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Asus Fonepad Review: Can a 7 inch Device Become Your Primary Phone?

So Asus sent us the Asus Fonepad over for review. Being a 7-inch device with a play on the word phone in its name, it is obvious that they are trying to market this as both a phone and also as a tablet.  These days I am spotting more and more people using 7-inch devices as their primary devices and even use them to receive and make calls on a daily basis. This got me intrigued and I was wondering if a 7-inch device could serve as my primary device.

While I do review a number of devices and keep switching between phones, my primary device for the last one year has been the Galaxy Nexus which has a 4.65 inch screen.

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Can a 7-inch Device be a Phone?

After receiving the Asus Fonepad I decided to move my SIM into the “tablet” and convert it into the phone. It has been a week since then and while I can see how some people have managed to adapt with the large screen device, I don’t think I will be moving to this big a screen any time soon. Yes there are loads of advantages with the big screen but the comfort factor was the one that had me rethinking the experiment.

Here are the things I thought were great in having a 7 inch device has my primary device.

For Reading: The 7-inch size is the perfect in between size between big smartphones at 5 inch and the usual tablet size of 10 inch.   A phone/phablet above 5 in my opinion in between nothing and does not offer much. The 7 inch size is easy to hold with one hand while reading e-books. Also with the number of ebook readers available in the Play Store, one can get a pretty good reading experience on the device. The Kindle app come preloaded on the Asus Fonepad.

Browsing: In this case, bigger is better. The 7 inch size and the resolution of the device are perfect so that you won’t have to scroll horizontally.

Content Creation: Let’s face it other than clicking photos on phone there is not too much content creation that can be created easily. A 7 inch device on the other hand makes it easy to create content be it Word documents or Excel Sheets. Viewing a presentation is also so much better on the bigger screen. If you’re someone who creates a lot of content on the move a 7-inch device could very well serve as a primary device.  While there are still limited apps on this front, it is definitely growing day by day. Asus in fact has loaded some apps like MyPainter, Asus Story and Asus Studio to create content.

Videos: This is probably one of the biggest advantages of the bigger screen. One does not have to strain your eyes to watch YouTube or a locally saved file. If one has a long commute to work, watching videos on the bigger screen is definitely a pleasure.

Data Connectivity: Most 7-inch tablets come with a 3G variant this day which makes sure you are always connected to the net.

Battery Life: Being a bigger device, the tablets also pack a bigger battery which outlive your average smartphone battery.

While the device served as a great experience as described above, it also posed an issue to comfort as described below.

Calls: While call quality using the earpiece on the Asus was crystal clear, holding the device to my face felt very uncomfortable and got a large number of stares whenever I did it. Also the device is quite wide which makes it a bit difficult to grasp while taking a call.

Yes you can use a Bluetooth device for calls but that means carrying an additional device.

Portability: I am someone who loves to have my device near me at all times. With the 7-inch device I could not put it in my pockets. This meant I had to carry a bag at all times which was very inconvenient. Also while riding a bike and if I was caught at a red light I use to pull out my phone and check Twitter and Facebook. This was not possible unfortunately with the Asus Fonepad.

Camera: Most of the 7-inch tablets don’t come with good cameras, even when compared to similarly priced smartphones.

Quick Review of The Asus FonePad

While the FonePad, could not serve its purpose as a phone for me, it was a great tablet. The device is available for Rs 16,000 in the Indian market and is a great value for money tablet.

Screen: The device has great exterior hardware which feels very premium. The back even has a metallic finish. The screen has a resolution of 1280X800 and text is crystal clear on it, while colors are rich and vibrant. The device is also not too heavy at 316 grams. The glass is not made of Gorilla Glass so is bound to get scratched so you may need to get a protector.

Sound: Sound quality is very average on the device and we really wish it was better as it could supplement the video viewing on the device. Call quality with the earpiece on the other hand was pretty good.

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Operating System: The tablet unfortunately comes with Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean which is not the latest version and there is no word on when or if the tablet will receive an update.  The OS has been skinned slightly but is not much of a difference from stock Android.

The Asus Fonepad comes with a number of pre-installed apps like a Dictionary, BuddyBuzz, Power Saver, Zinio etc.

Storage:  The device comes with just 8GB of internal storage out of which over 2.5GB goes with the OS and pre-installed app. Thankfully it supports microSD cards.

Performance: The Fonepad comes with an Intel Atom Z2420 clocked at 1.2GHz, accompanied by 1GB of RAM. It ran quite well and we did not notice any slowdown when opening and running apps. HD video played smoothly and games like Need for Speed: Most Wanted ran without any issues.

Intel Inside: As mentioned above the Fonepad comes with an Intel processor. What this means is that a number of apps are not optimized for the processor and cannot be downloaded from the Play Store. Intel says that 95% of the apps are available. We did a check of the most popular apps and they were all compatible. We did find a number of games like Asphalt 8 incompatible.

Camera: The Asus Fonepad was a big disappointment in this department. While the 1.2 front facing camera was ok for video calls, the rear 3-megapixel performed really badly.  Most images clicked turned out very noisy. Also there is no flash which further adds to the woes of the camera.

Battery life: Wow! The battery life on the Asus Fonepad surprised me completely. Even when I was using it has my primary device it was able to last over two days with pretty heavy usage. A smartphone with similar usage failed to make through even a full day.

Verdict: So is the device a good value for money buy? In my opinion, Priced at Rs 15,999 it definitely is. Its chief competition would be from the Nexus 7 (2012) and the iPad Mini which are priced higher for the 3G versions and it also performs better on a number of fronts including battery life and also allows users to expand memory.

The Asus Fonepad is probably a good bet if you want a compact tablet with calling facilities. While we were not convinced of it being our primary device, we can definitely see it serving as a backup phone among other things.

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