ASUS Fonepad.

Android has a long history of playing host to ridiculously large smartphones. First there was the Dell Streak. Next came the original Samsung Galaxy Note. And now in 2013 we have the ASUS Fonepad, a 7-inch tablet that's also a 7-inch phone. On first inspection the Fonepad looks a little bit like a another 7-inch ASUS tablet, the Nexus 7. But unlike that device it's also a full 3G/HSPA phone, complete with earpiece and microphone. That's right, you can hold this seven-inch slab of electronics to your head and make telephone calls.

Android Central at Mobile World CongressWhere other large smartphones -- including Huawei's gigantic Ascend Mate -- trim down their bezels to make them more pocket and hand-friendly, ASUS has chosen to incorporate a tablet-sized screen trim on the Fonepad. As a result, using the device as a telephone in the usual way is the binary opposite of ergonomic. If you felt awkward making phone calls on a Galaxy Note, that's nothing by comparison. Assuming you posses digits large enough to palm the Fonepad to your ear, you're going to look and feel like an idiot walking around with it pressed to your face.

So how does the Fonepad hold up as a tablet? Well, the overall experience is pretty close to the Nexus 7 in both size and software. You've got Android 4.1.2 running the show, along with ASUS' own UI layer -- still fairly close to stock, but slowly becoming more feature-laden as time passes. One interesting addition is small, windowed apps, accessible via the on-screen button to the far right. Like similar implementations from Sony and Samsung, this pops up a menu from which you can choose a variety of miniature applications, including notepads, calculators and the like.

The Fonepad has a metal back, and the build quality is decent, though not outstanding. That should come as no surprise when you consider the Fonepad's budget pricing -- £179 in the UK and €219 in the eurozone. It lacks the finesse of the brushed aluminum on devices like the HTC One and ASUS' own Padfone Infinity. Overall, it's about as well-made as the Nexus 7 (a pretty well-constructed tablet, if you ask us), but there's a gulf between it and certain other premium tablets made out of metal.

Powering the ASUS Fonepad is an Intel Atom Z2420 CPU -- a 1.2GHz single-core part with HyperThreading tech. There's also 1GB of RAM and 8 or 16GB of internal storage, backed up by a microSD card slot (accessible by snapping the top area off). Overall, you're looking at pretty modest internals, but enough to provide a reasonably snappy Android 4.1 experience.

In our view, the Fonepad makes more sense as a cheap tablet that doubles up as a phone in an emergency. However it isn't branded as such -- it's the Fonepad after all. It'll make for a decent budget tab, but it falls flat when presented as a smartphone competitor.

The ASUS Fonepad will launch in Q2 in Europe and Asia. In Europe, it'll come with 16GB of storage and no rear camera; in Asia,  you'll get 8GB and a 3MP rear shooter.

 

Reader comments

Hands-on with the ASUS Fonepad

29 Comments

I don't know about holding this up to my ear, but I've been wanting a tablet that can make phone calls for a while now. My Note 2 doesn't feel strange holding up to my ear, but most of the time, I'm on speakerphone or using a headset while I take notes on the screen.

If my Nexus 7 could make phone calls natively, it would make it so much easier to just carry one device around, instead of a phone and a tablet all the time. I keep hoping the Note 8.0 will come to the USA with phone capabilities, but it hasn't happened with other phone-capable tablets yet.

At the risk of stating the obvious, 7" phone is where I draw the line (I'm thinking 5.5 is the limit). As for 7" tablet that can make calls, I suppose video chat might be useful. However, I don't see myself replacing my phone and carrying a tablet everywhere. Phones are suppose to be portable and there is a limit to that form factor.

I'm just waiting for the first person to claim this is the "sweet spot" for a phone's screen size, and of course the necessary disagreement by someone else claiming that 10 inches is, in fact, the perfect screen size for a phone.

I'm starting to suspect I have maybe 1 more smartphone purchase before I retire from this game all together and go back to a dumb flip phone. It's just become a race to the ever more absurd.

Ha I kind of agree. As time passes I find myself more and more wanting to pick up a nice blackberry and just carry an android tablet around with me. Rocking the Note2 now, and I could see myself with a 6.5-7" phone (not with that bezel though!), but at the same time the lack of portability/ease of use would be annoying...

The idea is to use it as a speakerphone, not to actually put it to your ear. I use Groove IP on my Nexus 7 and I use it as a speakerphone.

I do the same thing with my Nexus 7, but I would love to be able to hold it up to my ear to make private calls. I really don't care if shallow people think I look like an idiot.

people though it was weird to hold a note or note 2 to your face...now its normal. so will the 7inch tablet. I know I would.

"...you're going to feel like an idiot walking around with it pressed to your face."

I'm glad somebody doesn't mince words when it comes to stupidity...lol

Somebody is going to do it right...Eventually. Ie a 7" tablet, thin bezel, with phone capabilities and a decient camera. Sure a lot of people, myself included, would not let it replace a phone for day to day usage. If your a business person on the road though, carrying one less device could be useful in "some" situations. We can all argue about the rights as wrongs, but its good to give people choice and let the market itself decide.

If I was a girl, I might be all over this or the GNote8.0, since I could just carry this in my purse and use a headset to talk. Maybe I'll buy this for my gf so she stops asking me to search for stuff on my phone.. hmmmm.

As for myself, I don't know if I'd use the phone capability, but I'd rather have the option than not.

"If I was a girl..."

Just start wearing one of those man-purses and carry it in that. You won't look any more ridiculous than you would holding up a tablet to your head! ;)

Just joking. I can understand the usefulness of a tablet being able to make calls, through speakerphone or headset, so I'm not against the device itself.

What I'm fearful of, and what has so far proven to be the direction this industry is headed, is that all manufacturers see this as validation that a 7 inch screen is viable on a phone. And just like 4 to 4.5 inch devices have virtually all fallen to mid-tier in terms of performance, 4.7 to 5 inch phones will be next.

Soon, you won't be able to get high-end specs in anything less than a 7 inch phone. It's too bad that manufacturers are all blindly chasing screen size to the exclusion of all else.

Definitely agree w/ this. Just last week, I had to recommend the iPhone to my brother b/c there were no small high end Android phones for ATT... NONE!

Just a couple years ago I thought my Skyrocket was bordering on too big for me. Now, I'd be lucky if I found a phone this small w/ the latest specs.

You're completely missing the point as to why the FonePad exists. Users in emerging markets - that would prefer a bigger screen option - have thus far been limited to 4 inch screens, because that seems to be in line with what the market dictates for budget handsets. A good portion of people in emerging markets can afford neither a Galaxy Note, nor a smartphone and tablet combination. This solution is perfect for said people: they get a bigger screen phone and can eliminate a device purchase. That's hardly chasing screen size to the exclusion of all else.

This phone isn't for you;it's a niche product, at best. As for your second-to-last comment regarding high end 7 inch phones:that's pure speculation on your part. If Google Glass takes off, then you're entire argument is mute ;)

No, I'm not completely missing the point. I get the point exactly, and I said as much, and I even said that I'm not against the device.

My point is that manufacturers are chasing this ever larger form factor to the total exclusion of *any* other size. You can no longer get ANY high-end, latest spec Android phone in anything less than a 4.7 inch screen. 4, 4.2/4.3 and now 4.5 inch screen phones have been relegated to mid-level devices, which is a shame because people DO exist who both want a high-performance device but don't want/need a gargantuan screen/phone.

In any case, I agree about Google Glass. I'm very interested to see that develop (and I wear glasses anyway, so maybe at some point, they could be integrated right in).

Yeah, you're right about there only being bigger screen phones with high-end specs. We both wear glasses; so if Google Glass does take off, then it'll be a win win and we may not even need a smartphone in the future, however big they may be lol.

EDIT: Sorry, that I said you completely missed the point. I just like to debate lol.

EDIT: Sorry, that I said you completely missed the point. I just like to debate lol.

No problemo, so do I... ;)

And yea, I can see it now - someone saying 7 inch lenses are the sweet spot for smart glasses, they can't imaging wearing any smaller!

OMG.. This is hilarious!! No way I'd walk around the in the city with this slab to my ear making phone calls :D 7" is waaaaay over the edge. This is a tablet, period! 4.7" is the maximum size for phone imo ... well ok, maybe 5" if the phone is extremely sleek. But this is just ridiculous

If this was a mid-range or upper mid-range unlocked HSPA/GSM "phone" selling for $249 people would be freaking out for it.

It would be like going to McDonalds and the cashier saying - would you like to supersize that and pay half off the regular price, or get the "normal" size and pay twice as much?

I'm surprised more people aren't commenting how great of a value this is. Pair it with a nice bluetooth headset for $50 bucks and you've got a perfect mate for a low cost pre-paid GSM plan.

No one with brains would expect anyone to assume it was made to hold to your ear, it is a great convenience to have in any pad. The pad along with a good bluetooth device would work excellent. If anyone had a choice to buy any pad including the i-pad with or without phone call capabilities I would bet anything they would choose the pad that made calls. No brainer. The only people that are making a joke of this are the i-pad owners and other pad owners that can't make calls.
This is a great little pad.

yeah well... paired with a bt-headset or not. You will always need to carry a pouch or bag with you, good luck putting this brick in your pocket =D

In the car it doesn't matter but I prefer just having my smartphone in my pocket when walking around the streets, shopping etc etc...whatever.. over carrying this brick with me everywhere

You just made up your own definition of brick. Nice.

Luckily for me, the Nexus 7 already fits fine in my pockets. This would too.

Last I checked, a brick is much thicker, heavier, dirtier, and doesn't run Android. But I don't care if your definition of a brick is a tablet.

One might feel like an idiot holding a tablet up to their face to talk, but they ALREADY LOOK like a douchebag with a bluetooth earpiece on their ear.

Not that I've ever cared much about what others think, but I won't use a bluetooth earpiece in public. I have one I use with Skype calls on my computer while at work, and I'll occasionally use it in the car. It works great, and I love it, but I still won't walk around with it in public. I think it's silly to see people wearing them 24/7.

You need to get over it. ALL tablets are non-removable battery. And many phones are moving that direction too.

Just use a bluetooth headset. Problem solved.

What is needed is a 7" tablet phone with a built-in headset dock that keeps it charged and ready at all times. Phone rings, pop it out and take the call.