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Why the Nuvifone Failed


It is pretty simple. Garmin tried to sell a smartphone based on a single application. People instead purchase smartphones based on the entire ecosystem of apps available for each platform. While you can add other apps to the Nuvifone just like any other smartphone, you can more easily add a good navigation app to any other smartphone on the market. People did, and will continue to do so. Doesn’t matter how good the Nuvifone was or how good the navigation was.

9 Responses

  1. Not so sure. The Garminfone was pretty nice. IMHO, some big issues were slow development & carrier acquisition, saddling it with a custom UI, and delivering outdated OS’s like Android 1.6. They had a huge built-in audience of Garmin fans who were yet to buy their first smartphone. That could have given them pretty big market share, but they executed poorly and the opportunity is gone.

    Rich Owings - October 28th, 2010
  2. Their timing was certainly the biggest problem, in my estimation. The navigation-on-smartphone steamroller had largely passed Garmin by by the time they got this to market.

    I’d respectfully argue your point, Rich, about the built-in Garmin audience. Believe me when I say that, from close personal experience, average consumer PND owners want to buy ONE PND and be done with it. They hate map and software updates. All the Garmin owners in the US is not enough to make a big dent in the smartphone game, and they would never be able to get all those people anyway because they already HAVE a navigation device.

    Don’t get me wrong, Garmin had the absolute right idea at the time. However, their R&D and production delays went right through the tectonic shift in the mobile market that the Navigons and TomToms of the world played a little better. I’m not judging them on quality of product, rather, business sense to participate in, rather than invent, the platform.

    My 2.07 yen.

    Brad Schwarzenbach - October 28th, 2010
    • Agreed that it was more timing than anything. But add the poor press they received with their initial phone release. Many minds were already made up before the subsequent Android version was released. It never had a chance, but not due to it being a poor smartphone. FWIW, I’m not convinced most smartphone buyers make their purchasing decision based on specific apps available for that platform. I feel it’s more press coverage, advertising, and the current “cool factor” (Apple knows that). The Garmin phones never got cool status, even tho the latest iteration got props for it’s navigation and overall improvements from the original. As for Garmin missing out on the app markets, does anyone think that TomTom has made much on it’s efforts so far? As little as 6 months ago they had grossed less than $8 million on app sales themselves. (based on announced app deliveries of approx 100,000 units.) Throw in even a very generous 50,000 car docks and I can’t see more than $25 million in gross revenue attributed to the iPhone market. Certainly not the volume that TomTom expected based on all the press leading up to their nav app release. IMO, the efforts of both Garmin and TomTom to monetize the fast expanding mobile market have been underwhelming so far. And I think both companies are looking well beyond smartphone app stores in their quest for future market relevance. Personally I think it would have been a mistake for Garmin not to have tested the mobile hardware waters. Who could know for certain how this would play out 18 months ago? All in all probably a relatively inexpensive adventure. They still have product that will hit stores as wi-fi connected pnds, mitigating some hardware costs. And looks like they learned a thing or two about building sleek, good performing nav devices in the process, helping them maintain their market lead over their primary competitor, at least in the near future.

      Gatorguy - October 28th, 2010
  3. I have installed Garmin Mobile XT as a must have In my phones and my family coming from Palm OS devices, to Windows Mobile, to Symbian, Garmin all but abandoned this mutiplatform position they had before in favor of the new garminphone models.
    One Problem Garmin, and many other manufacturers have, in my opinion, is the carrier exclusivity and no unlocked phones that can be used internationally, I know this is somewhat common in the US, and may keep phone prices down, but for many people overseas and in many countries this turns costumers away.

    Jose Badilla - October 28th, 2010
  4. All you have to do is ask Garmin own employees why they don’t use their own Garminfone for work? The GPS application might be ok or even good, but the rest of the features cannot compete with an iPhone.

    Sad to say, it’s like GoodYear, Sony, Panasonic, Pioneer, Alpine etc trying to enter the PND business, they failed too.

    Stick to what you do best and come up with something that everybody wants would be the secret to their success. Apple did and it worked!

    James - October 30th, 2010
    • Actually, apple is only so successful BECAUSE they broke into another market. If not for the iPod, apple would be yet another bankrupt tech company.

      John - May 17th, 2011
  5. Typical of Garmin support, Android 2.1 started rolling out to TMobile Garminfone customers last night. Too late to change market decisions, yet good to see they aren’t forgotten.

    gatorguy - November 13th, 2010
  6. If it worked on Verizon (At/t dont work well in Santa Cruz, and has poor business practices), eliminate the Nuvi-Phone, even with no support of other Droid applications.

    Bruce - December 4th, 2010
  7. Smartphone is a risky and expensive market to enter.
    I would rather be able to get an app from Garmin, That I buy once put on a smart phone, and update maps when home to use without expensive data service for boating, hiking, driving, flying for my Windows, Windows mobile, Android or Iphone OS device.

    Smartphone will have a big shakedown and only a dozen or so major devices will survive. Just bank on Android, Apple, and Windows Mobile surviving through it.

    Los - April 13th, 2011

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