Prowave Android tablet signalling the advent of the tablet phone?


Remember that smartbook tablet reference design revealed by Freescale at CES earlier this year? The concept caught our attention with its innovative design of having a standalone, easily portable 7-inch tablet with a full QWERTY keyboard docking station to plug into when stationary and for easier text input. But being a reference/concept design, it wasn't meant for production and was only designed to serve as a reference/inspiration for OEMs and ODMs.

Fast-forward a month to Freescale's booth at MWC last week and you'll have seen a partial realization of the smartbook tablet reference design being shown, featuring the same hardware but unfortunately without the keyboard dock.

The Prowave Android tablet manufactured by Chinese company Mastone features what looks like a 7-inch (unconfirmed) resistive touch screen and is powered by Freescale technology including the iMX515 processor. This 1GHz ARM Cortex A8-based chip also includes hardware graphics acceleration in the form of OpenVG and OpenGL/ES graphics cores and HD video decoding in hardware.

In a video by Charbax of ARM devices, the Prowave is also revealed to have a customized Android 1.6 interface, support microSD cards, and feature inbuilt 3G including what appears to be telephone capabilities. Apart from these details we currently don't have the rest of the tablet's specifications or its final price and expected availability. According to impressions from SlashGear and as shown in the video, the device appears to have smooth, snappy performance. I also like the simple design and brushed metal finish.

It's interesting to note that Prowave's description still uses the term "smartbook" rather than tablet; could Mastone also be working on the QWERTY keyboard docking station to complete Freescale's vision? I hope this turns out to be true, as I believe the keyboard dock is a very good idea for larger tablets, with Apple also catching on to this idea for the iPad.

This seems to be the most recent 5" to 7" tablet MID that also includes full phone functionality, joining the Dell Mini 5SmaKit S7 (updated post with video) and C-Motech Mangrove. Are we seeing the advent of the "tablet phone"?

Although I think it's a useful option, I'm wondering how many people would consider using one of these hybrid tablet smartphones in place of a conventionally sized smartphone. Perhaps this would be viable with the Mini 5, being only slightly bigger than phones like the HTC HD2 and Google Nexus One, but how about with a 7" tablet? Let us know your thoughts on this in the comments.

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Jeremy To

Jeremy is a former editor at Pocketables.

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