When does a smartphone become large enough to be classified as a phablet? And when does a phablet turn into a tablet? The answer to these worrying tech questions has evolved over time as the market has become saturated with larger displays.
When ASUS released the first generation Fonepad in 2013, we will be the first to admit that there were some chuckles as we balked at the notion of having such an absurdly large phone strapped to our face.
Cut to the future and now the 7 inch display toting Fonepad doesn’t seem quite as silly with phablets encroaching on the 6 inch mark.
So with some of the silliness having dissipated over time are we ready to call the Fonepad a worthy contender for your smartphone money?
The ASUS Fonepad is, undoubtedly, more similar in looks to a tablet than it is to any smartphone. In fact, it bears a strong resemblance to the ASUS made Nexus 7 tablet with a similar matte coating on the back which seems to attract fingerprints from the ether.
As a tablet, it’s thin, light and comfortable to hold in one hand, but as a smartphone it looks ridiculous and only fits into the largest of pants pockets. That means your ASUS Fonepad will be confined to a handbag, backpack or suitcase making it rather useless for things like instant messaging.
Being a budget proposition the ASUS Fonepad runs on rather meek looking internals. A dual core 1.2GHZ Intel Atom processor pairs to 1GB of RAM and just 8GB of storage. The internal storage can always be expanded with a microSD card if need be, and it almost certainly will need to be at some point.
Dual SIM card slots offer an interesting option for those looking for even more convergence by turning the Fonepad into a combination of a smartphone, tablet and a MiFi.
The display is where most of the budget saving has been made with just 170 pixels per inch on the 600×1 024 resolution, 7 inch display. Although the fact that it’s an IPS display definitely helps with excellent viewing angles and great brightness indoors and out.
Because the Fonepad is the same size as a small tablet it has the same size battery as a small tablet would have with a monstrous 3 950mAh power pack.
Imaging is taken care of by a 5 megapixel camera in the rear and a 2 megapixel camera up front, nothing spectacular but the standard for the price range.
It all translates into a rather unpleasantly laboured experience when using the Fonepad 7 that would often frustrate us at how long actions like pulling down the notification bar would take to be carried out.
The ASUS Fonepad 7 runs on Android 4.4.2 which, while the oldest circulating release of Google’s mobile OS, is hardly what we would call cutting edge. Still the thought of the hardware having to deal with all of the visual changes and extensive graphics requirements in Android 5.0 makes us almost glad that they went with the older version instead.
While ASUS’s ZenUI is not as overly in-your-face as the likes of Samsung’s TouchWiz, it still adds some guff over the top of the standard Android experience. Normally we wouldn’t have a problem with a manufacturer adding some custom work on top of the stock Android experience, but with the sluggish processing and minimal storage space available we think they could have dialled back on it a bit.
As we mentioned earlier the display is not going to blow your mind with high resolution and insane pixel counts but because of its display size pixels aren’t noticeable due to the fact that you hold it so far from your face when you use it.
If there’s one area that the ASUS Fonepad 7 dominates in it’s the battery life stakes. Due to the relatively large battery capacity and low resolution display the Fonepad managed to chug through full days of even the most extensive use.
No matter how much strain we tried to put on the battery it seemed to cope with all of the usage with ease. In a strange turn of events the low storage capacity can also assist by limiting the amount of apps competing for battery life.
With the trend in the market place heading towards larger displays and Asia already having gone batty for tablets that double up as phones, the groundswell may just point to a perfect sequence of events for the Fonepad 7 to be a success.
For its price it makes a compelling choice as a tablet but we still can’t see ourselves using a phone this size without feeling foolish. However that should not dissuade you from the Fonepad 7 should you be in the market for a silly-sized phone.
Price: R1 999.00 (8GB model) / R2 299 (16GB model)
Display: 7 inch, 600×1 024 resolution display (170ppi)
Operating System: Android 4.4.2
Processor: dual core 1.2GHz Intel Atom Z2520
Memory: 1GB of RAM
Storage: 8GB expandable by 64GB with microSD card
Battery: 3 950mAh
Camera: 5 megapixel rear, 2 megapixel front facing
Networking: 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0