Today, Asus, Intel and AT&T announced together the new PadFone X Mini with an Intel Atom processor and XMM 7160 4G modem for AT&T’s LTE network. Being from the “PadFone” series means that the device comes with 7” tablet shell so that the 4.5” phone can “transform” into a larger form factor when needed. Because it’s a 4G smartphone, the resulting tablet will also get to use 4G connectivity, through the same SIM card.
The PadFone X’s 4G modem is Intel’s first LTE modem since it acquired Infineon’s wireless division in 2010, and it seems Intel is trying to enter the U.S. LTE modem market through Asus. At MWC this year, Intel and Asus announced a multi-year/multi-device partnership, and we’re now starting to see the fruits of that collaboration.
The PadFone X, the Mini’s big brother, came out with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chip early this year, but for the PadFone X Mini Asus switched to Intel’s Atom and XMM 7160 LTE combination. Unlike the Snapdragon 800, Intel’s LTE modem isn’t integrated into the SoC. Intel’s first Atom-based SoC with the XMM 7260 LTE is called SoFIA LTE and should ship in products next year.
Qualcomm has had a big advantage in the mobile LTE modem market for a few years now, because it has made LTE integration into SoCs a high priority. This focus on LTE integration is something its OEM customers have appreciated because it allows them to ship devices with LTE and high-end processors faster than they could otherwise. Intel is only now entering this market, but it hopes it can become a strong "number 2" to Qualcomm in a few years.
The new Asus PadFone X Mini has two main advantages over competing products: battery life and price. The device will only cost $200 with AT&T’s GoPhone prepaid plan, and it can get up to 16 hours of juice in smartphone mode and up to 28 hours when connected to the tablet dock. The smartphone battery will also automatically charge when it’s connected to the dock, so the dock has two purposes; it’s useful both as a tablet and as a battery extension. The smartphone will run Android KitKat 4.4 with Asus ZenUI.
The PadFone X will arrive on AT&T’s network on October 24 and should be available in other retail stores by November.