Asus has unveiled the PadFone 2, a follow-up to its phone-tablet device released earlier in 2012. The update is set to reach store shelves in Europe before the end of December.
Rather than being a single device halfway between a phone and a tablet — what some call a 'phablet' — the Padfone is a 4.7-inch Android smartphone that can be docked with its accompanying 10.1-inch tablet station.
That gives people a more full-featured experience than with the handset alone. For example, business users get access to SuperNote, which converts handwritten notes into editable text, and an instant translation tool for words in emails, web pages and apps.
The PadFone 2, like its predecessor, promises an "instant transition between smartphone and tablet screen sizes", Asus said in a statement.
The PadFone 2 was introduced by Asus chairman Jonney Shih in Milan on Tuesday.
Clearly setting its sights on the top end of the market, the PadFone 2 comes with some Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5-challenging specs. These include a 1.5GHz Qualcomm quad-core S4 processor, 13-megapixel camera and 2GB of RAM.
It also offers 4G LTE connectivity in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 1800MHz and 1900MHz bands. In the UK, operator EE will begin offering 4G services in the 1800MHz frequency, with rival services set to launch in the 800MHz band in around May 2013.
Operating system-wise, the PadFone 2 will arrive running Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), and can be upgraded to Jelly Bean in the future.
The handset itself has a 4.7-inch 720p IPS (in-plane switching) display. IPS displays offer a better, wider viewing angle than non-IPS displays.
The 13-megapixel camera is capable of capturing high-definition video and has a burst mode that can capture up to 100 shots at six images per second, according to Asus.
Unlike its predecessor, the PadFone 2 can now be docked in one step and doesn't need to be kept in place with a plastic flap.
The combined weight of the phone with the tablet dock is 649g, making the package slightly lighter than the current generation iPad.
On its own, the phone measures 9mm at its thickest point and weighs just 135g.
The PadFone 2 will launch with a choice of internal storage capacity of 32GB or 64GB. It also comes with 50GB of cloud storage, free for two years using Asus's WebStorage service.
In Europe, the 32GB version (with dock) will be priced at €799, while the 64GB version will set you back €899.
Asus said the PadFone 2 will go on sale in Europe (Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden) and Asia (Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, UAE) before the end of December.
However, Asus could not say whether it will be offered in the UK.