Just like it said it would, ASUS has formally unveiled its versatile, form-changing PadFone at Mobile World Congress. There are two stories here, and they're both quite compelling, frankly. On the one hand, you've got yet another high-end device, with a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED qHD display, Snapdragon's new dual-core S4 chip, an Adreno 225 GPU, Ice Cream Sandwich and an 8-megapixel rear camera with an LED flash and f/2.2 autofocusing lens. (The front camera records at VGA resolution.) Other specs include 16 to 64GB of internal storage (expandable via microSD), Bluetooth 4.0, HDMI, GPS, A-GPS, a gyroscope, 1,520mAh battery and a compass. Connectivity options include WCDMA (900, 2100 MHz), EDGE / GPRS / GSM (850, 1800 and 1900 MHz) and HSPA+, with theoretical download speeds topping out at 42Mbps.
Barring LTE, we wouldn't expect much less from a flagship launched at the world's premier wireless show.
But those are just specs. If you focus solely on its chip and 9.2mm-thick frame you'd be missing its most distinguishing attribute: it's ability to parade around in tablet's clothing (albeit, with the help of some optional, still-unpriced accessories.) Taking a cue from Motorola's Lapdock-friendly handsets, the PadFone can slide into an optional station that effectively allows you to use it as if it were a 10.1-inch tablet. Like the optional docks sold alongside ASUS' Transformer tablets, the station not only improves the ergonomics, but also extends the battery life -- in this case, by nine-fold. Speaking of keyboard docks, ASUS will be selling one for this product, too, so that you can tuck that 10-inch phone-tablet into something with a full physical keyboard. Finally, there's that guy you see up there, which looks like a stylus (and is!), but also doubles as a headset for receiving calls. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the future.
And when can you make it yours? ASUS confirmed that the PadFone will ship in April. Unfortunately, the company stopped short of revealing any pricing, so you'll have to stay tuned for some country-specific details. For now, though, we're planning on getting hands-on with the device as soon as we can, giving you a much closer look than we were able to when we spied a prototype back at CES.
Update: And our hands-on is up now. Enjoy!
Update 2: ASUS just confirmed that the LTE flavor of the PadFone will be available in early Q3 -- see the slide after the break.