BERLIN -- If it seems like only 5 minutes since you first met the Asus FonePad 7 enormophone, that's because -- in technology time -- it was. The original FonePad made its debut in February at mobile phone trade show MWC in Barcelona, Spain, and barely six months lately we're back in Europe for trade show IFA 2013 where the next-generation Asus FonePad 7 2014 Edition ushers its predecessor offstage.
The FonePad is a 7-inch tablet with a twist: it's also a phone. If you like the idea of holding to your face a phone the size of a DVD case, then read on.
The 2014 Edition of the FonePad replaces the model launched in February with the same name but improved specs, for roughly the same price. One big change is that in some countries the previous model didn't have a main camera to keep the price down, but the new model comes with a camera across the board.
Inside the new FonePad is a dual-core 1.6GHz Intel Atom Z2560 processor with 1GB of RAM, and it now comes with faster HSPA+ 3G for connecting to the Web at up to 42Mbps while out and about.
The new FonePad is 10.5mm thick and weighs 340g. It adds a new smudge-resistant coating, but even in my first moments playing with the device it was clear the glossy back and screen are both fingerprint magnets.
The screen is a 1,280x800-pixel display with in-plane switching (IPS), which Asus reckons makes for wider viewing angles and better daylight visibility. There are two speakers in the front when watching movies, playing games, or annoying everyone else on the bus.
Camera-wise, the new FonePad 7 boasts a 5-megapixel autofocus snapper on the back and 1.2-megapixel camera on the front for video chat and blurry selfless. The main camera fires a quick burst of up to 100 photos, and you can also shoot high-definition 1080p video. The 3,950mAh battery gives you up to 28 hours with the slablike FonePad 7 held to your face talking away, up to 35 days of standby time, or up to 10 hours of video playback. You can choose from either 8GB, 16GB, or 32GB of storage or add a microSDHC card. Oddly, the memory card slot is uncovered so your card is easily accessible but also open to the elements, or more accurately, pocket detritus.
The software is Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, based around home screens that you fill with shortcuts to your favourite apps and widgets that give you the latest information without having to open up an app.
Asus has a clever Floating App feature that lets you open up to six apps on the screen at the same time, similar to the multitasking feature on the Samsung Galaxy Note. It's a clever way of making the most of the larger screen.
We can laugh at the prospect of a 7-inch tablet that makes phone calls, but the FonePad was always a decently priced combination of smartphone and tablet. Prices and availability are yet to be confirmed, but with improved specs, the 2014 Edition looks to continue in that vein. And, hey, at least we didn't have to wait long.