Asus has officially introduced the PadFone, a combination of a tablet and a smartphone that are designed to work together. As expected, the Android phone works as a standalone device for making calls, sending text messages, playing games, or doing just about anything else you can do with a smartphone. But you can also tuck the phone into a compartment on the 10 inch tablet to use the device with a much larger display.
The guts of the PadFone are all in the phone, with the dock working primarily as a big screen and a big battery. You can use the tablet component to charge the phone while it’s docked. And if you’re watching a video, playing a game, or reading a web page on the phone when you dock it, that activity will come up automatically once you place the phone in its compartment in the tablet.
If a call comes in when the phone is docked you can answer using a Bluetooth headset or just pop out the phone to take the call.
The PadFone will likely run the next version of Google Android, code-named Ice Cream Sandwich by the time it launches later this year. That makes sense, since Ice Cream Sandwich will be the first version of Android to officially support both phones and tablets.
While I have to wonder if the PadFone will be a jack of two trades and master of none, Asus points out two good reasons why this could be an appealing design:
- You don’t have to sync your data if it’s all stored on one device. While Google makes synchronizing apps, contacts, calendar appointments and other data pretty easy, there’s plenty of data you accumulate on mobile devices that is harder to keep in sync. For example, with this system your progress in games, eBooks, audio books, podcasts, and other data goes with you when you switch from phone to tablet.
- Since the phone is powering the tablet, there’s no reason to sign up for a second wireless data contract. Just pay your carrier for an unlimited (or limited) smartphone plan and you can use the tablet and phone anywhere. You won’t get docked with tethering fees because you’re not using your phone as a simple modem to get a laptop or standalone tablet online. In this case, the phone is the tablet.