Garmin announces nüvi 3500 GPS, Smartphone Link for Android

Garmin nüvi 3500 GPS series

Consumers’ embrace of smartphones is taking a bite out of many electronics categories—like point-and-shoot cameras, MP3 players, and GPS units. However, GPS maker Garmin is convinced there’s still a market for dedicated navigation systems, today announcing its new flagship nüvi 3500 GPS series. The units sport a large 5-inch touchscreen display, a super-slim design, and are packed with premium features like Digital 3D Traffic and Garmin’s latest Guidance 3.0 navigation engine to make route selection and changes more efficient than ever. Plus, the nüvi 3500 series will be compatible with Garmin’s new Smartphone Link app for Android, which enables Bluetooth-enabled Garmin navigation units to tap into things like traffic camera images, weather, and local fuel prices via a smartphone’s data plan. Even better for GPS users tired of being dinged for subscription services and fees just to keep using their devices—the price of Digital 3D Traffic service and free lifetime map updates are built into the device cost—no subscription required.

“The nüvi 3500 series rounds out Garmin’s 2012 line up of PNDs as the most full-featured, top tier navigators,” said Garmin’s worldwide sales president Dan Bartel, in a statement. “This series offers it all, from the thin and stylish form factor and large display to the most premium capabilities like Digital 3D Traffic and Smartphone Link compatibility”

The nüvi 3500’s Guidance 3.0 navigation engine is faster and more intuitive than previous versions, and builds in lane assist with Garmin’s photoReal junction view to help users through routes with realistic road signs and clear indications of what lane drivers need to use to get to their destinations. Garmin’s junction view feature now images nearly 60,000 junctions in the U.S. and Canada, which the company says is about 25 times more views than previous nüvi models. In the U.S., nüvi 3500 users get free access to Digital 3D Traffic (which the GPS pulls in via the HD Radio broadcasting system) to receive traffic updates as often as every 30 seconds. Altogether—across participating nüvvi owners, cell phone users, radio feeds, and other traffic data sources—the Digital 3D Traffic system checks conditions up to two billion times a month to identify and forecast patterns in traffic flow and take them into account in route planning.

The nüvi 3500 series will feature two units: the nüvi 3590LMT will sport Bluetooth (so it can be used with Smartphone Link for Android), along with voice-activated navigation, and free Digital 3D Traffic updates from the HD Radio system. The nü 3550LM will ship with free lifetime map updates. The nüvi 3590LMT will carry a suggested retail price of $399.99; the nüvi 3550LM will have a suggested price of $369.99. Both should be available in February.

Garmin Smartphone Link for Android is basically Garmin’s answer to deciding whether or not to build mobile data capabilities into their GPS units: they figure, why bother when so many GPS users are already carrying around a mobile-enabled device anyway? Smartphone Link enables Bluetooth-enabled nüvi GPS units to pair with an Android smartphone and use the smartphone’s data plan to get things like local weather and fuel prices, along with things like traffic cam images, news, and other information—and instead of being locked in a phone (which is safely in a console or in a pocket, not being used while driving, right?) the information is displays safely on the nüvi’s large color display.

The Smartphone Link app for Android is free; however, the services it taps into are not. Want live traffic information? That’s $19.99 a year. Live traffic camera images? $9.99 per year. Fuel prices and weather information? $9.99 and $4.99 per year, respectively. Altogether, that’s $50 a year, not counting use of your mobile data plan. Tempted? Check out Garmin’s promotional video: