GPSes used to be expensive and uncommon, but now half of the population carries one around in their pockets. That new Android smartphone you bought? It has GPS-functionality built-in through Google Maps. So does that new tablet. But get this - dedicated GPS units are still a thing, and I'm not talking about the kind that you mount on your dashboard. Today Garmin announced Monterra, the company's first Android-powered handheld outdoor GPS with WiFi.


Garmin's lightweight device is basically a rugged smartphone without a cell radio. Or, if you're old enough to have ever used one, a PDA. It is built to assist outdoorsy types as they conquer all kinds of unpleasant terrain, along with water. It comes with an 8MP camera capable of recording 1080p HD video and is equipped with LED flash. Though its 8GB of internal memory may seem limiting, a microSD card slot is thankfully present.

The Monterra is also equipped with a slew of features that are clearly intended for its niche audience, such as a 3-axis compass, barometric altimeter, and UV sensor. The 4-inch multi-touch screen is readable in sunlight, a key advantage over the majority of available smartphones. Another advantage? It can draw power either from a rechargeable battery or AA batteries. I know, AA batteries are pretty old school, but there are undoubtedly times when it would be nice to just pop in a couple to get a phone through the day. That said, AA batteries are fatter than most smartphones, and so is this device. It's not going to win any beauty pageants, but at a starting price of $649.99, it's not trying to appeal to casual users anyway.

June 24, 2013 07:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time 

OLATHE, Kan.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Garmin International Inc., a unit of Garmin Ltd. (NASDAQ: GRMN), the global leader in satellite navigation, today announced Monterra, Garmin’s first WiFi-enabled outdoor handheld GPS that combines Garmin’s powerful location and mapping capabilities and the versatility of the Android™ operating system. It has a vivid, sunlight-readable touchscreen, and users can easily access the Google Play Store™ and download apps through an available WiFi connection right on the device. Developers are also free to create new apps that are ideally suited for the rugged, waterproof, and sensor-loaded handheld device.

“With a four-inch, color, multi-touch display, unique 3D MapMerge, and the ability to create new apps, Monterra takes the outdoor GPS to a whole new level, and users are able to take advantage of the features no matter how adverse the terrain may be.”

“Monterra provides outdoor professionals and enthusiasts with the ultimate ability to customize their GPS device to perfectly suit their personal and professional needs,” said Dan Bartel, Garmin’s vice president of worldwide sales. “With a four-inch, color, multi-touch display, unique 3D MapMerge, and the ability to create new apps, Monterra takes the outdoor GPS to a whole new level, and users are able to take advantage of the features no matter how adverse the terrain may be.”

With the Android operating system, users are able to access all their favorite outdoor-related Android apps, such as Peak Finder, and even those that aren’t, through the Google Play Store right on the device. They can even access professional apps like construction estimators and ArcGIS to extend some office functions to the field. Monterra also has a built-in FM radio and NOAA weather radio with SAME alerts, so users can receive watches and warnings related to their location. Users can either listen with headphones or through the built-in speaker.

Monterra has a built-in 3-axis compass with accelerometer and gyro, which indicates the user’s direction even when standing still or not holding the device level. Its barometric altimeter has the ability to track changes in pressure to pinpoint precise altitude, and it can also plot barometric pressure over time to monitor weather conditions. It also has a built-in UV sensor so users can monitor the intensity of the sun, and reduce exposure if necessary. Thanks to its high-sensitivity, dual-band GPS and GLONASS receiver, Monterra finds its location quickly and maintains signal lock even in heavy cover and deep canyons.

New to the Monterra, is a unique mapping feature: 3D MapMerge. With this feature, users can combine two maps—like TOPO, basemap, or BirdsEye Satellite Imagery—then view the new unique map in three dimensions. Hills, valleys, lakes, roads, and points of interest combine to give Monterra’s maps unequaled detail and richness. Combine BirdsEye with TOPO US 24K, or a GIS-based water table map with a shaded relief basemap, then zoom in, pan out, and rotate the 3D map using multi-touch. With 3D MapMerge, Monterra becomes the ultimate mapping tool.

No need to take a separate camera out into the field, either. Monterra has a built-in 8-megapixel autofocus digital camera that takes vivid, geo-tagged photos for easy return navigation, plus a 1080p HD video camera with LED flash. Users can easily download photos and videos to their computer for either work or sharing using Garmin Adventures. Monterra has 8 GB of internal memory built-in plus a microSD slot for even more extra storage.

Monterra features a vivid and highly durable mineral glass display that uses sunlight in combination with the unit’s LED backlight to increase brightness and view-ability. Monterra has an IPX7 waterproof rating and also uses a dual battery system, which allows users the option of using the rechargeable Li-ion pack (included) or traditional AA batteries. It is also compatible with the same mounts as the Garmin Montana™, so users can take Monterra anywhere.

Wireless sharing is easy with Monterra. It has WiFi, ANT+™, Bluetooth 3.0 and NFC capabilities, which allows users to share data, maps, waypoints, tracks, routes, and geocaches with other wireless compatible devices. Additionally, Monterra is compatible withBaseCamp™, a free software download that lets you view and organize maps, waypoints, routes and tracks.

Monterra is a heavyweight geocaching device, meaning it can hold millions of geocaches. Download caches from OpenCaching.com, or use a downloaded Android app, and users won’t run out of room. All the paperless geocaching features, such as descriptions, hints and logs, will be there for every single cache. Cachers can also view photos, connect to chirp® enabled caches, and filter caches by size, terrain, difficulty and type.

The new Garmin Monterra will be available third quarter 2013 at a suggested retail price of $649.99 (Worldwide with preloaded worldwide basemap), and $699.99 (U.S. with preloaded TOPO U.S. 100K with Navteq® roads). With Monterra, users are able to work mobile in the field, using all the Android apps they are used to using, but with the assurance of a rugged device that is waterproof, has longer battery life, an easy to read display and a variety of mounting options.

Monterra is the latest solution from Garmin’s growing outdoor segment, which focuses on developing technologies and innovations to enhance users’ outdoor experiences. Whether hiking, hunting, geocaching, golfing, or dog training, Garmin outdoor devices are becoming essential tools for outdoor enthusiasts of all levels. For more information about Garmin’s other outdoor products and services, go to http://www.garmin.com/outdoors, www.garmin.blogs.com and http://twitter.com/garmin.

Bertel King, Jr.
Born and raised in the rural South, Bertel knows what it's like to live without 4G LTE - or 3G, for that matter. The only things he likes sweeter than his tea are his gadgets, and while few objects burn more than a metal phone on a summer day, he prefers them that way anyway.

  • andy_o

    Forgot to include a retractable blade for arm-cutting.

  • Danny Holyoake

    Launching this at that price is certainly a fail. Garmin should have focused on less of the smartphone features (a camera? really?) and more of the rugged features and software enhancements that could make it better than a smartphone with Google Maps.

    • Kcls

      They have had GPS's before this running their software that have a camera.

  • wheineman

    I started reading this being very interested in the device. As a person who likes geocaching, your average smartphone GPS leaves a lot to be desired. Combine this with it's great GPS and Android and you have one serious caching device. But then I read the price and realized I don't want it that much.

  • Asphyx

    Baby steps towards what Garmin actually needs to do....

    They have tried and failed at making a Garmin Phone run on a custom flavor of Android.
    Now they have ditched the phone part to make a phone sized Tablet...
    Next step available is the one they should have started with....

    MAKE THE DAMN APP AVAILABLE FOR ANDROID and SKIP the Hardware that they never seem to get right ot at a price point that can sell!

    • Freak4Dell

      Now this is a good idea. I always loved the Garmin app on my WM phones, and seriously wish they had it available for Android. I think Google Maps is now better and more up to date, but sometimes, it's nice to have navigation software that doesn't require data to operate.

      • Asphyx

        Garmin was my GPS from the WinMo days as well.

        And while I agree GMaps is better in many things, Driving isn't one of them! Especially if you intend to drive where Data isn't available. The biggest flaw (which is also it's greatest strength) in GMaps is it's need to download map updates on the fly. You get the latest info (Good) but only if you have a Data connection. (Not so good in some rural areas).

        SO I have to run Co-Pilot for Driving since all the maps are downloaded and local and can be seen even when Data isn't there.

  • Freak4Dell

    I don't really get the point of this. They've already got GPS units that have cameras and those various sensors, and those get pretty good battery life, and are cheaper. I can't imagine Android offers much in the way of performance or battery life for a dedicated GPS device like this, especially considering Garmin's existing products are pretty good. I think we've gotten to a point where we put Android on things just because we can.

  • Leinaud

    For what it's worth, there is an app called Orux that is free (or you can donate) and it is able to read .img files by Garmin. It can be used online and off as well as read other map formats. I have a bunch of slightly old unlocked Garmin .img topo maps and the like and I'm currently using Orux on my Tab 7.7 here in Japan with no problems only using the GPS with no cell service.