With OnePlus vacating the flagship-killer category to move onto pricier models, it was time for another company to step in. Asus was the first one to get in line this time with its new Zenfone 6. A little bit of thinking outside the box and cramping up the best of specs in as little as possible makes it one of the most exciting phones of the year.
The whole phone also represents a shift in direction for Asus, which seems determined to carve out its own niche in the phone space instead of chasing Apple or Samsung, at least from a design perspective. So, instead of an unsightly black bar or weird hole-punch dot at the top of your phone, the whole front of the ZenFone 6 is just a seamless expanse of screen, which is pretty great to look at, although there is still a small bezel on the bottom.
As for the camera, I’ve been able to try it out for a few days, and it’s actually pretty good. The flipping camera may seem bizarre at first, especially with the wacky sound effects that Asus has set by default (don’t worry, you can turn it off, although the motor itself gives off its own whirring noise), but it’s actually a smart solution to the bezel issue. It’s a similar ethos to Samsung’s Galaxy A80 — why put a second worse camera array on the front when you’ve already got a far better one on the back of the phone?
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Since the camera is the highlight of the phone, lets dive into some of the specs. It offers two sensors, a Sony IMX586 48MP along with a 13MP wide angle. The camera rotates 180 degrees to come to the front of the device for selfies. The camera housing is made out of liquid metal for improved durability, although given the number of moving parts here, there is still some concern that things could go wrong eventually. For its part, Asus does have an automated system that will rotate the lens back if it detects that you’ve dropped the phone, but you should still probably avoid doing that.
Asus plans to sell three configurations of the ZenFone 6 model, starting at a 6GB RAM / 64GB storage option for €499 (about $557). The company is promising two higher-specced options, too, topping out at 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.
But despite the midrange price, the specs are on par with most Android flagships: there’s a Snapdragon 855 processor, a Gorilla Glass 6 and aluminum body, a massive 5,000mAh battery, and the aforementioned bezel-less display and flipping cameras. There’s even a 3.5mm headphone jack! The two big absences are wireless charging or water resistance, which seem to have been cut to hit that low price point.