Ah MWC. Where CES is losing relevance, Barcelona’s event is starting to gain steam. In my sometimes convuluted mind, the biggest announcement this year is ASUS’s first forey in the smartphone market. The ASUS Padfone is finally announced, and in some areas it’s a doozey, but is it all it was hyped up to be?
An Evolution of Innovation
In case you forgot, the Padfone was initially talked about all the way back in May of 2011. It’s a phone that docks in to a tablet. At first the idea seemed a bit gimmicky, but it eventually grew on me. It does seem like tablets came about primarily to offer bigger screens for our highly functional smart phones. The idea of docking a smartphone in a tablet and continuing your work on a bigger screen is appealing, but for the right price. Unforutnately, ASUS did not release that important information, but they did add some more details to sweeten the deal.
This picture will give you an idea of what I meant by the headline of this paragraph. If you take the phone out of the equation, you have the original ASUS Transformer, which is easily one of the best Android devices to date. Instead of a phone that turns into a tablet, the Padfone seems like a Transformer that turns into a smartphone.
I’m absolutely thrilled that ASUS decided to offer not only the tablet attachment but also the Transformer keyboard dock as well. It’s the perfect convergence device. When I hear about tablets, smartphones, and Microsoft coming into the market, I always talk about interconnectivity. These devices all need to be able to sync up easily so that content can be created, edited, and shared across all three form factors. And this is where Android has always suffered. Google has been allieviating this by storing most of their service content in the cloud, Android tablets and smartphones don’t have the same kind of interconnectivity that Apple offers with iPhone, iPad and iCloud. We’ve been dealing with Dropbox and SugarSync, but it’s still not perfect.
While ASUS can’t control the OS, they can control the hardware, and they’ve done something ingenious. If you need a phone, you use it as a phone. If you need a tablet, you dock it in a tablet. If you need a netbook, you dock the tablet into a keyboard dock. Technically you only have one device, but that one device can be 3 different devices. No syncing, interconnectivity issues, or App syncing issues because it’s the same device still.
Combine that with the fact that each piece has it’s own battery and you’ve got a device that can potentially have 14,000 mAh of battery life! Combine that with a Super AMOLED qHD display, an 8MP rear-facing camera with a f/2.0 aperture and a 1.5Ghz processor running on Ice Cream Sandwich, and even the phone itself is a great standalone device.
When ASUS announced it at MWC, they also announced a previously unknown attachment to come with it, a stylus. This stylus will be called the Padfone Headset Stylus, which will work as a capacitive stylus as well as a portable speaker for taking calls while it’s sitting in your dock.
Okay, What’s the Catch
ASUS was originally going to put a Tegra 3 Quad Core under the hood but due to LTE issues, it decided not to. Instead ASUS opted for a dual core processor, albiet a fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 4 dual core processor running at 1.5Ghz. The phone itself will have a Super AMOLED qHD display with Gorilla Glass, albiet at a relatively low 960×540 resolution.
But the biggest problems are the unknown specs. We have no idea what carriers it will arrive on, although we know it will arrive sometime in April. Unfortunately that April launch date will likely only include HSPA+ networks – meaning T-Mobile and AT&T. It will have an LTE version and the spec sheet lists a CDMA antenna meaning that Verizon and Sprint should receive this device, but we don’t know when it will arrive.
The biggest problem, however, will be cost. ASUS really needs to make this device worthwhile for the cost. The phone needs to start at $199 if it won’t have LTE at first. The tablet dock and the keyboard dock will not sell if ASUS charges an arm and a leg for it like Motorola does with their $250 keyboard dock.
Don’t Screw This Up
I’m really excited for this phone, but at the same time, I’m a bit disappointed that we only saw a little bit more spec info during MWC. ASUS should have had their carrier partners and price already laid out if they are going to release this next month. Obviously, though, they are still in negotiations.
But in any case, it’s good to see that the Android market is seeing innovation that will keep it relevant and keep it competitive against iOS.