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Asus PadFone coming to a 'very big' US operator next year

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New PadFone mini unveiled as part of a new strategy

PadFone mini
PadFone mini

Asus has shied away from launching its PadFone devices in the US, but that may change soon. In an interview with Engadget, Asus CEO Jerry Shen reveals the company is planning a set of high-end PadFones for Europe and the US, alongside a "mainstream" series for Asia. Asus has typically launched its PadFone variants in Taiwan, using the country as a test bed for any further expansions. Asus’ latest PadFone Infinity smartphone launched in Taiwan in May complete with the option to dock it into a large display to become a tablet, and Shen claims it has sold more than 10,000 units per month between April and August. That’s not a huge number by itself, but selling over 200 units per day in Taiwan has widened the company’s ambitions for the device.

New Padfone mini part of Asus' latest strategy

Part of Asus' latest strategy is on display today, as the company launches its new PadFone mini in Taiwan. It’s a smaller alternative to the PadFone Infinity, combining a 4.3-inch phone with a 7-inch display that the phone can dock into. It’s not part of the high-end series of PadFones that Shen is promising, but it sits comfortably in the "mainstream" market thanks to a 1.4GHz quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, and a 960 x 540 display. Once the phone element is docked with the 7-inch display, the resolution increases to 1280 x 800 — a modest bump given the alternatives from competitors at 7 inches.

Asus is now working to improve its PadFone software ahead of a US launch of future hardware. While the UI of its Android devices has been tweaked, Asus has also added an "Owl Mode" to its new PadFone Mini, designed to improve low-light camera performance. The mode is toggled from an owl icon in the UI, and it combines four sensor pixels into one to absorb more light in a method that’s similar to HTC’s UltraPixel. Asus is now targeting a new PadFone release with a "big operator" partner in the US for Q2 2014. "Once this product is launched [in the US], we will definitely have no problem tackling Europe with the same product, because this US operator is very big," Shen says. Both CES and Mobile World Congress take place early next year, so it’s possible we’ll hear more about Asus’ US plans for its unique phone and tablet combination shortly.