If you've been following the story of the Garmin Nuvifone at all, you know it hasn't been the smoothest of rides. After being announced in January 2008, the launch of Garmin's first smartphone was delayed time and time again, and we had all but given up on the device. Still, when word officially came that the Garmin Nuvifone G60 would be offered by AT&T starting October 4, we were eager to try it out.
The advantage of the Garmin Nuvifone G60 over the other GPS-enabled smartphones is that it comes with preloaded maps and voice-guided directions right out of the box, so there's no need to add a location-based service subscription. Not surprisingly, given Garmin's 20 years of experience in the GPS market and the company's history of excellent portable navigation devices (PNDs), the Nuvifone G60 excels as a navigator, but unfortunately, it falls flat on its face as a smartphone. The Linux-based smartphone offers the basics, such as e-mail, calendar, and document viewing, and even comes with an HTML Web browser and all the wireless options. However, the capabilities of each is limited and there are user interface and system problems.
The Nuvifone G60 feels like a half-finished product, which really shouldn't be the case since it's taken two years to come out. At $299.99 with a two-year contract, you'd be better off getting one of AT&T's other GPS-enabled smartphones and adding its TeleNav Navigator service. We hope Garmin's other Nuvifone models will be better, but we also can't help but wonder if the company would be better off designing an app for smartphones rather than coming out with its own hardware.
The Garmin Nuvifone G60 has a plain but clean design. Cloaked in a black soft-touch finish, the G60 measures 4.4 inches tall by 2.3 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick and weighs 4.8 ounces, so it's a bit bulky and not the most pocket-friendly device. Of course, it has to be a certain size to make it a viable navigation option in the car, but we would have preferred something slightly slimmer. On the positive side, the phone has a very solid construction and looks like it could survive a tumble, not that we recommend that you be rough with the device.
The G60 features a 3.5-inch, 65,000-color touch screen with a 272x480 resolution. It's not the sharpest display we've seen, so images and text don't look quite as smooth. However, it's still clear and bright enough for viewing maps and the like. You can adjust the brightness and like regular PNDs, you can choose from day and night map colors or just select auto to have it adjust automatically.
The display has a built-in accelerometer but unfortunately, it's very temperamental. During our testing period, there were numerous times when the screen wouldn't change orientation after we rotated the phone from a vertical to horizontal position and vice versa. It was frustrating, especially when we used the device as handheld navigator.
The user interface of the Nuvifone G60 looks easy enough at first glance. On the left, you'll find shortcuts to the main functions of the phone: Call, Search, and View Map. Meanwhile, the right side features a sliding menu of all the smartphone's other apps, such as contacts, calendar, e-mail, Web browser, music player, and so forth. As we said, it seems straightforward enough at the beginning, but after using the device, we found some inconsistencies and navigation problems that just made for a bad user experience.
For example, there's no dedicated home key, so exiting out of a program to get back to the main menu can require multiple taps of the onscreen back button, especially as you get deeper into the submenus. Also, the onscreen keyboard, though pretty easy to use, is only offered in QWERTY format in landscape mode, while the portrait keyboard is in ABC format and can't be changed. It all just makes the Nuvifone feel unpolished and half-baked.
There's isn't much else to the phone's design, as the Garmin Nuvifone G60 doesn't have many physical keys. There's a power button on top of the device, while you'll find a volume rocker and a camera activation/capture button on the right. A microSD expansion slot and a mini USB port reside on the left side; when turned horizontally, the left side becomes the bottom of the device where you can attach the included car cradle.
In addition to the vehicle mount (both windshield and dash), AT&T packages the Garmin Nuvifone G60 with an AC adapter, a USB cable, and reference material. Unfortunately and much to our annoyance, there's no car charger included in the box, so you'll have to purchase one, though it'll work if you have a car charger with a mini USB connector. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
If you've ever used one of Garmin's PNDs before, the Nuvifone G60's navigation features will look and feel familiar to you. The device comes preloaded with maps of North America and offers a points of interest (POI) database containing millions of entries in categories ranging from lodging, food, and shopping to landmarks and entertainment venues. Garmin and AT&T also offer some additional connected services, such as Yellowpages.com for business searches, Flight Status to see departure/arrival times and gate numbers, and Ciao, Garmin's location-based social networking app.