Asus crosses smartphone, tablet to make PadFone Infinity, Fonepad

BARCELONA—It’s only the first day of Mobile World Congress and already the sheer number of shiny new gadgets is starting to feel a bit overwhelming. Doing its part to ensure that attending journalists keep busy, Asus announced a pair of new smartphones—the PadFone Infinity and the Fonepad.

The PadFone Infinity is a slick Android handset running on a 1.7GHz quad-core Qualcomm 800 processor. The phone boasts a unibody design and is composed largely of an aerospace-grade aluminum. It feels well built, and the PadFone Infinity’s rounded back helps the phone sit comfortably in your hand. The phone has a 5-inch 1920-by-1080p display and a 13-megapixel camera with an f2.0 aperture.

Plug the PadFone Infinity into this docking station, and your Android handset becomes a tablet.

But the PadFone Infinity’s most prominent feature is its ability to become a full-fledged Android tablet when docked with the PadFone Infinity Station—essentially an empty shell that you slide your phone into. Any resemblance to Asus’s line of Infinity Pad tablets is purely intentional. Once the PadFone Infinity has been docked, you’ll be able to access tablet-specific apps and take advantage of the added screen real-estate. The Station also charges the PadFone Infinity when docked and Asus claims you’ll be able to get up 17 hours of browsing when using the two together.

Combined with its docking station, the PadFone Infinity is capable of running tablet-specific apps.

If you’re someone who likes the idea of a tablet-sized phone but don’t want to carry around both a phone and dock, then the Fonepad might strike your fancy. What initially appears to be a 7-inch tablet is, in fact, a 7-inch smartphone capable of running tablet-specific apps. The Fonepad has a 1280-by-800 IPS display and 10 hours of battery life; it runs on an Intel Atom Z2420 processor.

The Fonepad from Asus isn’t a tablet—it’s just a really big smartphone.

The phone felts a lot like Google’s Nexus 7, though I was a little disappointed that the Fonepad was only running Android 4.1. The Fonepad was very responsive, and the added screen space meant I was able to type out text messages faster than I ever could on my dinky iPhone. Some people may scoff at having a phone of this size, but the benefits definitely outweigh any drawbacks that come from carrying around what essentially amounts to a small tablet.

Asus currently has no plans to bring the PadFone Infinity to the US, though the company mentioned that the Fonepad will be available stateside starting in March for a reasonable $250.

Updated at 2:50 p.m. with video from IDG News Service.

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