The newest smartphone and tablet docking station combo from Asus, the PadFone X, can be ordered starting June 6 exclusively from AT&T stores and at its website, the carrier announced Wednesday.
The PadFone X can be purchased to work with a single data plan for both devices.
The station is priced at $199 with a two-year agreement or as little as $29.80 per month under one AT&T Next installment plan. That plan would cost $357 after 12 months, at which time it can be traded in. The full cost over 20 months without a contract would be $596.
The tablet docking station -- known as the PadFone Station -- functions only when the PadFone X smartphone is docked by sliding the phone into a pocket on the rear of the Station's 9-in. display. When the two are docked, the combo can function over Wi-Fi and LTE cellular, including for phone calls.
The Asus PadFone X smartphone and tablet docking station combo.
Most Android apps on the smartphone will be seamlessly resized to fit the PadFone's display.
Meanwhile, the PadFone X smartphone has a 5-in. full HD display and runs Android 4.4. It can operate with or without the PadFone Station over AT&T's nationwide LTE network as well as Wi-Fi.
First announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January by AT&T, the carrier has created promotional YouTube videos that focus heavily on describing the versatility of the PadFone X smartphone-docking station technology for workers and road warriors.
One video shows a worker leaving home to attend a business meeting and then using the combination smartphone-tablet for a video chat afterwards.
AT&T shows off most of the functions in a separate one minute video.
Asus makes other versions and sizes of the PadFone but the PadFone X provides dual front speakers and a 13 megapixel rear camera, as well a 2 megapixel front camera. It is powered by a Snapdragon 800 2.3 Ghz quad-core processor, with 16 GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot for 64 GB of added storage.
Other vendors have offered similar combo devices, including Motorola with the Atrix, but the concept of having a smartphone dock with a tablet hasn't been a big success, according to analysts.
Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Kantar WorldPanel, called the PadFone X a "more modern and refined version of the Atrix."
Still, she questioned whether it makes sense for budget conscious customers to buy the PadFone X when it's possible to get a separate smartphone and a fully functional tablet, such as the Moto G and Nexus 7, for about the same $357 Next price AT&T is charging for the PadFone X. "Overall I see the PadFone X as a 1+1=1 product and not a 1+1=2,"she said.
Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, said the combo approach in the PadFone X has been tried by others with "very limited success." He was skeptical it will gain much market share. "Most people don't want to carry accessories or have to deal with docking things."
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.
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