Asus Padfone 2 takes another shot at the modular phone-tablet

Asus is continuing to bet on modular computing with the introduction of the Padfone 2, an Android smartphone that docks into and powers a 10-inch tablet.

The Padfone 2 has a new design to make docking easier. Instead of swallowing up the phone completely as with the original Padfone, the Padfone 2's docking station has a chunk cut out of its rear panel, where the phone snaps in. Together, the phone and tablet weigh 1.45 pounds, which is a feather lighter than Apple's iPad.

The bad news is that the Padfone 2 won't have a keyboard and trackpad dock like the original, Engadget reports.

Asus has also beefed up the tech specs in the Padfone 2. The smartphone now has a 4.7-inch, 720p display, a 1.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 processor and 2 GB of RAM. It also has a 13-megapixel camera with burst shooting and zero shutter lag, and a 1-megapixel front-facing camera. Up to 64 GB of storage will be available, and the phone provides about 13 hours of Wi-Fi browsing or 16 hours of 3G talk time, according to Asus. Unlike the original Padfone, the new version supports 4G LTE data speeds.

As with the first Padfone, the new model's tablet dock doesn't have a processor of its own. Instead, it relies on the phone for power, storage and connectivity, though it does have its own 5,000 mAh battery. The dock's 10.1-inch display has nearly the same resolution as the phone, at 1280-by-800.

For software, the Padfone 2 runs Android 4.0, but according to Engadget an upgrade to Android 4.1 (known as Jelly Bean) is coming soon. Asus hasn't said much else about software, except that the Padfone 2 will have a handwriting-to-text conversion app called SuperNote and a built-in Instant Translation tool.

The Padfone 2 goes on sale in Taiwan next week, with pricing roughly equivalent to $620 for the 16 GB model, plus an extra $210 for the tablet dock. In Europe, the Padfone 2 and tablet dock will be sold together, priced at 799 Euros for 32 GB or 899 Euros for 64 GB, reports The Verge.

Asus hasn't announced U.S. availability. The original Padfone was a no-show at U.S. wireless carriers, but its lack of 4G LTE might have been to blame. If carriers decide to sell the Padfone 2 stateside, it'll be interesting to see whether they require a separate data plan to use the tablet when docked, or try to tie the device into shared data plans that include hotspot functionality at no extra charge.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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