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[Reviews] [ZenFans Review] The ASUS ZenFone 5 Redefines What is Possible in Smartphone Design  

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According to the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, smartphones with screens between 5.5 inches and 7 inches in size will become mainstream models in the global market over the coming five years. Furthermore, the worldwide smartphone market will grow from 610 million units in 2017 to 1 billion units in 2021, representing an average growth of 18.1% year-on-year. These forecasts show that there will be a significant demand for large-screen smartphones in the market.

In the past, most smartphones had screens with an aspect ratio of 16:9. However, since 2017, larger screens and greater screen-to-body ratios have become increasingly mainstream. For example, Samsung and LG have release flagship phones with 18:9 screens.  The Apple iPhone X even has an all-screen display.

6.2-inch screen and 90% screen-to-body ratio on a 5.5-inch phone

So how should ASUS make sure its at the forefront of this new wave? As T, senior product manager at ASUS, put it, “We thought about what the newest smartphone trends are and realized that all-screen displays would be the next big thing. If we can extend the screen upwards all the way to the edge of the phone, and shrink the size of the notch at the top, then the phone will be able to give users more information and more space to work. This was a long and difficult process, however.”

This decision gave birth to the ZenFone 5, the first ASUS phone to have a 19:9 aspect ratio and a screen-to-body ratio of 90%. The ZenFone 5 brings a top-level screen to a mid-range phone by offering a 2160x1080 resolution FHD+ touchscreen which is capable of a very wide color gamut with a 100% DCI-P3 and 96% NTSC color gamut coverage. However, T pointed out that, “High-level screens tend to be pricey, so we had to figure out how to keep the prices low enough for our consumers.”

The ZenFone 5 redefines what is possible for smartphone displays. The 19:9 aspect ratio provides users with the largest screen possible, thus offering the best possible experience for users who want to play games or watch videos on their phones.

Furthermore, the ZenFone 5 is only the size of a smartphone with a 5.5 inch display – like the ZenFone 4. This means the ZenFone 5 remains highly portable despite its revolutionary screen. J, a product designer at ASUS, explained, “We installed a 6.2-inch screen into the body of a smartphone that typically has a 5.5-inch display”. The device remains small, light, and pleasantly symmetrical, without sacrificing performance.”

However, actually fitting everything into the phone was quite a challenge. The Android UI often has a lot of items to display; while on the hardware front the team had to find a way to fit components such as the light sensor, LED indicator, earpiece, and front camera into the front of the phone. J also noted that the ASUS team experimented with different sizes and ratios for the notch at the top of the screen, as well as a variety of layouts for the hardware, before they settled on a notch design that truly matched the overall design philosophy of the ZenFone 5. They also managed to achieve a 90% screen-to-body ratio. “For every component’s location, we had to satisfy the needs of both the designers and the engineers. But because we were able to strike a balance between these two sets of requirements, we were able to make a phone with both optimal hardware and outstanding design.”

User experience is king, fashionable design is key

ASUS has maintained a brand philosophy of “user experience is king” ever since the ZenFone 3 was released. By thinking from the perspective of design and user-friendliness, the ZenFone team was able to create a series of phones with their own distinct style. Furthermore, the ZenFone 4 marked the start of the ZenFone team’s shift towards minimalist designs, leading to more aesthetically fashionable smartphones.

The ZenFone 5 is a continuation of these trends, with its elegant and classy appearance. J stated that, “The ZenFone 5 is a perfect fusion of double-sided glass, a metal frame, and NMT materials. This gives it a solid texture in the hand, while also having the signature concentric circle pattern under the rear glass panel — which is unique to ASUS phones!”

Fitting an all-screen display, high-res audio speakers, dual front cameras, and high-sensitivity light sensors into the phone, while maintaining the aesthetic qualitiy of the device, were significant challenges to the ASUS R&D team. Even settling on the basic structure of the phone took some time.  As an example, T recalled, “We wanted very much to keep the 3.5mm headphone jack. Headphone jacks actually take a lot of space, but because so many users want and expect a headphone jack in their phone, we did everything in our power to make sure it would remain as a feature.”

ZenUI 5 is cleaner and simpler

The ZenFone 5’s software also went through extensive design upgrades. In the past, the Android operating system lacked many of the features that would have made the user experience easier and more convenient. These deficiencies were remedied through ASUS bundling a variety of software apps with their ZenFones. However, the Android OS has now developed to the point where many previously lacking features are now included in the system, so it is no longer necessary to waste storage space on these bundled apps. Consequently, the ZenUI in the ZenFone 4 was pared down for greater simplicity and convenience, and this trend has continued into the fifth-generation ZenUI in the ZenFone 5, which is cleaner, simpler, smarter, and faster than its predecessors.

As pointed out by W, a member of the ASUS UI design team, “A smartphone has become a necessity in our lives, so we expect our phone to be helpful and efficient, and not to be a hindrance. Therefore, if we can offer greater precision and simplicity in our UI, then our users won’t have to waste time on complicated operations.”

W explained that the UI design at ASUS revolved around two basic concepts. The first was to simplify operations, so that users can easily find the functionality they want. Rarely-used functions would take a backseat, so as to avoid bothering users unnecessarily. As an example, W noted that the options menu used to use a graphical interface, where all the options were presented in icon form, but now everything is shown in text, which is clearer for the user.

ASUS researcher C added that the settings menu used to have 31 options, but it’s been trimmed down to the 14 most-often selected options in the latest version of the UI. Furthermore, the 5-10% least-used options are hidden most deeply in the interface. In addition, users had to set up 13 options when they started the phone for the first time in the past, but that has been reduced to 10 options now.

Secondly, the visual design of the software was overhauled. For example, according to W the ASUS team collaborated with the Polish artist Pawel Nolbert to design a background with colors and brushstrokes that pop out of the screen, thus increasing the visual impact of the design.

Moreover, W noted: “The on-screen layout is less cluttered now, giving users a greater sense of space. This reduces the oppressiveness of the UI and simplifies the user experience. The biggest challenge for us was deciding which functions to put on the UI by default!”

Facial recognition within 0.1 seconds

Artificial intelligence (AI) technology permeates every part of the ZenUI 5. One of the biggest selling points of the ZenFone 5 is how its AI can turn a smartphone into an intelligent phone. For example, the ZenFone 5 is equipped with AI facial recognition technology, capable of recognizing a face within 0.1 seconds. The technology is based on a machine learning model using millions of photos of faces, coupled with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor and its multi-core AI engine. Although the facial recognition feature can be used to unlock the phone, the ZenFone 5 also retains fingerprint unlocking capability, which means users can enjoy more options and greater functionality. The advantage of facial recognition unlocking is that will work even when the user is wearing gloves, such as in cold weather. Facial recognition in the ZenFone 5 can even be used to lock confidential documents, apps, or hidden folders, which increases the level of security available to users.

AI Gallery automatically sorts photos

The ZenFone 5’s camera also uses AI technology to automatically recognize 16 different scenes or subjects, and adjusts settings accordingly to help its user take the best possible photographs of them. Furthermore, the cutting-edge facial recognition technology coupled with the AI Gallery feature allows the phone to categorize photos automatically according to the people found in them. Selfies, family photos, or group outings can all be categorized quickly and easily, saving users the hassle of manually organizing their pictures. The AI Gallery is also capable of detecting certain scenes and subjects. According to Z, if you want to find ocean pictures, then the AI Gallery will list the photos that were taken at a beach, or of the sea. Alternatively, if you want to keep a record of the food you’ve eaten, the AI Gallery can easily produce all the photos of food you have shot.

AI Display dims the screen smartly

Facial recognition can also be used in clever ways to increase user convenience. As B, an ASUS R&D engineer, said, “Sometimes our screens will automatically dim or turn off when we are in the middle of reading something on-screen, and you would have to tap the screen to turn it back on. This can be rather inconvenient!”

But with the ZenFone 5’s AI Display, this hassle can be avoided. C explains how it works: “Using the facial recognition technology, the phone will detect whether there is a face in front of the screen before it dims or turns off the display. So if the user is still looking at the screen, it knows to delay or cancel the dimming.”

B elaborated on the design philosophy by saying, “We wanted to create a user-friendly design, so that users won’t have to manually adjust things when they’re in different environments. Users have a variety of frustrations when they use their phones, and we wanted to base our designs on mitigating these issues.”

Automatic adjustment of screen colors for easy reading in any environment

The ZenFone 5 is capable of detecting the level and color of ambient light, and adjust the color settings of the screen accordingly. This means users will be able to read the screen with accurate colors and brightness regardless of where they are.

ASUS researcher K noted that in the past, smartphones could only detect the level of brightness in their environments. However, the ZenFone 4 was equipped with an RGB sensor, which allowed it to detect the color palette in its environment. “The light from a smartphone’s screen is a light source in itself, and if the color of the screen differs too much from the ambient colors, it causes extra strain to the eyes. The ZenFone 5 can automatically adjust its color output based on the ambient colors, which increases user comfort.” The ZenFone 5 is also equipped with an automatic anti-blue light feature, which also helps protect the user’s eyes.

Speed up your phone with AI Boost

The ZenFone 5 uses the latest 14nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor, which is a high-performance yet energy-saving chip. Its AnTuTu benchmark score can reach as high as 126813, which is nearly double the performance of the last-generation Ssnapdragon 630.

Additionally, the ASUS team has also created a performance enhancing feature called AI Boost, which dynamically adjusts the performance of the smartphone’s systems in order to find the optimal balance between performance and power usage. With AI Boost on, the ZenFone 5’s AnTuTu score can reach up to 142945, exceeding even the performance of the Snapdragon 660 chip. This means that users can enjoy a smoother experience when they play games or run resource-heavy apps, while also not having to worry about battery life.

Apps that learn from you

The ZenFone 5 also introduces the world’s first application of AI technology in the “Learn From You” feature, where every ZenFone 5 is capable of learning their user’s habits and preferences. As T said, “Our objective was to have the phone observe your habits, so that you would have a smoother experience using apps, or to give you better suggestions.”

Firstly, the ZenFone 5 provides an “App Suggestions” feature. According to C, this is where the ZenFone 5’s AI technology will automatically learn the user’s app usage habits, including the times and frequencies of usage, in order to predict what app would probably be used next. The phone will then place commonly used apps in a prominent spot on screen, so that the user will be able to access it easily without having to scroll through multiple pages of apps.

Secondly, the ZenFone 5’s AI uses OptiFlex 3.0 memory optimization technology, which increases the speed at which apps open, and saving time for the user. C noted that opening up apps can be quite time-consuming, but if the AI can learn the user’s habits and predict when certain apps will be opened next, it can then pre-load the app into memory and be ready to launch it immediately. Tests have shown that this system has resulted in a significant reduction of startup times for apps.

Extend battery life with AI Charging

The ZenFone series of smartphones has always placed a premium on performance, including battery performance and battery lifespan. C stated that, “There were many reports of exploding batteries in smartphones from other manufacturers, which led to a bit of a panic among users. Furthermore, some users don’t necessarily have the best habits when it comes to charging their phones. For example, keeping batteries at maximum charge for too long, or charging phones all night long. These are all harmful to the lifespan of the battery. In the past, you may have been able to use a smartphone’s battery for two years, but with such bad charging practices, their charge may become unusable after a year.”

To address the issue of overcharging, the ZenFone 5 comes with Scheduled Charging and AI Charging modes. Scheduled Charging allows users to decide when they will charge their phones, while AI Charging allows the phone to automatically adjust the charging status of their devices. These features can extend the effective lifespan of the battery by up to two times that of phones with similar capacity batteries. B said, “With AI Charging, the phone can predict the user’s charging habits, which makes it very user-friendly.” For example, if the user usually charges their phone overnight, then the AI Charging system will learn the user’s sleep habits and only charge the phone to 80%. Then, it will only continue charging towards 100% for the two hours before the user is expected to wake up.

Moreover, the ZenFone 5 is equipped with the ability to dynamically adjust charging modes, which ensures that there is no risk of battery expansion or explosions.

ZeniMoji: Dynamic stickers for video chats and streaming

The ZenFone 5 also introduces ZeniMoji, a collection of augmented reality (AR) stickers for when the user is using video chatting or streaming functions. They allow the user to add cute sounds, facial expressions, and movements to the image, thus increasing the dynamism of the video.

As C explained, “ZeniMoji can serve as an animated character replacement for your own face. For example, if the user hasn’t put on makeup, or if they have unkempt hair, or their room is in a mess, they can simply use a ZeniMoji face when they talk to someone via video chat. The ZeniMoji face will convey all the details of the user’s expressions and movements.”

Generally speaking, no smartphones on the market currently offer this feature built-in. Instead, if users want to use AR stickers or faces, then they would have to download dedicated apps to make pre-recorded videos, which then have the special faces or features applied in post-production. At ASUS, however, the goal was to offer dynamic AR stickers in real time, so that users would be able to use ZeniMoji when video chatting or streaming without having to download any extraneous apps.

C explained the technology behind ZeniMoji, “The phone detects the user’s face when it’s recording or streaming the video. Then, the system removes the face and background, and substitutes them with a sticker before sending it out to the recipient, all in real time. This is all done without any lag, and without wasting huge amounts of power.” Real-time AR stickers was not easy to implement, from a technical standpoint. As J noted, “None of the apps available on Google Play can do this! Only a smartphone manufacturer could produce something like this, and ASUS is the first company to have pulled it off!”

The ZenFone 5 is the most intelligent phone ever produced by ASUS. Its simple user-friendliness and clean interface, as well as its entertaining features and outstanding performance, mean that it is the optimal choice for many users in the smartphone market. The screen, light sensors, dual cameras, and earpiece all feature the best possible technology, and the aesthetic design gives the phone a sense of quality and elegance. Furthermore, the addition of AI technology in the phone means that the ZenFone 5 is truly on the forefront of the smartphone technological revolution, creating a phone that learns from its user and setting a new standard for what is possible in a smartphone.

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Loving these features of my Zenfone 5!
PRT Level 3 | All posts
I never buy a asus phone again.
ITA Level 1 | All posts
Copied by Huawei p20 Pro... Instead of create new models, add Android Oreo to all models
OTHERS Level 2 | All posts
Great,thanks, shows what a good design team can do... Zenfone5 rocks,
PRT Level 1 | All posts
Por favor ponham os textos em português. Obrigada
BRA Level 1 | All posts
Beautiful design! Congratulations Asus.
BRA Level 1 | All posts
Olá bom dia. Quando estará disponivel no Brasil?
SGP Level 1 | All posts
ZenFone 4 mix camera very bad condition.. 
IRN Level 1 | All posts


Last edited by afra.sanatc on 2018/8/2 19:01

Asus has been great
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