Taiwanese consumer electronics manufacturer ASUS has never been short of a wacky idea. Its latest device challenges the definition of a tablet by morphing smartphone calling capabilities into a traditional slate form factor. The ASUS Fonepad is a 7in Android tablet that also functions as a regular phone.
The Fonepad has borrowed plenty from the Google Nexus 7, which is hardly a surprise since ASUS also manufactures that device. It weighs the same (340g), has almost identical dimensions and also uses the same display as the popular Nexus 7. The IPS screen has a resolution of 1280x800 and a pixel density of 216ppi.
The main design difference is on the back. The Fonepad swaps the leather-like backing on the Nexus 7 for a classier looking metallic finish available in grey or gold colours. The Nexus 7's soft touch back made that device very comfortable to hold and use, so we can only hope the Fonepad doesn't change that.
ASUS describes the Fonepad as "a tablet that retains the flexibility of a smartphone, but removes the need to carry two different devices". While this is certainly possible, there's something that's not quite right about holding a 7in tablet to your ear for a phone call. You can of course use the Fonepad with a Bluetooth headset but ASUS is actually promoting the fact that you don't have to use one.
The ASUS Fonepad has reasonable specifications for a 7in Android tablet. It is powered by an a 1.2GHz single-core Intel Atom Z2420 processor, has 1GB of RAM and a PowerVR SGX540 GPU. There's also a microSD card slot to expand the 8GB of onboard memory, a feature that's not available on the Nexus 7.
Perhaps the most impressive feature touted by ASUS is the 4270mAh battery. The company says it will power the Fonepad for up to nine hours, a very reasonable figure for an Android tablet. The Fonepad doesn't have 4G connectivity, relying on the standard 3G network for data.
ASUS will produce two versions of the Fonepad. The European model has 16GB of internal memory but no rear camera while the Asia-Pacific model, presumably the model that will be released in Australia, only has 8GB of internal memory but gets a 3.2-megapixel rear-facing camera. All variants feature a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera for video calls.
The Fonepad will initially ship with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean but there's been no word if or when the device will be updated to the latest 4.2 version.
ASUS hasn't confirmed whether or not the Fonepad will be available in Australia but it will sell in Europe later this month for €219 and then Asia for US$249.
A promotional video of the ASUS Fonepad can be viewed below.