Intel and Asus build a decent high-end smartphone for a low-end price

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For the last couple weeks I’ve been playing with the Asus ZenFone 2 powered by Intel and it is actually a pretty amazing phone. One of the interesting problems I’m noticing with a lot of the new smartphones coming to market is that many have rather compelling unique features but the vendor doesn’t have much in the way of a marketing budget to showcase them. In this case that is a shame because there are some aspects of this phone that might draw you to it.

So here are the features that make this phone stand out.

Price

The 64 GB version unlocked (no contract) is $299 and this is a full feature smartphone competing well with phones that sell at this price with carrier subsidies. This makes it ideal for pay as you go services like Straight Talk which can often cost a fraction of what an AT&T or Verizon might charge. Seriously this thing at $299 is a steal. In terms of performance it is right up there with last year’s flagship phones but at a price in line with more of a value offering.

Dual Sim

While this is most popular in Europe where people go from country to country and use a second SIM to avoid roaming charges this feature also works if you travel outside of the US or need to split work and personal charges. This means no more carrying two phones for two numbers, you just need to electronically switch SIMs to move from one service or plan to another. (Be aware this is a GSM phone and it doesn’t support CDMA services like Verizon or Sprint).

4GB RAM

As we’ve learned from PCs the more RAM you have the more applications you can have running at the same time before the device drops to ultra-slow performance. This is partially why the 64-bit Intel processor is able to showcase its full performance it isn’t held back by too little memory. You basically get two 32-bit data channels between the processor and memory which helps this thing really move.

Stunning IPS Display

Part of what makes this interesting is this appears to be a 5.5” display in a 5” form factor. Smaller phone bigger display so no wasted space. 178 degree viewing angles help if you want to share what you are seeing and 403ppi for high image density. As you would expect the display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass, a critical requirement for any phone you don’t want to see with a broken display.

13MP PixelMaster Camera with HDR

This is one of the first cameras on a phone I’ve reviewed with HDR (High Dynamic Range). It has a low light mode with pixel-merging increasing its low light capability from a typical phone camera by up to 400%. This is a decent enough camera where many may decide they can even leave their DSLR at home.

Fast Charging Battery

I think this should be a requirement for every smartphone. In this case an 18W power supply will give you 4 hours of battery life in 10 minutes or recharge the phone from dead to 60 percent in just under 40 minutes. If you are running to a meeting and have no battery just slipping the phone onto a plug during the meeting should give you all the power you need to finish most days.

Customization

Nokia used to be famous for this and I’m talking about the ability to change out the phone back if you want another design or a different color. You just snap off the back and replace with one that either looks better, is more robust, or in better shape. This is another “feature” I think all smartphones should have so you can keep them looking new and fresh without having to buy a new one.

Zen UI

This is one of those things you have to see to get I’m afraid but this allows you to swipe on your phone screen to immediately get the information you are most interested in like the calls you missed or the weather in the area. They have case with a small circular screen that you can swipe on to get critical information. Think of this like having a smartphone screen on your smartphone for when you just need an update and you want your phone protected from the elements. The Asus folks just mention this in passing but it is actually one of the coolest parts of the phone.

Wrapping Up: Intel Builds a World Class Phone

I didn’t mention that this phone will take a small SD card to increase memory or that it is damned good looking with glass and turned metal and a very nice plastic case on the back. This is really the first Intel based phone I could say was world class and could stand with the other luxury phones in the market with unique attributes like dual SIMs and a large screen in a small body that makes it differentiate nicely. The ZenFone 2 is a decent value for the money and showcases that both Intel and Asus are in the smartphone market to win it. I can hardly wait to see what they do next!

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About Author

As President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, Rob provides regional and global companies with guidance in how to create credible dialogue with the market, target customer needs, create new business opportunities, anticipate technology changes, select vendors and products, and practice zero dollar marketing. For over 20 years Rob has worked for and with companies like Microsoft, HP, IBM, Dell, Toshiba, Gateway, Sony, USAA, Texas Instruments, AMD, Intel, Credit Suisse First Boston, ROLM, and Siemens.

2 Comments

  1. One of the interesting problems I’m noticing with a lot of the new smartphones coming to market is that many have rather compelling unique features but the vendor doesn’t have much in the way of a marketing budget to showcase them.