Nik Taylor
07/02/2012 18:03 | By Nik Taylor, editor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

Asus Padfone: what we know

The Asus Padfone - a smartphone/tablet hybrid - is set for its official launch at the end of this month. Here's what we've heard so far.

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The Asus Padfone has been making waves ever since it was unveiled at Computex in May 2011.

What we saw then was a high-powered smartphone that could be slotted into the rear of a tablet shell, instantly offering the best of both worlds.

But although the device has been spotted at various trade events in the nine months since, Asus is yet to officially launch it.

That's going to happen at Mobile World Congress at the end of this month, when we'll find out all the features and specifications of the device. For now, here's what we know so far about the Asus Padfone.

It's a phone...and a tablet
Put together a tablet and a smartphone and what do you get? If you're working in Asus' research and development department, the answer is a Padfone. The Padfone itself is an Android-powered smartphone, but it comes complete with a Padstation tablet dock.

Asus has said the Padfone will be the component that houses most of the working guts, such as the processor, RAM and internet connectivity. The Padstation is little more than a 10.1-inch screen and a battery. Slot the Padfone into its home on the back of the Padstation and its display is automatically resized to fit the larger screen.

The two will run on a single data plan
One of the downsides to having both a smartphone and a tablet computer is the issue of mobile internet access. Both tablets and smartphones come at a reduced price if you're prepared to sign up to a mobile data tariff, but to get two separate devices that means committing to two separate data plans. The Padfone uses only a single SIM card, so you only need one data plan. If you were to get this as your next mobile upgrade, it might be like getting a free tablet with your new smartphone.

It's going to be officially launched at Mobile World Congress
Asus has confirmed that its chairman, Jonney Shih, will officially launch the Asus Padfone at a press conference in Barcelona during the Mobile World Congress event. The press conference is set for Monday 27 February at 10.30am.

Asus Padfone (© Asus)

It will run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
This is something of a no-brainer, since Android's new 4.0 operating system is specifically designed to work across both tablet and smartphone platforms. Having Ice Cream Sandwich on the Padfone will ensure the device is capable of running all Android smartphone and tablet apps at their optimum settings.

The design is going to be changed
You can see how the current Padfone looks in the pictures at the top of this article. What's been shown off so far is a phone with a 4.3-inch screen and a tablet with a 10.1-inch screen. However, Asus is likely to change the look of these prototypes for the final model. Expect to see the physical buttons on the phone disappear, since it will run Ice Cream Sandwich which features on-screen buttons. The device should also be thinner and lighter.

It will be twice as powerful as the iPhone/iPad
Both the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S run on dual-core processors. The Padfone will have a quad-core processor inside, which should make it fast and stable when running multiple applications and also powerful enough to run console-quality games. The exact chip has not been specified. Asus' new Transformer products use Nvidia's Tegra 3 chip, but The Verge reported that the model on show at last month's Consumer Electronics Show was running on a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4.

The Padstation will charge the Padfone's battery
Both the Padfone and Padstation will have their own separate batteries. So, when you load the Padfone into the Padstation, it will charge your phone. The short battery lives of current smartphones are a common bugbear, so this simple way to extend the charge time of your mobile could be a winner for many people.

You can attach the whole thing to a keyboard dock
The Padstation will be compatible with the Asus Transformer dock, which includes an additional battery and keyboard. So you can effectively have a laptop, tablet and smartphone, with the data automatically synced across all three.

It's not the first such device
A few days before the Asus Padfone was first shown off, CMIT announced a similar product called TransPhone. That device was set to be powered by a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, though details beyond that were scarce. There's been little heard about the product since its announcement, however.

And it will cost...
Here we're stumped. There's been no word on price yet, but that will be one of the key details in the official announcement at the end of this month. Hopefully cost can be kept down since the Padstation appears to have few expensive internal components. If Asus can launch this for around £499, then it becomes an affordable option when taken out with a mobile phone contract.