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Rugged, multiwireless, multifunction GPS runs Android

Jun 24, 2013 — by Eric Brown 1,394 views

Garmin announced a ruggedized, 4-inch personal navigation device (PND) that runs on Android. Expected to ship in the third quarter starting at $650, the handheld Monterra offers Google Play compatibility, a dual-band GPS/GLONASS receiver, a 3-axis compass, an 8-megapixel camera, and wireless features including WiFi, ANT+, Bluetooth 3.0, NFC, FM, and NOAA radios, and a sunlight-readable display.

Back in 2009, the Garmin-Asus partnership launched the Android-based Nuvifone, followed by a similar Garminfone, both of which combined smartphone functionality with Garmin’s high-end GPS radios. Although the Garminfone, at least, was well reviewed, the phones failed to gain much traction. The prices were high, GPS was becoming a standard feature on Android phones, and Google Maps Navigation changed the rules of the PND game. The Asus partnership was discontinued in early 2011.

Garmin’s rugged, multifunction Monterra GPS handheld


Now, Garmin is trying out Android anew, but without Asus or cellular telephony. The $650 price is still high, but more reasonable when you consider you’re receiving a ruggedized device with a wide variety of sensors and wireless functionality.


The Monterra appears to provide the same 4-inch touchscreen, 3-axis compass, high-end GPS receiver, and water proofing of Garmin’s Montana 650 handheld. However, it adds a full suite of wireless features and the ability to run Android apps downloaded from Google Play. (Many of Garmin’s automotive navigation systems have run on embedded Linux, although we can find no evidence that this is true of the its Oregon and Montana brand handhelds.)

Monterra homescreen and some app screens
(click image to enlarge)


Garmin touts the Monterra as the “first WiFi-enabled outdoor handheld GPS that combines Garmin’s powerful location and mapping capabilities and the versatility of the Android operating system.” No details were provided on the processor or the foundation for the device’s custom Android build. The Monterra is said to be equipped with 8GB of onboard flash (up to 6GB usable), as well as a microSD slot.

The 4-inch “sunlight-readable” multi-touch display is limited to lowly 480 x 272 resolution. The mineral-glass display is “highly durable,” however and provides an LED backlight combined with transflective technology for adaptive readability even in sunlight. The Monterra also offers IPX7-certified waterproofing, says the company.

GPS, 3-axis compass, and sensors

The centerpiece of the Monterra is a “high-sensitivity” dual-band GPS and GLONASS receiver, which “finds its location quickly and maintains signal lock even in heavy cover and deep canyons,” claims Garmin. The Monterra’s 3-axis compass, meanwhile, includes an accelerometer and gyro, letting users identify direction even when moving or holding the device at an angle. The compass has a barometric altimeter that can track changes in pressure in order to pinpoint altitude, as well as track barometric pressure for predicting weather. In addition, a UV sensor alerts users when it might be time to apply more sunscreen.

Unlike the Montana, the Monterra offers a full suite of wireless features, including WiFi, as well as short-range networking technologies like ANT+, Bluetooth 3.0, and NFC for swapping mapping data with other users. Both an FM radio and a NOAA weather radio are included, with the latter offering SAME alerts.

The Monterra is equipped with an 8-megapixel autofocus camera that supports geo-tagging and 1080p HD video capture. A dual battery system provides slots for both a rechargeable Li-ion pack, as well as a backup system that accepts standard AA batteries. Both speakers and a headphone jack are provided, and the device can use the same mounting options as the Montana. The device weighs 11.7 ounces, and measures a hefty 1.4 inches thick.

Specifications listed for the Monterra include:

  • Processor — not listed
  • Memory — 8GB of onboard flash; 6GB user-available with Worldwide Basemap, or 3GB with TOPO U.S. Map; stores up to 4,000 waypoints, 200 routes, 10,000 points; micro-SD slot expansion
  • Display — 4-inch, 480 x 272-pixel multi-touch “dual-orientation,” sunlight readable transflective display with LED backlight
  • Camera — 8-megapixel with autofocus and LED flash; supports 1080p/30fps video; automatic geo-tagging
  • GPS and sensors:
    • Dual-band, high-sensitivity GNSS receiver (GPS with GLONASS and WAAS compatibility)
    • 3-axis electronic compass with accelerometer and gyro
    • barometric altimeter with altitude sensor support (in compass)
    • UV sensor
  • Wireless:
    • WiFi
    • Bluetooth 3.0
    • ANT+
    • NFC
    • FM and NOAA radios
  • PND features — automatic turn-by-turn routing on roads; geocaching support; photo navigation to geotagged locations; area calculation; custom POIs; unit-to-unit transfer; 3D MapMerge and BaseCamp apps
  • Other features — multimedia players/viewers; Google Play support; supports Montana mounts
  • Battery — dual battery support; 16-hour Li-Ion battery, or up to 22 hours with 3x AA battery backup
  • Ruggedization:
    • IPX7 waterproofing
    • Durable, scratch-resistant display
    • -15 to 70° C (-4 to 158° F) operating temperature
    • High-impact plastic alloy construction
  • Weight — 11.7 oz (331 g) with Li-Ion batteries only; 13.2 oz. (375 g) with AA batteries loaded
  • Dimensions — 5.9 x 2.9 x 1.4 inches (150 x 75 x 36mm)
  • Operating system — Android

The device provides Google Play access for downloading hundreds of GPS-focused Android apps such as Peak Finder, as well as more professional apps like construction estimators and ArcGIS. Garmin also supplies its own new 3D MapMerge application, which lets users combine two maps from sources such as TOPO, basemap, GIS maps, or BirdsEye Satellite Imagery. The app lets users view, zoom, pan, and rotate the combined map in three dimensions.

The Monterra is compatible with Garmin’s BaseCamp software for organizing maps, waypoints, routes, and tracks. In addition, users can download geocaches from

“Monterra provides outdoor professionals and enthusiasts with the ultimate ability to customize their GPS device to perfectly suit their personal and professional needs,” says Dan Bartel, Garmin’s vice president of worldwide sales.

The Garmin Monterra will be available in the third quarter at a suggested retail price of $650 (with preloaded worldwide basemap) or $700 (with preloaded TOPO U.S. 100K with Navteq roads). More information may be found at Garmin’s Monterra product page.

(advertise here)

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3 responses to “Rugged, multiwireless, multifunction GPS runs Android”

  1. digi_owl says:

    For someone looking for a pocket sized non-phone android device, this is interesting. But the price seem a bit harsh.

  2. Daniel says:

    And the software to admin it (load maps, etc…) runs on Android?

  3. Dirtyrob says:

    Does it do MGRS?

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