systems galore is my motto. I would not want to place and entrust all functions into one device. That's like the old days where people had a TV with a built-in VCR (later DVD). When (not if) the VCR crapped out, one was left with "half a device" so to speak.

My 22 cents.