With some 45 million people expected to buy automotive navigation devices this year -- not to mention upgrading to a smartphone -- T-Mobile USA saw a new opportunity.
The Bellevue, Wash.-based wireless company is preparing to launch its first "Garminfone," combining an Android-based smartphone with a Garmin voice navigation system.
"It's really about getting both of those in one," said Saj Sahay, T-Mobile's director of product marketing and innovation.
A price hasn't been set yet for the phone, which will go on sale in late spring.
Made by Asus, the 3G device has a 3.5-inch screen, 3 megapixel camera, GPS, dash mounting bracket and driving, walking and public transit maps for North America stored on the device.
Because maps are on the phone, rather than streamed over the Web, the navigation system will work even in areas where there is no wireless signal, using GPS, according to Sahay.
That also differentiates the phone from other Android devices that come with Google's Web-based navigation system.
There won't be additional service fees for the Garmin service but the company will charge for additional maps, and more frequent updates of the U.S. map than the one annual free update provided with the phone.
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