Some Americans waited literally years for the weird and wonderful PadFone series to show up on a local carrier... and were finally unsurprised to see AT&T be the only one to bite. (Seriously, between all that Amazon and HTC hardware, AT&T seems like the only American carrier willing to take a little risk.) Now AT&T and ASUS are teaming up again for the slightly smaller version of the phone-tablet docking concept, the PadFone X Mini.
People seem to kind of like the Asus Transformer series with the optional keyboard docks – it kind of makes sense in a limited way. The PadFone has been a tougher sell, but what if you mashed up those products? Surely that would be the product everyone has been waiting for. Behold, the Transformer Book V, which really is all the things.
This is a (kind of) single modular device that consists of a phone with a brain powered by Intel, a 12.5-inch tablet screen dock, and a keyboard dock with separate hardware.
The wait is nearly over for anyone who kind of wants a tablet, but doesn't want to commit to having two whole devices. The Asus PadFone X has been "coming soon" for months now, but AT&T is finally setting a date – you can get your own phone/tablet hybrid on June 6th for $199, if you go for the traditional contract.
I've been lusting after ASUS' ambitious Padfone devices ever since they were announced way back in 2012. But since ASUS is a company that focuses on its home market first, we haven't seen hide nor hair of the docking smartphone-tablet hybrids over here in the United States. According to an Engadget interview with ASUS CEO Jerry Shen, that could change as soon as the second quarter of next year.
The interview is a lengthy one, but the juicy bit is near the end: Shen says that ASUS is partnering with a "big operator" in the United States to launch the next iteration of the Padfone on our shores.
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 Padfone form factor is a unique one, and even if it hasn't set the world on fire, I'm glad to see that ASUS continues to upgrade and modify it. The latest iteration appears to be a midrange phone/tablet combo: reliable tipster Evleaks showed a new PadFone Mini model on his Twitter account, with a 4.3" phone body and what appears to be a 7-inch tablet shell.
PadFone mini 4.3, 2013 pic.twitter.com/HSv1ILdY4G
— @evleaks (@evleaks) December 7, 2013
There's no detailed technical information available, though Evleaks does mention a 2013 release.
I personally like the idea of a smartphone that docks into a tablet. The ASUS PadFone 2 strives for the joy of both form factors without the hassle of maintaining two separately. Those who happen to own the device have seen a steady stream of updates roll out as the months have gone by. While the latest update may not jump the device past version 4.1, it does usher in a slew of bug fixes and other general improvements.
The PadFone is a versatile piece of tech, a smartphone that plugs into a tablet that plugs into a dock. It's an interesting concept, and if you don't use it that often, the three pieces together could probably get you through more than a couple of days on a single charge. Now ASUS is providing a firmware update to the original PadFone, bringing about stability improvements along with stronger WiFi and Bluetooth connections.
The PadFone 2 may have received its Jelly Bean update at the end of last year, but original PadFone owners haven't been so lucky. Fortunately, ASUS has decided to level the playing field again, releasing an update for the original device with Android 4.1.1.
In addition to the OS upgrade, the latest update also provides some improvements to other areas of the phone. Here's the full changelog:
Looks like ASUS is gearing up to announce the second iteration of its Turducken phone, the Padfone. A save the date for October 16th was sent out this morning to numerous Italian blogs, highlighting a dual-announcement - one in Milan, Italy, and another in Taipei, Taiwan, which is where ASUS is headquartered.
We haven't heard much about this updated phone-in-a-tablet-in-a-laptop before now, but rumor has it that a quad-core processor should be powering the device this go around.