There was a time when it was raining ZenFones from Asus in the smartphone market. The company had launched so many ZenFones at one point that it became a complicated affair. But after the initial ZenFone storm, the dust soon started to settle, and Asus pretty much took a backseat in the market. Now, the company has come out with another ZenFone, the ZenFone Live (yes, another ZenFone name to remember) and unlike many of its predecessors, this one is strictly aimed at the pocket-friendly segment as it is priced at Rs. 9,999. But can the latest ZenFone survive in the extremely competitive sub-Rs 10,000 market, especially when you consider its “secret” weapon?
Looks metallic, middling specs
When it comes to the appearance, the ZenFone Live pretty much looks like a typical budget range smartphone, although it is different from the budget ZenFones of the past and looks definitely better. The device comes with a 5-inch HD display topped with 2.5D glass, giving it a classy look. Just above the screen, the company has placed a 5-megapixel front facing camera (more on that later), the proximity sensor, a small LED light sensor and the earpiece. But this is not all, as the ZenFone Live is a photography/ videography centric phone, it also comes with a soft front facing flash. Below the display, there are three capacitive buttons for going back, home and opening recent apps.
Although metal is the trend in the smartphone market, Asus has given the phone a very metal-like feel and look, which can fool anyone for a while (the phone actually is made of plastic). The back has the main 13-megapixel camera on the top left, and the LED flash is placed just below the camera. There are two antenna bands on the back, but they are not super shiny as we have seen in some other models. A little down south from the first antenna band, the company has placed its logo which is very silver and metal. The top of the phone carries the 3.5 mm audio jack while the base holds the micro USB port and the speaker grille. The right side of the phone holds the screen lock/ power button, and the volume rocker and the SIM card tray pops out from the left.
Inside the ZenFone Live is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, which is paired with 2 GB RAM and 16 GB internal storage, expandable up to 128 GB via MicroSD card (the device also supports USB-OTG) and comes with the usual connectivity options like 4G, Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth. It runs on Android Marshmallow 6.0 topped with Zen UI 3.0. The phone is powered by a 2650 mAh non-removable battery. Compact in size, the ZenFone Live can be easily used with one hand and is surprisingly light at just 120 grams. It is one of the better-looking ZenFones at this price point but is unlikely to stand out in the budget phone crowd, either for its appearance or its spec sheet, which is middling at best.
Built for social streaming
In the budget segment, the price of the smartphone and/or the specs it offers at that price are usually the biggest highlights of the device, but not in the case of the Asus Zenfone Live, whose specs are anyway middling at best. The Asus Zenfone Live’s USP is the fact that one can use Beauty Mode in live videos on various social networking platforms – “the world’s first live streaming, real-time beautification technology,” as per Asus. In our brief experience, the BeautyLive app literally gives you live effects when you are live streaming on social platforms. It might appeal to social media addicts, especially those with more than a touch of vanity. Asus also says it has added dual microphones to the mix to make the live video even better.
The proposition is definitely unique but we do not know whether it can be a compelling selling point for the device. Yes, different selfie and beauty modes appear to be the latest rage feature in the Industry (witness the powerful selfie cameras being promoted by the likes of Vivo, Oppo and Gionee) but is a consumer going to buy a smartphone mainly because it offers beauty mode in live videos? That too in the budget segment where the consumer generally looks for a “solid” device? We would say that is highly unlikely. That said, full marks to Asus for trying.
Up against some stiff competition
The ZenFone Live might be decent looking at first glance but has missed out on some very crucial points which may take its ship into deep waters in its price segment. There is no fingerprint scanner on the device which almost is hygiene now in under-Rs 10,000 devices. What’s more, it does not pack a large amount of RAM (3 GB is getting common at that price point), a massive battery or even a full HD display, which can be a fatal combination when we take into consideration the kind of competition the device will face. The recently launched Xiaomi Redmi 4 is going to be its biggest competitor, and we just cannot ignore the Lenovo K6 Power which has been there for quite a while in the segment. The list does not end here – some of the veteran budget phones also fall in the same territory, like the Moto E3 Power and the Xiaomi Redmi 3S and Xiaomi Redmi 3S Prime. Some would even say that the lower priced Redmi 4A packs in more processing power punch and a larger battery.
In sum, there are phones in the market under Rs. 10,000 that offer better processors, more RAM and storage and also bigger batteries than the ZenFone Live. Our feeling is that Asus is going to need more than “real-time beautification” to click in this very tough segment. Yes, it is a handy add-on but in the end, it really boils down to how the phone performs, and for that, you will have to wait for our detailed review.