Sunday, March 18, 2012

Garmin Smartphone Link uses your phone’s data plan to bring live services to your nuvi

Garmin Smartphone Link

I thought we might see this. Like your PND and have a smartphone with unlimited data? Garmin is ready to siphon data from your carrier, bucks from your wallet, and deliver connected services to your nuvi.

The new Smartphone Link app is free in the Android Market and includes several free connected services, including live weather and software update notifications. Of course, Garmin is quite happy for you to pony up more for advanced weather, fuel prices, live traffic and photoLive traffic cameras. Another nice feature is the ability to send addresses from your phone to your nuvi.

The app works with all Bluetooth enabled 2012 Garmin PNDs – the nüvi 2475LT, 2495LMT, 2595LMT, 3490LMT – as well as the new 3590LMT. Except for the latter, all models will require a software update available at

Here’s a video, and the full news release.


About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.


  1. offthegrid says:

    That Garmin link states “includes several free Garmin Live Services”

    Any idea what those are?

  2. offthegrid says:

    I missed this –

    “Additional services coming soon!”

  3. Yeah, that was initially my impression until I double-checked the Garmin Tracker Android app. I’ve asked a Garmin contact for clarification.

  4. offthegrid says:

    Apparently connected searching is done through the smartphone and then transferred to the gps manually. Not very smoothy imo.

    While this is guaranteed to work because it’s an app I wonder if a normal bluetooth link would work with some tweaking.

  5. Okay, I heard back. It does not currently offer any Garmin Tracker capabilities but they are looking into it.

  6. TheOfficeMaven says:

    WOW! Apparently there’s a LOT more awesomeness going on under the hood of Garmin’s Smartphone Link than they’re letting on. Way to go Garmin!

    Garmin Smartphone Link – Revolutionary (undocumented) Power Brought to the PND

    BTW, as someone who really dislikes Apple, I’m totally elated that all this goodness has come to the Android platform only (at least initially anyway). I’m sure an Apple version will follow soon, but it’s great to finally see something cool come to a smartphone platform besides Apple for once. Kudos Garmin!!!

  7. I assume you need bluetooth tethering to use this with a phone? If so, not sure how attractive it will be to iPhone users. It’s an added option that isn’t included in the unlimited data plan that I have. I checked the costs when AT&T rolled out tethering with the iPhone 4 a couple years ago. It wasn’t cheap…

    • I just emailed a contact at Garmin to ask about this. My guess is that, on Android at least, it won’t for basic services. But if you start pulling a lot of data, well, good question!

  8. offthegrid says:

    I can’t see this using a lot of data but if it’s considered tethering that is usually a separate fee aside from a data plan.

    • I asked “do you know if use of the Garmin Smartphone Link app will require you to have a tethering plan?”

      And just got this reply from Carly Baltes of Garmin – “No, it will not. It will just need a Bluetooth connection between the device and phone. “

  9. Will use of the app conflict with use of the bluetooth integrated into a vehicles audio system?

    • Possibly. I researched this a bit and the answer isn’t clear, but I *think* the phone would need to have two Bluetooth radios in order to connect to two devices simultaneously.

  10. Rich, on the iPhone I don’t think you can establish a bluetooth data connection on the iPhone unless you have a tethering plan. Don’t know, since it never really interested me (and the Garmin app still doesn’t interest me). Wouldn’t AT&T have a similar usage policy for other kinds of smartphones?

    Guess we’ll have to wait for some user feedback. If you are accessing the internet from an external device connected to your phone, isn’t that the very definition of “tethering”?…

  11. Looks like the program requires you to “jailbreak” the iPhone – in other words, hack it to give you full access to the operating system. Apple feels that this violates your terms of use but I think the legality may be a grey area. It is certainly not something that a regular consumer would want to do and I couldn’t believe that a company like Garmin would expect users to do that.

    Beyond that, AT&T might consider this theft of service, since you would be hacking your phone to gain access to a feature that they normally charge for.

    • offthegrid says:

      AT&T is allowing this App on Android so why not allow this App on the iPhone?

      Talk about a closed architecture. You buy a phone and the manufacturer tells you what is acceptable use.

      • TheOfficeMaven says:

        Ha! That’s exactly why, to put it in Boyd’s words, the iPhone doesn’t interest me. It’s WAY to “Big Brother” for my tastes. Again, I’m completely elated that Garmin decided to leave the iPhone behind and go with Android on this one (and I don’t even own an Android phone). I say Kudos to Garmin!

  12. >> You buy a phone and the manufacturer tells you what is acceptable use.

    Well I think you have it backwards. You should find out what a phone is capable of BEFORE you buy it. Caveat Emptor.

    • offthegrid says:

      The iPhone is capable of doing this. Its not theft of service if someone is within their limits.

      Imagine buying a Ford and they say its against their terms of service to make any left turns?

      Here you have Apple controlling what apps are on their store which is one reason I believe the iPhone is absolute crap. I don’t have now nor would I ever want an iPhone. It’s a closed architecture in a closed ecosystem.

      Garmin should have gone wifi instead of bluetooth or both and they should have left the search function on the unit. The more I think about it the more I believe Garmin botched it badly.

      • TheOfficeMaven says:

        While I 100% agree with you about the iPhone, I disagree with you about Garmin’s choice to go with Bluetooth. If Garmin had gone with WiFi, instead of Bluetooth, they would indeed of needed to use tethering with your smartphone’s data connection whenever a WiFi hotspot is not available (i.e. whenever you’re out on the road). By going the Bluetooth route, they completely eliminated the need to tether a data connection altogether. Since carriers get so upset with tethering (a whole other story we could debate for days), Garmin definitely made the right choice IMO. Garmin hit one out of the park with this one for sure.

        • offthegrid says:

          If they used wifi any phone capable of creating a hotspot plus laptop users or people that have mifi devices would have been enables right away – cross platform.

          They could easily put both on the device. They are severely limiting this product this way.

          • TheOfficeMaven says:

            Agreed. However, that’s got to be a really small percentage of Garmin’s target customer base IMO.

          • offthegrid says:

            That would include Blackberrys of which there are maybe 15 million in the US. The iPhone does support Hotspots also but I’m not sure of the charge for that.

  13. See, this is what I don’t understand so maybe an Android user can explain. I thought you had to pay for tethering regardless of platform. I suppose it’s another issue as to whether it’s enforced.

    For example:

    Free Android Tethering Blocked by AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile

    So much for free tethering apps on Android phones, at least in the Android Market. AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile are now blocking these apps, which offer a free or cheap alternative to the carriers’ official, subscription-based offerings.

    As Engadget points out, you can still see tethering apps like PDANet in the Android Market, but if you try to install them on any of the major U.S. carriers besides Sprint, you’ll be told that “This item is not available on your carrier.”

    T-Mobile has blocked illicit tethering apps for more than two years, but the action from Verizon Wireless and AT&T is a new development, albeit an unsurprising one.

    • Personally I have no qualms about sideloading PDANet. I have an unlimited data plan and have only used about 2GB/month in the past. I think I’ve used PDANet to tether once in the last two years.

      The general advice is that if you only need it occasionally, PDANet is a great solution. If you are going to need it regularly, get a tethering plan.

    • offthegrid says:

      This isn’t a general use tethering app though. This app has a specific use with verifiable low usage.

  14. Garmin says in this video that they didn’t discuss this with the carriers:

    I’m not really sure I see the issue though. There are plenty of apps that will use a lot more data than this (Netflix, etc.).

    • TheOfficeMaven says:

      Interesting. So no “tethering” is actually going on between the smartphone and the PND. Instead, the Smartphone Link app installed on the smartphone is drawing in the data from the Internet connection (legally), and then it’s simply formatting the data into appropriate Bluetooth compatible packets and sending them over to the PND as needed/requested. So technically, the PND is never drawing on the smartphone’s data connection and no tethering is ever taking place. Nice!

      Odds are, there’s something Apple’s doing (or not doing) that is preventing this same capability from working on an iPhone. Garmin’s in the business to make money, and so I’m more than sure that they would have made a Smartphone Link app for the iOS platform out-of-the-gate if they could have (seeing as how popular that platform is).

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