GPS Device: Now with WiFi, Android OS (same as a smartphone)

It costs more than many notebook or tablet computers. But for $649 Garmin thinks it has “taken the outdoor GPS to a whole new level” with its Monterra, announced today.

The top-of-the-line rugged device is WiFi-enabled and runs on the Android OS, the same operating system ubiquitous in untold millions of smartphones. It comes to market in the fall.

The Monterra is Garmin’s first WiFi-enabled outdoor handheld GPS. This feature lets you sync the GPS device with a wireless network to download device updates, Android apps, route data, and also to transfer files from the device’s internal memory to a folder on a computer or online.

Users can access the Google Play Store and download apps through a WiFi connection.

(See higher-res images of the Monterra on page 2 of this post)

Software advancements are balanced by hardware improvements like a waterproof body and a “sunlight-readable” screen. The screen is made of glass that ostensibly lets sunlight help it to “glow” more in the daytime. For the night, there’s an LED backlight.

To sum it up, Garmin cites the Monterra as combining GPS “location and mapping capabilities” with the versatility of the Android operating system. Additional features include:

> Touchscreen control

> FM radio

> NOAA weather radio

> Compass with accelerometer and gyro sensors

> Barometric altimeter

> Built-in UV sensor (so users can monitor the intensity of the sun)

> 8-megapixel camera

> 1080p HD video camera

> 8 GB of internal memory

> MicroSD slot (for extra storage)

> Rechargeable Li-ion pack (included)

> Works with AA batteries as well

> ANT+ and Bluetooth wireless compatibility

The unit will ship this fall to stores at a suggested retail price of $649.99. A $699.99 version comes with preloaded topo maps.

Will GPS junkies put down the serious cash for this serious device? We’re drooling over the Monterra’s feature set and love that Android is now incorporated in a device category that has long been proprietary and closed to open development.

Garmin notes that developers are “free to create new apps that are ideally suited for the rugged, waterproof, and sensor-loaded handheld device.” Should be fun to watch and see what software designers and GPS geeks come up with as devices like the Monterra begin to grab hold.

—Stephen Regenold

(See higher-res images of the Monterra on page 2 of this post)

Posted by Brett - 06/24/2013 01:28 PM

This is not a good idea.. Why? Because Android crashes all the time.. this device may be what your life depends on.. I use the 62 series. all you need is for this to crash on you when your 20 miles or more out. I have a tablet that is USELESS for off road map use.. I have tried over and over again.. Perhaps Garmin should release an Android application Software GPS system first and work out the bugs.. Depend on this, not without a backup.

Posted by spf - 06/24/2013 03:35 PM

Ok, so it’s an Android smartphone, with a nice protective cover… not exactly something that costs $649 today !

Posted by KC - 06/24/2013 10:18 PM

Purpose built software is expensive to develop and maintain. Garmin’s trying to evolve in these times with GPS and ANT+ enabled smartphones. They tried their hand at the smartphone market with nuvifone awhile back… Building on a platform with other developers will make the device more appealing… Strava, MapMyRide, etc.

Regarding the comment about price, unsubsidized smartphones have similar MSRPs… Check the prices of unlocked/unbranded iPhone 5 or Samsung S4. $500+ easily.

Android has been pretty stable for the last few years… Skinned Android can introduce lag and customization issues. An app to test out the software would be a great idea, but would be suicide for Garmin’s hardware business.

Tough place to be… hope they make it in the GPS business over the next few years. Smartwatches with barometers, ANT+ and BT might be the future. See: KREYOS campaign

Posted by MWL - 06/28/2013 09:16 PM

What is the screen size, weight, and battery life?

Posted by willy - 09/28/2013 03:51 AM

I still think the best combo would be for Garmin to JV with one of the satellite radio companies (Sirius?) and provide color weather overlays for your exact position.

Posted by willy - 09/28/2013 03:54 AM

Hey, how about an unvarnished review of some Fjallraven products?

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