Asus' original PadFone took an Odyssean twelve months to find its way from announcement (and re-announcement) to a retail release, so it's no surprise to see its successor making a debut so soon after the first units hit store shelves. The PadFone 2 maintains the Android smartphone trend toward bigger and better screens, by stepping up to a 4.7-inch 720p IPS display, and also bumps up the megapixel count on the camera, moving to a 13MP shooter. The backside-illuminated sensor is provided by Sony, making it likely the same one as seen on the Xperia T. The PadFone's processor has also been beefed up in a major way, as there's now a 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 with 2GB of RAM at the heart of the new device.

Of course, a PadFone wouldn't be a PadFone without a tailor-made tablet accessory, which in the case of the new handset is a thinner slate with a redesigned docking connection. The door of the original hybrid has been removed and the PadFone 2 now sits vertically in its tablet dock, giving it the appearance of a protruding spine to the significantly slimmer tablet. The resolution of the 10.1-inch tablet is unchanged, at 1280 x 800, though the battery on board has actually been downgraded to 5000mAh from the original's 6600mAh. Asus must have felt this sacrifice was worth making in order to make the PadFone 2 docking station thinner and lighter, plus the handset itself now carries a bigger charge with a 2140mAh cell residing within it.

Other specs of note include LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS with GLONASS support, and a custom new 13-pin dock connector that supports Micro USB 2.0 and MHL connections.

On the software front, Asus will ship out the PadFone 2 with Android 4.0.4 initially, but promises a brisk upgrade to Android 4.1 and all the goodness of Jelly Bean will be coming "shortly." The new smartphone / tablet hybrid's release date is set for "before the end of 2012" for Europe and Asia, while other countries will be announced later on.

Update: Pricing for Europe has been announced: the 32GB Padfone 2 will sell for €799 and the 64GB model for €899. Both will include the tablet dock by default and will come in two color options: black or white. We've heard no mention of a compatible keyboard dock, unfortunately.

Update 2: We've now gotten ahold of the PadFone 2 and posted up our first hands-on impressions, pictures and video with the super-specced Android device.

Compare this: PadFone vs. PadFone 2!