Asus is finally bringing a smartphone to the U.S. market, making good on a promise that Chairman Jonney Shih told me directly last July.
American customers won't be getting anything close to a prosaic design. Working exclusively with AT&T, Asus' first U.S. market handset is the PadFone X, a 5-inch, Android 4.4, LTE smartphone that docks inside a 9-inch tablet.
The phone is all brains. The dock is all body. Just look at the photo above. The picture says it all.
Asus, ever the innovator in quirky mobile formfactors, released its first PadFone in 2011. In July 2013, Shih told me the PadFone has been warmly embraced in Asian markets (Asus is based in Taiwan), and that "a lot of the U.S., including the enthusiast, love the PadFone concept." It will be difficult for the PadFone X to make a significant dent in a U.S. smartphone market dominated by Apple and Samsung, but Asus does have mobile brand recognition care of the Nexus 7 tablet, and the company has never shied away from experimentation--in either product design or new market exploration.
Announcing PadFone X on Monday at the Consumer Electronics Show, Asus has shared very little spec and feature information about the quirky mobile hybrid. We know those 5- and 9-inch screen sizes for the phone and tablet respectively, but in a press release, Asus didn't share HD screen resolutions, processor type or speeds, or RAM or storage specs.
Last month, however, benchmarks published (and later unpublished) by AnTuTu indicated the existence of a new Asus device labeled PadFone X bearing Android 4.4 KitKat, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a 1920-by-1080 screen.
Of course, even if the AnTuTu benchmarks applied to a real Asus device, it's always possible that the final PadFone X--or the U.S. version PadFone X--will have different specs. Also keep in mind that all of the PadFone's processing power is locked up in the phone portion of the system. The dock is essentially an independent display, though it includes a battery for extra juice, and should come with a headphone jack, USB port, and HDMI connector if Asus sticks with current PadFone convention.
I briefly used a PadFone in July, and was impressed with the system's docking abilities. You can watch a video on your phone, and then insert the phone into the larger screen without any unseemly glitches during the transition. The content simply auto-fits to the larger screen size.
Interested? Asus says it will share U.S. pricing, availability and "detailed specifications" at a later date.
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