As the year began, Asus held a grand event in Agra to unveil their latest 'flagship' camera phone, called Asus Zenfone Zoom. Now, you'd expect great things from a phone that is priced at ₹39,990 but it turned out to be a disappointment.
After it launched the mega-popular Asus Zenfone 2 last year, Asus has brought out many new phones such as the Zenfone Selfie, the Zenfone Zoom, and the Zenfone Max. Some aspects of these phones doubtless appealed to users, such as the huge battery in Zenfone Max, but ultimately these phones didn't quite deliver. Availability of other options offline also affected Asus' sales.
Then in May this year, Asus took a bold step and came out with an entirely new flagship range called Asus Zenfone 3. The phones were launched in India in August, priced between ₹18,999 and ₹62,999.
For a few weeks now, I have been using the Asus Zenfone 3 (ZE552KL) which is priced at ₹27,368. Before we get to the device itself, it is my sincere request to Asus to stop confusing consumers with difficult model names.
Upon opening the smartphone box, I was, quite frankly, charmed by the design. Previous Asus phones have not been up to the mark in this department, but I can assert without hesitation that this is among the most gorgeous phones that I have used this year.
The all metal and glass design, with the blueish tint on the back, lends the phone a beautiful look. Sometimes though, it feels like the phone is in danger of slipping out of your hands. And the glass back means that it is a fingerprint magnet.
Asus also has a habit of packing a decent pair of earphones with the package, which is always a good thing to have.
Talking about specifications, the 5.5-inch full HD screen is a delight to use. Under the hood, there is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 which is a great processor for everyday tasks and multimedia consumption, but won't fly like, say, the Snapdragon 820, for heavy tasks such as 4K videos or gaming.
For my daily usage, the tasks were very easy to perform and I encountered no major hiccups. So, when it comes to moderately high use, the Asus Zenfone 3 is a great deal.
One of the biggest challenges when using an Asus phone has been posed by their own software, Zen UI. But this time around, they have cleaned up their act a lot. The icon packs are tidier and navigating through the menu doesn't make you pull your hair out.
There are still plenty of design inconsistencies in the settings menu though. Some uniformity across the smartphone experience will definitely give the phone an extra edge. Also, someone from the Asus software team needs to sit down and get all the bloatware out. It seriously hampers performance and the overall feel of the phone. For instance, sometimes there are unnecessary bars in the notification panel that are not removable and quite irritating. I am really hoping for a lot cleaner ZenUI in the next set of Asus phones.
The phone has a 16 MP rear camera that takes good photos on an average. There are sharp colours on offer with a faster capture time. There are some instances in low light where the f/2.0 aperture seems insufficient but the phone's dual flash can help in such situations.
Overall the camera is very satisfactory, and with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS), the results are far better than the previous flag bearer Asus camera in the Asus Zenfone Zoom. There are plenty of options when it comes to shooting modes as well, should someone catch the photography bug.
The 8 MP front camera offers great selfie results and has beautification features to 'enhance' the subject's look.
Asus Zenfone 3 faces its biggest challenge from OnePlus 3. But it has a chance to fill the market-share gap left by Nexus phones. OnePlus 3 has a lot cleaner software with a powerful processor backed by a huge 6 GB RAM. So, to match up in the market, Zenfone 3 has to sell through its offline channels too, on the back of its great design and display along with an on par camera as compared to the OnePlus 3.