It wasn't just watches, tablets and Windows goodies on show at ASUS' pre-Computex press conference in Taipei today. The Taiwanese manufacturer also unveiled a new selfie-centric smartphone designed for those who love to capture images of their own fleshy, digitally-enhanced visage.
From the outside, the ZenFone Selfie is almost indistinguishable from ASUS' most recent flagship smartphone, the ZenFone 2. It's got a similar design, seemingly inspired by features or rivals like HTC and LG — power button up top, rear-mounted volume keys and a metal-effect (though decidedly plastic-feeling) back panel. It's a very familiar design from ASUS.
The ZenFone Selfie's camera setup is the main hardware point of interest. Unlike most mid-to-high-end phones, which offset a barnstorming rear camera with an often lackluster front-facer, the Selfie packs 13 megapixels on the front and back. On the rear, it's paired with a laser autofocus unit similar to the LG G4 and G3. Around the front you'll find the sensor behind a big HTC Desire EYE-style lens, and backed up by a unique addition — a front-facing dual-tone flash.
Also gracing the front of the phone is its 5.5-inch 1080p display — a panel similar to what ASUS is using on the ZenFone, which is to say it looks reasonably good, but not quite up to the standard set by super-high-end handsets like the G4 or Samsung's Galaxy S6.
HDR selfies, beautification options and a front-facing flash.
You'll also be dealing with ASUS Zen UI software — a technicolor stew of icons and visual styles that often seem like they don't belong to a cohesive whole. Again, it's far from a deal-breaker, but software design remains an area in which ASUS lags behind the competition, even with its enormous list of software features.
That expansive feature set is most clear to see in the Selfie's camera app, which provides beautification sliders the likes of which we've seen in most high-end Android phones for a while. ASUS differentiates its selfie-snapper with the ability to capture HDR images with the front camera. What's more, that front-facing flash promises to illuminate your mug — and perhaps temporarily blind you — in darkened situations that also demand you take pictures of your face.
ASUS also plans to offer a "selfie swing" to extend the angles at which you can take selfies, while also serving as a stand for the phone.
Under show lighting at least, the results were pretty good, quickly capturing photos that were about as flattering as we could hope for. But given that this is a phone that's all about selfies, it's going to take some longer-term use to judge how successfully ASUS has been able to cater to the duck-facing narcissist in us. The Desire EYE positioned itself as the ideal selfie phone with mixed results, and in the near future we'll see whether HTC's local rival can do any better. There's no firm release date for the ASUS ZenFone Selfie just yet, but we're crossing our fingers and pouting our lips for a launch — in Asia at the very least — in the months ahead.