Asus' PadFone, its crazy convertible tablet and smartphone concept, made its US debut in the form of the PadFone X just this past June, but the company is already following it up with another version of the idea. The PadFone X mini is a smaller edition of its forebear, and it will be available on AT&T's prepaid GoPhone service for $199.99 without a contract starting on October 24th.
Where the PadFone X had a 5-inch screen and docked into a 9-inch tablet, the mini iteration has a 4.5-inch screen and docks into a 7-inch tablet. The PadFone X mini is powered by an Intel processor, making it the first LTE smartphone in the US to use Intel's chips and Asus says the mini will last 15.8 hours on its own, while it will go for 28.3 hours when docked into the tablet. Our experience with the first PadFone X wasn't that positive: the phone and tablet dock were poorly made and the software that enabled the docking feature was clunky and unreliable. Based on the images provided by Asus and Intel, it doesn't look like much has changed in terms of industrial design for the mini, so hopefully the software has been improved since the first version. One notable hardware change is the PadFone X tablet dock was oriented in landscape, while the smaller mini dock uses a vertical or portrait orientation that is better suited for smaller tablets.
As the wireless market has evolved and changed over the last year, with the actual retail prices of smartphones becoming better understood by consumers, we've seen more interesting and unique devices available on lower-cost prepaid services. The Sharp Aquos Crystal, a $149.99 phone available on Sprint's Boost service, comes to mind as a desirable phone at an aggressively low price point. The PadFone X mini appears to continue this trend, though it will have to impress more than Asus' first Padfone X if it's going to be a compelling option for prospective smartphone buyers on a budget.