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printed October 25, 2014
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Review: Garmin Asus Garminfone

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Navigation

The Garmin Asus Garminfone offer a nice assortment of navigation features, keeping it on par with a dedicated portable navigation device. Many of these features can be found on other platforms, but I've never seen a mobile phone that presents these features with such polish. Ironically, the platform that comes closest to Garmin's own features is Google's Android, and Android even makes up for a few minor shortcomings in the Garminfone. Pairing Garmin's navigation prowess with Google's already impressive location-based features makes for the best navigation phone on the market.

First of all, the Garminfone offers basic maps and turn-by-turn navigation. You can search for a specific address, perform a local search in Google from within the navigation app, or browse Garmin's extensive Points of Interest database. If you happen to have specific GPS coordinates, you can enter them directly. From the nav app, you can also search for upcoming events in your area, check gas prices or view local photos supplied by Panoramio.

Once you've started your trip, the Garminfone provides a clean interface that's easy to read on the 3.5-inch screen even while mounted to your windshield or dashboard. The phone offers walking or driving directions for every trip. It will check traffic and perform local searches along your route. In an emergency, you can also tap the screen and the Garminfone will help you find the nearest hospital, police station, gas station or car repair shop. Overall, the phone feels much more like a dedicated navigation device than a tacked on bit of feature phone software, like VZ Navigator.

During your trip, the main menu changes a bit, adding a "detour" and "stop" option to the scrolling column on the right side of the screen. When you've arrived at your destination, the Garminfone can automatically remember your parking location, you don't have to use a separate app or even ask it to mark the spot.

The Garminfone comes with a nice selection of voices in English and Spanish, even offering a range of accents, like male and female voices with American, British or Australian accents. If you don't like the digitized voices, you can record your own navigation instructions using the Garmin Voice Studio. The phone walks you through a series of phrases, and in a few minutes you'll be telling yourself to "enter the roundabout." You can even share your voice pack or download new packs from Garmin's Web site.

If you have a more complicated trip in mind, the Garminfone offers a Routes app, which lets you input multiple destinations for a multi-stop trip. If you want to lend the phone to your teenager, you can also set the navigation app to lock up when the car is moving, so drivers won't get distracted fiddling with the nav controls.

 

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Location-based Apps

Besides the extensive navigation features, Garmin Asus also includes a few local search apps, as well. There's a Movie Times app, but it doesn't let you buy tickets, and I prefer the free Flixster app from the Google App Market. There's a weather app that gets the forecast for your location. There's even a flight status app that finds local airports and lets you check the status of flights.

The Garminfone comes with a Ciao app for the Ciao location based social network. It's not a network I'm familiar with. Though T-Mobile's documentation claims that Ciao can help update a variety of social networks with location data, this is simply not true. The only network you can update is Ciao. If you're so inclined, the Garminfone includes a link in every address book listing that lets you send an invite to that contact to join Ciao. I didn't invite any friends, but I did receive spam invites during my testing time with Garminfone. Seems intrusive to me, so I just downloaded Foursquare from the App Market and used that instead with no trouble.

 

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