Earlier today, Asus launched its flagship Zenfone 5Z smartphone in India. And just like the Zenfone Max Pro M1, Asus has yet again gone with an aggressive pricing, undercutting the Honor 10 and the OnePlus 6, two of its closest competitors. With the rise of Xiaomi and other Chinese smartphone manufacturers, brands like Samsung, HTC and Asus, among others, lost ground. But the Zenfone 5Z could lead Asus on the road to redemption.
The competitive Indian smartphone market
You’d agree, nothing is permanent. Once the undisputed market leader, Nokia lost all of its shine once Android OS started gaining dominance. Even homegrown brands such as Micromax lost the battle to Xiaomi and OnePlus. The primary reason is that Chinese smartphone makers know their market and audience.
Firstly, India is a price sensitive market. Secondly, consumers will always compare the price of smartphones, the specifications and features. If they get same features or more at a cheaper cost, the smartphone becomes an instant buy. The telecom sector is the best example here. Telcos are offering attractive voice and data plans to undercut others, giving a level playing field for everyone. The sooner smartphone brands realize this, the better.
Watch: Asus Zenfone 5Z first look
The battle was always online
Now, if you look at the success story of Xiaomi and OnePlus, you will find a couple of things that are common. Both are online-only brands, and the smartphones offer flagship hardware at the price of mid-range pricing. Asus makes good products, but it always falls short on the pricing front.
Take an example of the Zenfone 3 Deluxe that was launched in 2016. It had a premium metal unibody design without those antenna lines, and was also first smartphone to be powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 SoC. But it was priced at Rs 49,999 for the base variant, whereas the top variant crossed Rs 60,000. The Galaxy S7, which was launched in the same year was priced lower, had a better camera, better display, water resistance and more, and still priced lower.
Asus realized that it needs to go online to cut overhead expenses, which will allow the company to offer better hardware at lower price. To make this happen, it partnered Flipkart to exclusively sell the Zenfone Max Pro M1, which did work in favor of both companies. The same strategy Asus is using for the Zenfone 5Z, and it has managed to undercut the OnePlus 6 and Honor 10. We weren’t expecting such aggressive pricing, and it really has made heads turn around.
Under the hood, the Zenfone 5Z is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 octa-core SoC, which is the latest and fastest one available out there. Asus is offering the smartphone in three variants – 6GB RAM with 64GB storage, 8GB RAM with 128GB storage and 8GB RAM with 256GB storage. The smartphone also includes a full HD+ display with 19:9 aspect ratio, a notch, and a 3,300mAh battery with fast charging.
For shutterbugs, the smartphone is equipped with a dual camera setup at the back, which includes a 12-megapixel primary sensor and an 8-megapixel secondary sensor with wide-angle lens. Up front, there is an 8-megapixel sensor selfies and video calling.
Design and Software
Glass is the new metal, and Asus is also following the current industry trend. The Zenfone 5Z features a metal frame with rounded edges, and it is sandwiched between front and back glass. It offers a premium look and feel to the smartphone. In the software department, you get Android 8.0 Oreo with a layer of ZenUI out-of-the-box.
Asus is also betting big on AI (Artificial Intelligence) to add more smarts to the smartphone. You have features like AI cameras with scene detection, portrait mode, AI charging to improve the battery life, AI boost to ensure faster app loading times, and more.
The Zenfone 5Z starts at Rs 29,999 for the base variant with 64GB storage, Rs 32,999 for 128GB variant and Rs 36,999 for the 256GB storage variant. To sweeten the deal further, Asus partnered ICICI bank, and customers using the bank’s credit or debit card can set instant Rs 3,000 off, which brings down the cost of base variant to Rs 26,999. This is really an aggressive price for a smartphone that runs flagship hardware, making it a good Rs 8,000 cheaper than the OnePlus 6 base variant.
From the look of it, the Zenfone 5Z has everything it needs to outshine the OnePlus 6. If marketed well, the smartphone could pave way for Asus to make a strong comeback. I have been using the Zenfone 5Z for the past one-week and it has been an interesting product so far. Stay tuned for my review, which will be published very soon, later this week.