Operating system updates don't come quickly in the Android world. They show up fashionably late, nevermind that parties where everyone looks forward to a new software release aren't the kind where people care how anyone is dressed.
ASUS is now doing its users a solid. No, it's not pushing out over-the-air updates to all of its devices right this moment. But it is doing the next best thing, which is listing which phones will get the update.
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 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.
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.
There's no detailed technical information available, though Evleaks does mention a 2013 release. According to this Engadget post, ASUS is planning on launching the Padfone Mini at a Taiwan event next Wednesday.
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:
PadFone Firmware: V10.2.1.9 (Android 4.1) improvement: 1. OS upgrade to Android 4.1.1 2. Improve dictionary function 3. Improve Camera preview function 4. Improve Scrapbook function 5. Improve File Manager application 6. Improve Volume Key problem 7.
Remember ASUS' PadFone from MWC? The Taiwanese manufacturer today released an official teaser for the device-within-a-device, boasting its display, processor, economical benefits, and impressive battery life.
For those who may have missed the specs sprinkled throughout the promo, here's what we know so far:
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor at 1.5GHz
4.3" Super AMOLED qHD display (the tablet features a 10.1" display, no word on resolution)
8MP rear shooter (featuring a 5-element f/2.2 lens)
Over 14,000mAh battery power between the pad, phone, and dock
Overall, the PadFone is still looking like a pretty intriguing device.
When I first heard about the ASUS Padfone, I thought the idea was a bit laughable. When I tried in person today, my opinion changed substantially. ASUS definitely seems to have done this right - particularly considering it's still a prerelease piece of hardware. My primary concern was in how seamless the transition from phone to tablet would be, and how much the phone's hardware design would suffer because of the docking mechanism.
Addressing the first concern, the transition is quite smooth. Just snap in the Padfone, and the dock lights up and goes to Android 4.0's tablet interface in a matter of seconds.
ASUS has barely been able to contain its excitement for its Padfone device(s?). Finally, though, we get some more details about what the phone/tablet set will be packing. The former is sporting a a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 (it's unclear what model at this time) and 1GB of RAM, underneath a 4.3" 960x540 Super AMOLED screen. Much like Motorola's line of lapdocks, the SoC of the phone will power the tablet while docked.
The tablet station has a 10.1" screen, a gratuitous 24.4Whr battery, and Micro USB and Micro HDMI connections. The tablet station will use the phone's 8MP rear camera, though it has its own front-facing camera for video chat.
ASUS has been hard at work on the successor to the company's first foray into the Android tablet market, the ASUS Transformer.
The Transformer's yet-to-be-officially-named sequel (Update: The name turned out to be... Transformer Prime) was shown off today by ASUS chairman Johnny Shih - and boy, is this thing thin. ASUS's next Android tablet will be a mere 8.3mm in profile and stick with the 10.1-inch screen form factor. Of course, it will have the detachable plug-in keyboard that made the Transformer a unique product in the marketplace. It will also have a next-generation NVIDIA quad-core "Kal-El" Tegra 3 processor, as had been expected.