Sunday, October 21, 2012

Thoughts: Padfone 2

Some days ago, ASUS announced the next generation of their Padfone. I missed the event's live stream by minutes but fortunately they immediately uploaded the video, so for those who like watching release events, go ahead (skip ahead to 16:05) and don't forget to come back and read my thoughts afterwards ;)

Introduced by ASUS' chairman Jonney Shih, the ASUS Padfone 2 is a great improvement over the first generation and as I didn't comment on the whole phone-table-transformation-thing in the past, there it is: it's actually a really good idea.
Why buy two different devices from possibly different manufacturers, when you can have one device. The ASUS Padfone 2 removes most needs for data synchronization because it's just a phone with a second skin: the tablet stand. It's a great idea to just put your phone into some kind of cover that immediately turns it into a fully-featured tablet.

It took me a while to complete this blog post but let's finally look at the specs: just great. The 13 megapixel back-facing camera sounds promising, as does the front-facing cameras (the tablet stand has another front-facing cam ;). The phone is quite big (4.7'), but which smartphone isn't and a 10.1' is great if you want to seriously work in it. Very important for me: it has NFC! I don't think we have to mention the CPU and memory because everyone tries to provide the newest and fastest experience ;)
But let's mention something sad: it still has hardware buttons. I have nothing against a hardware power button as well as hardware volume buttons but why do manufacturers insist on making those ugly (and inflexible) hardware menu, home and back buttons. Another sad thing is the Android version, which is only 4.0 but ASUS at least promised to update it to 4.1 sometime later. This brings me to software, which is also really sad. They didn't talk about it but we saw it on the slideshows: ASUS will again, use their own user interface which in my opinion is nothing but ugly – especially when it comes to icons.

The design is also quite nice, even though I'm not so sure about the phone part yet. From some angles it looks great (back) but from others (front), it's not that beautiful – especially ASUS' ugly hardware button icons. At least there's almost no frame (at least at the sides), which I really like about smartphones. The less unused frame the better. The whole thing is also very light which is great – especially because phone and tablet combined is much lighter than e.g. iPad 3 and iPhone 5 combined. I admit, you can use those two independently, but why would I do that (being a regular user and not a developer like some of us are ;)?

When they announced battery life, I was really stunned. I still don't believe it, but apparently the phone's battery alone will last for 2 weeks in standby with 3G turned on! This would be amazing, when I think about me charging my phone every second day…
What's even better is, that the tablet stand also comes with a battery which will charge the phone's battery which means three times as much power.
And what about the price? In my opinion very cheap: only $799-$899 for the phone and the tablet, especially compared to other products where the phone alone will be as expensive as $800 ;)

So what's my conclusion? It's a great idea and the specs are also alright. There are still some things that need improvement (Android version, custom UI) but it's a good start – at least if you know you want a tablet-smartphone combination from the start. Am I going to buy it? Probably not. I recently bought a new smartphone which is absolutely awesome (Galaxy Nexus *cough*). Or do you think a student can afford to buy every other gadget  because they want to test and review it? Unfortunately now. But I am always open to (hardware and other) donations ;P

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