As we saw late last week, ASUS is looking to bring its unique Padfone concept to different form factors and price points. Enter the Padfone Mini, a new entry in the series that retains the dockable phone-tablet hybrid idea but shrinks it down to make it more affordable. The phone itself isn't much smaller at 4.3", but the tablet dock now has a 7-inch screen instead of 10, not to mention a vertical orientation.
The hardware inside is decidedly mid-range as well, and the tablet dock roughly matches some of the least expensive slates in ASUS' lineup. The smartphone core uses a qHD screen, a 1.4Ghz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, a disappointing 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage (plus MicroSD card slot), and an 8 megapixel rear camera. Slide the phone into the Padfone Station tablet dock and you can use the larger 1280x800 screen and augment the phone's 1500mAh battery with another 2,200mAh. The combo runs Android 4.3 with some heavy ASUS software modifications, including more than a few photo enhancements. The most interesting is an "Owl Mode," which boosts sensitivity in the camera sensor for smaller but more light-sensitive photos, not unlike HTC's "Ultrapixel" cameras. At least some versions of the Padfone Mini will come with dual SIM card slots.
These specs are a step down from the other Padfone models, which tend to compete with flagship smartphones at the time of release. But the Mini is also considerably more affordable: Taiwanese consumers can pick up both the phone and the tablet dock for NT$11,990, just north of $400 USD. That's a steal compared to previous 10-inch versions which stretched into the $1000 range for all combined parts. The Padfone Mini is scheduled to be released in Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Russia, Singapore, and Indonesia at undetermined dates, but currently ASUS has no concrete plans for an American or European launch.