Garmin and Asus to show off Nuvifones

A year ago, the Nuvifone's Ciao feature may have carried the day, but today it's unlikely to get shell-shocked consumers to run to the Garmin-Asus creation.

This was originally published at ZDNet's Between the Lines.

Garmin and Asus next week will show off two Nuvifones--smartphones with a GPS twist--but the larger question is whether pro-consumers will buy it.

Garmin-Asus is a co-branded partnership with Garmin and Asus parent Asustek Computer. The duo will show off the Nuvifone G60 and M20 at the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week.

Here's a look at the G60:

Nuvifone G60

The photos look intriguing, but I can't get past a few realities:

• The economy stinks;
• The smartphone market is crowded;
• The Nuvifone runs on Windows Mobile and aside from a few perks resembles every other Microsoft-powered phone;
• Pricing details and carrier partners won't be revealed until later in the first half of 2009;
• And there's not a lot new unless you really want location based services.

The G60 has a large touchscreen and various location-based services. The most important feature for both the G60 and M20 is something called Ciao, which allows users to track their friends' locations. In other words, Ciao is Google Latitude with a little more horsepower.

On the bright side, Garmin is hitting its revised timelines with the Nuvifone, but delays have put the smartphone in a tough spot.

Among other G60 specs:

• Full HTML web browser;
• Wi-Fi enabled;
• Supports POP3 and IMAP e-mail;
• Touchscreen and soft keyboard;
• 3-megapixel camera with direct access to geolocated landmarks;
• A calling feature that allows users to place and emergency call and identify their GPS location.

Add it up and the entire decision to buy the Nuvifone boils down to how much you value GPS in your phone.

Here's a look at the M20:

Nuvifone M20

Garmin-Asus said in a statement re the M20:

The GPS features of the nuvifone M20 usher in a level of sophistication never seen before on a Windows Mobile smartphone. It has the navigation capability of a premium Garmin nuvi sat nav, and comes with preloaded maps and points of interest (POIs) - hotels, restaurants, stores, fuel stations and more - for North America, Eastern and Western Europe, or other regions. Selecting a destination is straightforward and requires limited input from the user. For example, users can search for a destination by typing in the specific name or address of an establishment, search by category, or navigate to addresses in the nuvifone M20's contact database or on the web. The device then gives turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions and automatically recalculates if a turn is missed along the way. In addition, the nuvifone includes quick access to online points of interest through internet enabled local search.

That's a mouthful, but you really have to be a big fan of GPS to take a gamble on the Nuvifone M20 or G60. Garmin-Asus say that there are various connected services on the Nuvifone including real-time traffic, weather and white pages.

A year ago, the Nuvifone's Ciao feature may have carried the day, but today it's unlikely to get shell-shocked consumers to run to the Garmin-Asus creation.