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Asus to wow us at Mobile World Congress with an Intel-powered tablet/phone all-in-one?

Asus MWC InviteAsus has scheduled a press conference for February 25 at Mobile World Congress, and while it’s not the first to announce an event, and certainly won’t be the last; it is one we’ve been expecting. At CES 2013, Asus gave us a few cool new toys, including the Transformer AIO, but a spokesperson said the best was yet to come and that it would, “wow” us at MWC.

At the time we had very little to go on, with rumors circulating around an Asus-branded Nexus 7 challenger and not much else. However, while MWC likes its tablet announcements, it’s more about smartphones. Asus has a single smartphone in its line-up, which is part of its PadFone 2 hybrid device, so could it be planning a standalone phone?

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That would be a little ordinary for Asus, a firm which loves to inject some quirk into its hardware, which makes the latest rumor from Digitimes sound more plausible than it would if it was about any other company. The report says Asus is going to reveal the Fonepad, which as you can probably tell from the name is a tablet with which one can make calls.

It continues to give us a rundown of the spec, which throws up another surprise in the shape of an Intel processor. Asus has a strong relationship with Intel, using the chips to power devices including the Taichi, VivoBook and Transformer Book. The company also uses the In Search of Incredible tagline in relation to its other Intel-powered hardware, linking the rumor nicely with the event promo seen above.

Asus Stylus HeadsetIntel Atom Lexington power

The Atom chip in question is the Z2420, or Lexington as it’s also known, and rather than a Tegra 3 or Snapdragon S4 Pro challenger, Lexington chips are supposedly destined for budget devices such as the Acer Liquid C1. If this information is correct, it could mean the Fonepad may not make it to the U.S. or Europe. The Fonepad may also have a 7-inch screen, a 1280 x 800 resolution, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, a 3-megapixel camera and 16GB of storage memory.

Adding weight to the Digitimes report is the appearance of the Fonepad, this time with the model number of K004, on Indonesia’s communication regulator’s website. It even included the same spec printed by Digitimes. So, could there be any truth to it?

Silly name aside (let’s hope that’s a codename), Asus has already toyed with incorporating phone functionality into its tablets, particularly with its Stylus Headset, an accessory which doubles as both a tablet stylus and a Bluetooth headset. Plus its PadFone and PadFone 2 provide the best of both worlds, but in two separate devices. Looked at this way, an Asus tablet/phone all-in-one isn’t much of a stretch.

Will the Fonepad wow us at MWC? There’s only a few weeks to go before we find out.

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Nokia to launch its Android-powered smartphone at Mobile World Congress
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It looks like the unthinkable will happen. Nokia, wearing a Windows Phone ring and about to be wedded to Microsoft, is preparing to launch the Android-powered Nokia X smartphone at Mobile World Congress. Rumors have spread about the phone, previously known as the Normandy, for months. However, the chance of it actually being released always seemed slim, given Nokia’s marital status.
Now, thanks to a report published by the Wall Street Journal, it seems we have confirmation the Nokia X is to be introduced during MWC at the end of the month. Apparently, the project was in progress prior to Microsoft’s proposal, but the affair hasn’t been stamped out since Nokia accepted. It’s suggested the Nokia X will take over from Nokia’s budget Asha line, leaving the Windows Phone-powered Lumia devices to compete with high-end hardware from other manufacturers.
Backing up previous rumors, the report also claims the Android operating system installed on the Nokia X won’t provide access to Google Play, or include basic Google apps. Instead, an unnamed Nokia app store will provide the fun, while Microsoft-centric apps such as Bing and MixRadio, plus Here Maps, will be installed as standard. If that sounds familiar, Amazon uses a similar tactic with its Kindle Fire range of tablets.
Leaked images have shown Android will be heavily skinned, giving it a Windows Phone-style look. So, although the Nokia X is all set to be a Nokia-built Android phone, it won’t be the one we’ve often dreamed about. That doesn’t stop it from potentially being a most intriguing device, though.
Nokia has scheduled an MWC 2014 press event for February 24, at 8:30am local time. The Nokia X, should it make an official debut, will potentially be joined by several new Lumia devices. These could include the Lumia 1820, a big 5.2-inch smartphone with a 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution display, and a pair of Lumia 1520 variants.

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First Foxconn-developed BlackBerry phones to be revealed during Mobile World Congress
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BlackBerry talked about a new partnership with Foxconn, the Chinese smartphone manufacturer, at the end of December. However, outside of an early 2014 estimate, it didn’t confirm when the fruits of their combined labor would appear. Now, in a report published by Focus Taiwan, it’s indicated we’ll see the first examples during Mobile World Congress, which begins at the end of February.
The news comes from Foxconn’s chairman, Terry Gou, who was quoted as saying, “We are working with BlackBerry to design a new device, and we will showcase multiple devices at the trade show in Barcelona in February.” BlackBerry didn’t have much of a presence at CES, and hasn’t made a big impact at MWC for the last couple of years. The change of tactics could be related to the cancelation of BlackBerry Live, its own developer conference where new hardware has been revealed in the past, previously scheduled for May 2014.
Before we get too excited about seeing a selection of new BlackBerry phones, the release schedule may mean they won’t be sold in the U.S. or parts of Europe. When the partnership was confirmed, BlackBerry said it would initially sell its new devices in Indonesia, with other unnamed, but fast growing markets to follow.
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Mobile World Congress starts on February 24 in Barcelona, and we’ll tell you more about the new BlackBerry devices as news becomes public.

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Hands on: Asus’ Fonepad is an OK tablet, but an awful phone

Two days ago, I wrote an editorial about how happy I was that screen sizes on phones may finally be stabilizing  and not continuing to grow out of control. In it, I said it wouldn't be long before 7-inch tablets would become phones themselves. I spoke too soon. Yesterday, Asus unveiled a 7-inch device named the Fonepad. It's basically a Nexus 7 with a phone built into it. We caught up with Asus on the Mobile World Congress show floor to check it out.

If you want to know what it's like to use the Fonepad, you need only pick up your Kindle Fire, Nook Color, Nexus 7, Galaxy Tab 7, or find any other 7-inch tablet (or a paperback book or older Kindle) and pretend to use it like a phone. Do you feel empowered? Is this the kind of life you want to lead? If you don't mind barely being able to hold your phone in one hand, or having a phone dialer large enough to read from across the room, the Fonepad may be the Fone for you. To me, it's like a special accessory the phone company might give to people with fat fingers. Something given to anyone who walks into a wireless store in a muumuu.
The tablety-phoney thing is really a modified Nexus 7 with 3G built in. Though the Nexus 7 is branded a "Google" device, Asus actually manufacturers it. One look at the Fonepad and you know it came off the same assembly line. Unfortunately, a Chinese worker must have hit the "crappy" lever at the front of the plant, because many of the nice flourishes of the Nexus 7 like the grippy design, are missing, instead replaced by a gray brushed look.

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