The new device specs are impressive: latest quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon APQ8064 CPU, 2GB of RAM, 13 mpx camera with 60 fps 720p/30fps 1080p video recording, 4.7” 720p 550 nits IPS touchscreen, 2140 mAh battery, LTE, NFC, 50 GB of cloud storage and much more. The tablet dock called Padfone Station adds 10.1” 1280×800 IPS display and 5000 mAh of battery.
On paper Asus Padfone 2 looks great.
And it will fail just like the first Padfone failed. And like all other smartphone/tablet/PC hybrids before it failed.
The trouble is- these kinds of devices bring very little value for average Joe, and solve very few problems a stand-alone, and often cheaper, smartphone/tablet combo can’t solve, too.
The new Asus 32GB Padfone 2 with Padfone station tablet dock costs 799 Euro. Motorola Atrix with a Lapdock went for about as much when it became available. Meanwhile, I can buy 16GB Samsung Galaxy S3 for less than 500 Euro and 16GB Nexus 7 for 250 Euro in Germany today.
The only benefit I get from the Padfone, is that all my data and apps are in the same place, and I can get to them on a bigger screen, as soon as I dock the phone into the Padstation. With most of my files synced in the cloud, and Wi-Fi tethering – an increasingly meaningless advantage.
But I still have to lug the useless display box around if I want the tablet functionality. And if I want to use a phone, I can’t do that without a headset, or broadcasting my conversation to everyone around, when it is docked.
I am trying to think of various scenarios of Asus Padfone use, and nine times out of ten Galaxy S3/Nexus 7 combo comes out on top.
I used to think that such hybrid smartphone/tablet/laptop devices are the future. That the only reason they didn’t take off yet, was the technology, which just wasn’t there yet. That it is just a matter of time until the necessary components and software gets good and cheap enough to make a breakthrough hybrid. And if it won’t happen this year, it will definitely happen in 2013-2014.
I was wrong.
Data and app portability/sync is just not the problem that needs solving. It already is solved, more or less, with the means we have. And the price savings you can get in a hybrid, by avoiding duplication of a few components like CPU, baseband and RAM, will never be worth the lost flexibility from a stand-alone smartphone/tablet combo.
There’s a good reason why all the previous attempts to create a mass market hybrid smartphone-computer-tablet, failed. And why we only see them from companies like Asus and Motorola, who are trying hard (and failing) to find a place in a smartphone market. Unable to compete with more successful players on own smartphone merits, they’ll try anything just for the sake of being different.
Every hybrid device I have seen to date is an ultimate example of a solution looking for a problem. It looks great on paper for company engineers looking to create something original. And the stuff an upstart vendor is able to cram into the device, between the smartphone heart and the tablet base, makes tech geeks like me drool in anticipation. Hence all the excited headlines in tech blogs, when another one of them is announced.
Asus Padfone 2 and other converged gadgets that I’m sure will come along, may find their small niche. There may be some special cases and enthusiasts who will prefer them to the standalone smartphone and tablet.
But a mainstream Padfone like device? Forget it. There really is no need for such thing.