Pros and cons of the Asus Padfone modular approach

Pros and cons of the Asus Padfone modular approach

Summary: The modular approach of the newly announced Asus Padfone can be a good one if its done correctly, but it can be doomed for failure if it is not done properly. Here are the pros and cons as I see them.

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TOPICS: Hardware
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Today at Computex Asus unveiled the expected Padfone modular mobile package that uses an Android smartphone to power a 10-inch tablet. The announcement didn't have surprises over the leaked information, and showcased a clever method of using a tablet dock to turn a smartphone into a more useful device with a larger screen. This modular approach can be a good one if its done correctly, but it can be doomed for failure if it is not done properly. It would be a good idea for Asus to think through the pros and cons of the modular approach.

Pros

Open opportunities. The modular system opens up a number of useful scenarios for consumers who buy into the method. The tablet dock Asus is demonstrated takes advantage of the hot segment of the moment, yet is also open to other docking solutions. Motorola demonstrated this with the Atrix 4G and the innovative laptop dock, and Asus could produce other docks like this to use with the Padfone. The consumer could buy into as much or as little of the entire ecosystem as needed, and have multiple devices run by the one phone.

One data plan. The beauty of the Padfone modular system is the phone is the connection. The tablet dock is just a bigger display, so the user only needs one SIM card and one data plan with a carrier to make them both work. This makes it cost effective for the owner, while providing mobile connectivity for the tablet anywhere. It's a win-win for the consumer.

Seamless docking. As demonstrated by Asus, the Padfone owner can be working away normally with the phone and have the tablet seamlessly take over when the phone is docked. This fits the way people work and will provide a positive experience for the user. Pop the phone in the tablet and have a better experience in an instant.

Flexibility. Mobile professionals love choice, and this modular approach provides it. The user can leave the tablet dock at home when the phone is enough, or take them both.

Battery benefits. As I discovered with the Atrix 4G and the laptop dock, the benefits to battery life of the phone are enormous. The Asus tablet dock has its own large battery that takes over when the phone is docked, and it should be possible to get near all-day battery life using the combo. More importantly, Asus confirmed that like the laptop dock on the Atrix, the tablet dock charges the Padfone battery while docked. That means that when you pop the phone out of the tablet, it will usually have a fully charged battery. This is big in real usage.

Easier updates. Getting Android updates on devices is not an easy thing, given all the parties involved in the process. The modular approach makes this process much easier, simply because only the phone needs updates. When the phone gets updated all the docks get updated too.

Cons

Pricing. While the Padfone and tablet dock are two different devices, consumer reaction to the Atrix shows that's not how they are perceived by buyers when it comes to pricing. Sales of the Atrix and laptop dock were not big, and commentary indicates that prospective buyers felt the combo was too expensive. Asus will find that consumers consider the tablet dock to be a less than ideal gadget as it is just a shell for the phone. Reaction to the Atrix leads me to believe that consumers will expect the Padfone/ tablet dock combo to be far cheaper than regular Android tablets. The carrier-subsidized price of $500 for the Atrix 4G phone and the laptop dock was much too high to generate good sales, and this will be the same for the any modular system. The docks must be dirt cheap to get buyers' attention, since they've already bought the phone.

Carrier interference. In the U. S. the carriers exert too much pressure over their customers and they will have a knee-jerk reaction to this modular approach where one SIM powers multiple devices. AT&T did this with the Atrix 4G/laptop dock combo by requiring a paid tethering plan to use the phone in the dock. This makes no sense on any level, but that's the way it is and likely to be applied to any modular system. This type of interference is what drives customers to Wi-Fi only tablets, as it removes the carrier from the equation. The Padfone is going to be up against this in the U. S.

Data caps. Limited data consumption is here to stay in the U. S., and using the phone's connection to get a bigger device online will result in greater data usage. While carriers have so far been willing to let smartphones have unlimited data connections, that will not be the case for those that plug into larger screen devices. Users of modular systems might discover just how quickly those data caps can be exceeded.

I am a big fan of the modular approach to using the smartphone as the brains of multiple devices. I can see a system where mobile professionals have multiple docks to fit their needs of a particular time. A powerful smartphone is a great daily companion, and the ability to choose either a tablet or laptop dock for a given trip would be wonderful. Let's hope Asus does this right. Unfortunately, the Padfone shown at Computex today is just a mockup and the shipping product is not expected until the end of the year. A lot can happen between now and then.

Here is a video from Asus showing the Padfone modular system, and discussing the design process.

Image credit: Netbook News

Topic: Hardware

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48 comments
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  • Whether such system has big consumer sense or not, is answered by the fact

    Apple did not release it. Considering Apple's power of "visionary", this is might easily mean that that kind of combo products will not be big hits.<br><br>And your list of "cons" lacks such points as people wanting to have immediate access to both type of devices without any messing with covers, inserting and extracting things in/from each other, and people wanting less bulky pad.<br><br>Not to say that such solutions as this and Atrix have no future; these will have moderate success among selected audience since concept is interesting enough and might be useful.
    DDERSSS
    • RE: Pros and cons of the Asus Padfone modular approach

      @denisrs <br>I think you may be wrong on this.<br>I find opportunities every day where I wish I could dock my i4 into my iPad or at the click of a button leave one device and seamlessly migrate to the other.<br><br>The clunky way of docking and the lack of seamless transition was one of the main reasons I did not get the Atrix.<br><br>Put this baby on my shopping list. <img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/grin.gif" alt="grin"><br>I'd get this now if it was available.<br><br>Best I've seen yet.
      rhonin
      • I (Apple) may be wrong, of course; lets see the sales in half year

        @rhonin
        DDERSSS
      • RE: Pros and cons of the Asus Padfone modular approach

        @denisrs
        Chuckle ;)
        Once they release it.
        rhonin
      • RE: Pros and cons of the Asus Padfone modular approach

        @James Kendrick

        Pros: All

        Cons: it's not a magical and revolutionary iTurd device produced by Jobs himself and painted in white
        nomorebs
    • Apple?

      @denisrs

      Is that sarcasm? Many organizations are "visionary" and deliver customer solutions. This is answered by the fact that 95% of desktops are running something other than an Apple OS natively.
      Your Non Advocate
      • Your scope is too big; focus on mobile devices market: since Apple was the

        @facebook@... ... first to make tablet "right", and this company has iPhone, the biggest selling model among phones. So <b>of course</b> Apple tested various types of combo as this or Atrix (probably long before other companies), and declined all of these variants.<br><br>Experience tells that Apple's decisions are backed up by "vision" very strongly (sometimes leaving competitors years behind), so unless you want to sound like Steven Ballmer from 2007 (laughing at iPhone), you would seriously consider Apple's point of view.
        DDERSSS
      • RE: Pros and cons of the Asus Padfone modular approach

        @denisrs - You do realize that RIM has been selling smartphones since 2004? You do realize that palm laid the groundwork for all of this stuff? Apple hasn't actually invented anything in 30 years. The iPod was a Creative knockoff to boot. They take existing technology and improve it, their "innovations" are merely marketing techniques.
        hoaxoner
      • Do you realize that Apple Newton Message Pad (1993) laid the groundwork for

        @hoaxoner: ... all that? It had touch screen, the icons (GUI), it was smart communication device. It was the first PDA/tablet in mass production (there were only 5 KG movable screen-computers before that never got in real mass production).
        DDERSSS
      • RE: Pros and cons of the Asus Padfone modular approach

        @denisrs And the palm pilot came out a few years later and was actually successful. The newton flopped, but Palm's descendents STILL exist! Apple failed on the newton there's no other way to spin it. They executed poorly and US Robotics got it right. Does Apple innovate? Yes. Was the newton poorly executed, no one can deny that.

        Let's face it, the iPhone of today is closer to the palm treo, the only difference is the lack of a stylus.
        snoop0x7b
      • RE: Pros and cons of the Asus Padfone modular approach

        @ snoop0x7b

        BULL. This is not the first time you have reiterated this garbage, and not the first time I have taken you to task on it. Maybe this will be the first time you have a reply.
        In no conceivable way did the Newton fail. It CREATED an entire market segment that simply DID NOT EXIST prior, and it made a profit for Apple. The only reason that Apple stopped production was that Jobs killed all projects across the board upon his return, in order to focus on the iMac.

        "And the palm pilot came out a few years later and was actually successful. The newton flopped, but Palm's descendents STILL exist!"


        So do those of the Newton. THey are called the iPhone and iPad, and they drove Palm out of business.

        "Apple failed on the newton there's no other way to spin it. They executed poorly and US Robotics got it right. Does Apple innovate? Yes. Was the newton poorly executed, no one can deny that. "

        Demonstrably false:
        Cogito ero sum
        I deny that
        Quod erat demonstrandum
        DeusXMachina
      • RE: Pros and cons of the Asus Padfone modular approach

        @DeusXMachina
        [b]Demonstrably false:
        Cogito ero sum
        I deny that
        Quod erat demonstrandum [/b]

        Seriously. You need a better Latin - English translator.

        Cogito ero sum - I think, therefore I am.
        Quod erat demonstrandum - That which is to be demonstrated.
        Wolfie2K3
      • RE: Pros and cons of the Asus Padfone modular approach

        @Wolfie2K3<br>And you need a better deductive reasoning teacher.<br><br>I was replying to snoop0x7b, specifically regarding his statement:<br>"...no one can deny that."<br><br>Cogito ero sum. (Therefore I am someone.)<br>I deny it. (Therefore someone exists that can deny it.)<br>Therefore the statement that "no one can deny that" is proved false.<br>Quod erat demonstrandum.<br><br>My Latin is just fine, thank you very much.
        DeusXMachina
    • RE: Pros and cons of the Asus Padfone modular approach

      @denisrs Apple would never do this... Not because they're visionaries, but because they have clear product lines by which they refuse to cross and steal market share from...

      These other companies know that the iPhone 4 is getting its Ass kicked by Android the world over and this decision is smart because it opens up a ton of opportunity in the tablet space.
      slickjim
      • iPhone is hardly getting anything kicked by Android

        Comparing an operating system spread over dozens of units sold at razor thin margins with a single product line bringing in billions of dollars to a single company simply proves that having a brain doesn't mean you've been trained in its use.
        fr_gough
      • RE: Pros and cons of the Asus Padfone modular approach

        @Peter Perry<br><br>And this will be about the TENTH time that I have challenged you to name a SINGLE carrier, ANYWHERE in the world, that has been selling both iPhone and Android, where the iPhone does not outsell ALL android devices, COMBINED, by an order of magnitude. You can't, because there are none.<br>And news flash, the iPod touch crosses market segments with the iPhone. You are thus wrong. QED.
        DeusXMachina
      • RE: Pros and cons of the Asus Padfone modular approach

        To fr_gough

        Maybe comparing android to the iphone is a little unfair but comparing the ios to the android operating system is fair and apple is still getting their ass kicked!

        They're getting their ass kicked because their products like the ipad2 and the iphone is getting old and stale. You have to give them credit for marketing and innovating a great phone and slate but since, it's really dull compare to the slick new android products of today. Even just looking at the same tire home screen of the ipad and iphone looks really old to me. Technology and innovation moves in waves and while apple may have caught the first wave, they've done nothing in terms of innovation since the original iphone and ipad.
        business owner
      • RE: Pros and cons of the Asus Padfone modular approach

        @business owner

        You don't get to make stuff up, and you shouldn't comment on matters you know nothing about.

        "Maybe comparing android to the iphone is a little unfair but comparing the ios to the android operating system is fair and apple is still getting their ass kicked!"

        Bull. As I have repeatedly asked please name a single carrier, anywhere on the entire PLANET, that has carried both Android and the iPhone, where iPhone has not sold more units than EVERY Android vendor COMBINED. You can't because there isn't one. Who is getting their ass kicked?
        Not to mention the fact that Apple makes about a 35% profit just on the hardware alone per unit, whereas Google makes NOTHING, and the OEM might have a margin of 5%.

        "They're getting their ass kicked because their products like the ipad2 and the iphone is getting old and stale. You have to give them credit for marketing and innovating a great phone and slate but since, it's really dull compare to the slick new android products of today."

        Name one. Not a single Android tablet has sales even 1/10 that of the iPad.

        "Even just looking at the same tire home screen of the ipad and iphone looks really old to me."
        And you matter why, exactly?

        "Technology and innovation moves in waves and while apple may have caught the first wave, they've done nothing in terms of innovation since the original iphone and ipad."

        Proof you don't know crap about either.
        DeusXMachina
    • RE: Pros and cons of the Asus Padfone modular approach

      @denisrs

      Apple didn't think much of netbooks either and look how popular those have been? Apple underestimates consumers' appetite for high-tech at low prices. Apple assumes everyone can afford technology at their high prices. While Apple's view may be wise from a business standpoint, it does not reflect the desires of consumers.

      I am interested to see if carriers or others screw this concept up like they mentioned was possible in the article.
      josh92
      • But netbooks are low margin device, no one earns money on them

        @josh92: in fact, Acer, which is biggest netbook producer, had quite harsh quarter recently.
        DDERSSS