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MWC 2012: Asus Brings Out The PadFone

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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An unusual marriage of smartphone and tablet could create a new breed of computers

Asus chairman Jonney Shih has unveiled the revolutionary PadFone – a smartphone and tablet combination – at yesterday’s Asus event (entitled Incredibly Mobile Endless Possibilities) at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The device combo consists of an Asus-made smartphone that can be docked inside an empty shell of a tablet to bring it to life, in situations when a bigger screen and more battery power would be an advantage.

TechWeekEurope has previously reported on the PadFone concept in January.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

Some companies see the future of personal computing in tablets or ultrabooks, some – in virtualisation and the cloud. Canonical thinks in a few years, everyone will carry PC power in a pocket, and transform their smartphones into desktops by connecting them to a screen and a keyboard. And then there’s Asus, which thinks truth lies somewhere in the middle.

“The time has finally arrived when every screen in your lives could transcend into a portal with real time access into your digital world,” said Mr. Shih as he introduced the PadFone.

The PadFone system is a three-in-one combination of a smartphone and a tablet which can turn into a notebook when accessorised with the PadFone Station and PadFone Station Dock. You would be forgiven for thinking this is a wild concept or a prototype, but PadFone is a real device and Asus is gearing up for production.

At the centre of the system is a capable smartphone in its own right. It has a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display (960×540), protected by scratch resistant Corning Gorilla Glass. Inside users will find the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor clocking at 1.5 GHz, 1GB of DDR2 RAM and an ultra-sharp eight-megapixel digital camera with Fuji image processor. The smartphone comes with 16 to 64GB of storage space, with additional 32GB available though a Micro-SD expansion slot. The whole thing runs Android 4.0.

When placed inside the optional PadFone Station, the smartphone transforms into a 10.1-inch tablet with five times the battery capacity. It also offers Micro-USB and Micro-HDMI connectivity, and replaces front VGA camera with a slightly better 1.3 megapixel (1280×800) snapper. The SonicMaster speakers complete the multimedia-friendly picture.

When the smartphone is using the bigger screen, it is not just a case of simple pixel scaling to fill the extra space. Asus’ proprietary Dynamic Display technology allows seamless transition between the PadFone and PadFone Station display screens as it reconfigures Android ICS to fully exploit the PadFone Station’s higher 1280 x 800 resolution.

In addition, the PadFone Station offers an optional keyboard dock that essentially turns the PadFone into a laptop. The keyboard dock also houses its own battery that can extend the PadFone’s mains-free use by up to nine times.

Asus’ passion for convergence does not end there. The optional PadFone Stylus Headset is a Bluetooth stylus pen that doubles up as a headset with a microphone and a button for picking up calls.

The PadFone will be available in stores from April 2012, but the officials from the Taiwan-based company have not announced the price of their creation. It will be interesting to see how it compares against the price of a tablet and a smartphone when bought separately.

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