Garmin-Asus launches first Windows Mobile smartphone

The Nuvifone M20 will cost NT$17,900 (US$544) in Taiwan and will soon launch elsewhere

Garmin-Asus, the mobile phone joint venture between GPS device maker Garmin and electronics vendor Asustek Computer, launched its first smartphone with the Windows Mobile operating system on Wednesday in Taiwan.

The Nuvifone M20, which has a 2.8-inch touchscreen and runs Microsoft's Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, will be sold in by Taiwan's largest phone company, Chunghwa Telecom, the companies said. The smartphones are also currently available in Hong Kong and will soon launch in Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, with a debut in Europe later this year.

The M20 is aimed at business users and will cost around NT$17,900 (US$544), but the price will depend on the service contract a customer signs with Chunghwa Telecom. The phone network operator also sells the iPhone and two smartphones from High Tech Computer (HTC) with Google's Android mobile operating system.

Garmin-Asus first announced the smartphone at the Mobile World Congress in February.

The M20 sports a 3.0-megapixel camera as well as 4GB of flash memory to store photos, songs and more. The handset also carries mobile versions of Microsoft's Office software and includes push e-mail. It offers a variety of wireless connections, including 2G and 3G as well as Wi-Fi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 2.0.

Garmin-Asus debuted its first smartphone product last month in Taipei, the Nuvifone G60, which has a 3.55-inch touchscreen and a Linux operating system developed by Garmin-Asus. The G60 is designed more as a personal navigation device inside a smartphone.

The two smartphones have been designed with location-based services via GPS in mind and use navigation software from Garmin, one of the most popular GPS device makers in the U.S.

Location-based services on both handsets include Garmin maps and software that display information including points of interest, friends' homes and the best route to take to avoid traffic. They are also designed to deliver locally relevant information to people, including movie times, nearby restaurants and more. The company expects one of the most popular features in Taipei to be the locations of nearby parking lots, which are difficult to find in the city.

The new handsets also have geotagging for photos. Pictures taken using the onboard digital cameras of the two Nuvifones will automatically be tagged with date, time and location data.

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Dan Nystedt

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