Asus unleashes 7-inch phone in PH

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By Daniel O. Escasa Taiwanese tech firm Asus officially launched last week the Fonepad, a mobile phone with a massive 7-inch screen. Or is it a tablet with call-and-text functions? In either case, Asus believes that the Fonepad is for people who value both the voice capabilities of a smartphone and a tablet’s screen size, but prefer the convenience of carrying just one device. After all, the brochure claims that ?[w]e now spend more time looking at the screen on our smartphones than we do making calls, so why are their screens still so small?? Asus cited a study that showed that smartphone users spend more time in applications such as social networking, Web browsing, and video conferencing (outside of social networking sites) than they do on voice calls or text messaging. In order to give the smartphone-tablet-in-one crowd a satisfying experience, Asus has chosen to go with an Intel Atom to power the Fonepad ? the 1.2GHz Z2420 to be more specific. Why not a multi-core ARM? It turns out that the Atom is even more energy-efficient than the ARM. ARM processors, for one, have only three levels of energy saving settings compared to the Atom’s five. The Atom’s fifth level completely shuts down the device, and saves its state in non-volatile memory. The ARM’s top level, on the other hand, only shuts down the processes but has to consume power to keep memory active. With a 7-inch screen and 1280×800 resolution, plus 3G (HSPA+), the Fonepad looks like the potential battery guzzler. However, Intel’s five levels of energy savings allows the Fonepad to run up to nine hours looping a 720p video file, with screen brightness set to 100 nits, external microphone, WLAN/3G on, and logged on to Gmail for email and updates. Obviously, users have better things to do than watch nine hours of video, so typical use should yield about one day and a half of battery life. Asus is therefore too modest about battery life. When you read that its battery life is ?up to nine hours?, you’re likely to be put off and look at the next tablet with call-and-text functions. Don’t be. The nine hours should be the minimum. How about performance? After all, the Atom is at best a dual-core processor. Intel has worked with manufacturers to modify Android (4.1 Jelly Bean in this case) so that it takes advantage of the Atom’s multi-threading, which means that it can execute more machine instructions than the ARM in the same clock cycle. Intel also did this with the Acer Liquid C1, the first Atom-powered smartphone. Asus provided a few demo units to show off the Fonepad’s performance. Indeed, screen refreshes were smooth. A potentially weak point may be the rear camera, which is only 3 megapixels. It does support 720p video recording though, and besides, the megapixel count is only part of a camera’s performance. The 1.3 megapixel front camera should suffice for video conferences, either through 3G or WiFi. Another concern is, how would I look holding a tablet to my ear? The Treo (remember that?) was bad enough, although it wasn’t much larger than today’s smartphones. The Fonepad has the usual audio jack for the wired headset, or you can use a Bluetooth headset. [caption id="attachment_10112" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="From left: my old Siemens M35i, Handspring Visor, current LG P500, and a facsimile of the Fonepad. The Treo wasn't quite as big as the Visor, maybe a tad narrower. As an aside, I think the M35i still works"][/caption] More specs: Color: Titanium Gray or Champagne Gold RAM: 1GB Storage: 8 or 16GB, with Webstorage of 5GB lifetime free External storage: up to 32GB micro-SD The 5GB is puny compared to LG’s partnership with box.com, which gives 50GB to buyers of LG phones. Still, 5GB is a lot and, can anyone really use up 50GB of storage? The Fonepad will be available last week of May. The 8GB version will cost P11,995, the 16GB, P14,995. Asus may have reignited the debates that 30-somethings should remember in the latter part of the last century and the earlier years of the current one: one device or two? The ?one device? was a phone with Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) functions ? primarily calendaring, email, address book, and maybe Internet-based Instant Messaging (IM). The ?two devices? consisted of a simpler phone, paired with a PDA, mostly a Palm Pilot, through either Bluetooth or Infra-red. In brief, the concern of the two-device camp was that if your ?smart phone? (the term ‘smartphone’ wasn’t really formal yet) broke down, you’d lose both call-and-text and your calendar and address book. On the other hand, the one-device proponents were after lighter pockets. After all, one device is lighter than two. Asus is obviously on the one-device-to-rule-them-all camp, and is hoping that the market is big enough to accommodate the Fonepad.]]>

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