The trend for selfie-centric smartphones began sometime last year with front-facing cameras being bumped up to feature at least a 5-megapixel sensor. Sony was among the first to capitalize on the trend by touting its Xperia C3 smartphone as the world's best selfie smartphone. Soon after, other companies such as HTC (Desire Eye), Microsoft (Lumia 730/735) and Oppo (N3) jumped on the bandwagon.
ASUS' entry into this space earlier in June this year can be considered as playing catch-up, but it's better late than never. What unique features does the ASUS ZenFone Selfie bring to the table? A pair of 13-megapixel camera sensors on the front and back of the device coupled with ASUS's PixelMaster technologies! There is also a motive behind the development of the ZenFone Selfie which ASUS Chairman Jonney Shih explains in the short video below:
In terms of design, the ZenFone Selfie does not deviate much from the current category leading ZenFone 2 series. Inheriting the same design template has its pros and cons. On a positive note, the ergonomically curved back provides a natural grip for a phone of this size (it has a 5.5-inch screen). Compared to the ZenFone2, the curvature is more pronounced on the ZenFone Selfie with the chassis measuring just 3.9mm at its thinnest edge. The volume buttons at the back doubles as a camera shutter key which offers an intuitive user experience while the concentric-circle texture below the capacitive navigation keys is aesthetically pleasing and a testament to ASUS' attention to details.
On the other hand, the design concerns with the ZenFone 2 aren't addressed on the ZenFone Selfie. In its pursuit to achieve an ultra-thin edge, ASUS thought it was a good compromise to locate the power button on the top of the phone, which unfortunately makes it hard to access on a phone this big. This issue can be circumvented if you enable the double tap gesture to activate the phone's screen on and off. Another minor concern is the lack of backlighting for the navigation keys, which makes accessing them in low-lit conditions slightly more inconvenient.
One notable difference between the ZenFone Selfie and the rest of the ZenFone 2 series is the fact that the battery can be removed. Besides the option of swapping out a faulty battery, it also gives you access to the microSD and micro-SIM card slots. Having said that, the ZenFone Selfie supports dual-SIM where both slots are capable of supporting LTE CAT 4 speeds of up to 150Mbps. Despite that, only one of the slots can tackle data and voice calls, while the other slot has to be relegated to only pure voice call functionality - the advantage is that you can select which of the slots operate in those respective modes within the phone settings to give you a certain degree of flexibility without having to manually swap SIM cards out.
The ZenFone Selfie comes with a 5.5-inch Full-HD 1,920 x 1,080 pixels resolution (403ppi) IPS display reinforced with Corning Gorilla Glass 4. It features full-screen lamination (a technique we've seen since the days of the HTC One X) where the cover glass and touch panel layers are fused together to eliminate the air gap. The end result gives you an impression that text and images are floating just beneath the display.
ASUS also has a screen color mode on the ZenFone Selfie which you can toggle from Balance, Bluelight Filter, Vivid to Customized (based on your preferences). The Bluelight filter is billed to help reduce eye fatigue while minimizing color distortion compared to third-party apps. For users who like to use their phones before sleep, the Bluelight Filter on the ZenFone Selfie will come in handy.
Like most phablets, ASUS has incorporated a software feature to make one-handed usage possible on the ZenFone Selfie. Simply known as One Hand Mode, it shrinks the interface to a size that you are comfortable with. It not only allows you to resize the interface, it also let you shift the interface from the left to anywhere (e.g. middle, top right, top left) on the display. To activate One Hand Mode, go to Settings > ZenMotion > One Hand Mode. You also can set a shortcut by double tapping the home key.
Themes and Icon Packs
With HTC and Samsung stepping up the game by providing themes for their devices, ASUS also included a theme store for the ZenFone Selfie. At time of publication, there are about 17 themes in the store for you to try. ASUS has its own ZenUI Icon Pack, but you can search for more in the Google Play Store via the direct link "Get More". To customize the interface of your ZenFone Selfie further, simply swipe up from the home screen to access more tools such as scroll effects and launcher fonts.
We all know how some rouge apps run in the background without your knowledge and cause you unnecessary trouble such as battery drain, high RAM usage or consume data unnecessarily. ASUS gives you some control over how apps run on your phone through the Auto-start Manager. You can select which downloaded and preloaded apps to autostart and which not to. The broom icon at the top right corner will help you clean up the system and free memory on the ZenFone Selfie. Auto-start Manager can be accessed via Settings > Power management > Auto-start Manager.
The 3,000mAh battery may provide more than a day of usage for most consumers, but there are times when you need to squeeze or conserve some battery juice to last through rough days. ASUS' Power Saver feature gives you a range of battery modes to choose from and even provide the estimated standby time each mode can offer. Therefore, you can select the desired mode for your needs.
Alternatively, you can enable Smart Switch where the system will automatically switch to Super saving mode when battery level hits a certain percentage (<10, 15, 20, 25, 30%) or by schedule (start and end time).
Overall, we like how ASUS continues to improve their ZenUI and make it ever more relevant for consumers. Instead of filling the phone up with fanciful or gimmicky bloatware, we find these new features somewhat useful for consumers in their day-to-day usage of the phone.