Garmin-Asus announces its first Android handset

Brings Garmin’s navigation know-how to Android

GOOGLE’S ANDROID operating system for Smartphone’s is spreading to just about every device manufacturer out there and Garmin-Asus is the latest company to announce a handset running Android. The A50 is somewhat different from your average Android handset though, much as Garmin-Asus’ past efforts, as it focuses on navigation and location based services.

The A50 itself shares its basic design with previous devices from Garmin-Asus, although it appears to be a lot slimmer and it also sports a single square button at the front, somewhat similar to the iPhone. Feature-wise it’s similar to many current Android devices as it sports a large-ish capacitive 3.5-inch HVGA screen which offers 480×320 pixels resolution. Garmin-Asus hasn’t revealed which CPU the A50 features. It has 4GB of internal storage that can be complimented by microSD cards.

You also get a few other features such as a 3 Megapixel camera, an accelerometer and of course a GPS receiver, and the A50 is rumoured to be using Qualcomm’s gpsOne platform. A car mount and in-car charger are also supplied with the A50. It is also said to be running Android 1.6 which is somewhat disappointing considering there are already 2.0 and 2.1 devices in the market, but hopefully we’ll see an update coming in the not too distant future once the A50 launches.

Garmin-Asus has also kitted out the A50 with its own finger friendly custom UI, much the same as on its previous devices. The navigation UI on Garmin-Asus’ G60 and M20 was pretty good and hopefully the A50 builds on this. Garmin has something of a reputation for making decent GPS navigation devices so it’s no wonder that the A50 is focusing heavily on its navigation features as the main selling point. It not only relies on GPS signals, but it also triangulates its position using cell tower information and appears to have a digital compass to boot.

The A50 also comes pre-loaded with maps, so there’s no need to download any maps while on the go, although the press release isn’t clear as to which maps are included as standard. Support for turn-by-turn navigation and voice prompting are standard features, as well as lane assist and pedestrian navigation mode. There’s also support for Garmin’s cityXplorer maps which include public transport information, although this is an optional download. As an extra bonus, Garmin-Asus has pre-loaded the A50 with a few apps that might come in handy such as weather, traffic and safety camera information.

The full details of the Garmin-Asus A50 should be unveiled next week at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), although it won’t actually launch until later this year. The press release states a first half 2010 launch date for Europe with other markets to follow. Pricing has yet to be announced as well, although so far Garmin-Asus has priced its navigation devices fairly keenly. The Windows Mobile 6.5.3 powered Garmin-Asus M10 is also set to be shown off at MWC, although it’s already available for purchase in Taiwan for about $430.S|A

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