The Asus PadFone is not your average Android handset. Alone, the smartphone is a fairly unassuming 4.3-inch qHD device with a nice ribbed metal backing, akin to the Transformer Prime series, and a 1.5Ghz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor. It’s not going to win on specs alone — 1GB RAM, 8MP camera, 16/32/64GB internal storage, 21Mbps HSPA+ baseband, 1520mAh battery — but it has a few larger companions at its side.
The first is the docking station — essentially a 10.1-inch empty shell — in which you insert the PadFone and convert it into a fully-functioning ICS tablet. The duo incorporates something called Dynamic Transition, wherein if you’re reading an email on the phone and decide to dock it, the expanded tablet-optimized view will be the first thing you see on the tablet.
There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of power — the Snapdragon MSM8260A processor inside the phone is more powerful than almost all the chips in current tablets — and the 8MP camera has a backlit-illuminated sensor and a f2.2 aperture for excellent low-light performance.
When docked, the tablet can answer calls and text messages, turning it into a fully-functioning phone replacement. When paired with the optional keyboard dock and stylus, things get even more interesting. On its own, the tablet/docking station increases battery life by 5x over the regular phone, and when paired with the keyboard dock that extends to 9x. Obviously both accessories will charge the PadFone when in use, so they’re always handy to have nearby.
The stylus is actually called the Stylus Headset, since when receiving a phone call the little pen can double as a phone receiver. Yes, you heard that right. Paired via Bluetooth with the phone/tablet, you put the Stylus Headset to your ear when the phone itself is docked, or out of reach.
The tablet is supposed to be a media powerhouse, too, with excellent stereo speakers and optimized audio codecs. It recalls the original Transformer TF101, with those strange extended bezels, and it’s not quite as thin as the newest series. Combined with the keyboard dock the ICS-powered handset can double as a full laptop replacement.
PadFone should be released in April sometimes, though we’re unsure if or how it will be distributed in Canada. It’s unlikely to be sold without a carrier, so the docking station will have to come with it. The keyboard dock and stylus are going to be sold separately. We’ll let you know when prices are announced.