A couple of years ago, we had written an article on how most smartphones in the budget segment had a very similar design and seemed to follow a template of sorts. Today, the tables seem to have turned to an extent. While budget segment devices have come a long way since (witness the devices from Honor and Nokia), it is the premium segment smartphones that seem to have been infected by the “look-alike design” virus.
Yes, we cannot accuse the premium range of being exact copy cats of one another, but there are definitely a number of basic design details that most high-end phones today share – the largely glass build, the notch (size and shape can vary), the edge to edge display and the multiple camera arrangement sit on top of this list. Now, while there was scope for forgiveness in the budget segment as looks are really not the first priority in that range (and resources for the design were limited), things are very different in the high end and premium phone zone, where design, numbers, and performance all go hand in hand. And sadly, there is not one clear design messiah that manages to raise its neck above all the gloss, notched and bezel-less design that we are being subjected to.
Correction: there WAS not one clear design messiah.
For, we think we have finally found a smartphone that not only looks very different but does so while also emitting as much power and muscle from its looks as it does with its spec sheet. Mind you, far too many still insist on talking of its spec sheet.
We are referring to the recently launched Asus RoG smartphone.
The Asus RoG phone is a device that has been projected as a gaming smartphone. And with good reason – it packs in some very hefty gaming muscle. But its gaming prowess is all that people have really focused on. Yes, we repeat the gaming part of the device is pretty impressive but we think that this is one device that is extremely underrated when it comes to the design.
And this is because it is simply like no phone we have seen for a while. In a good way – in a VERY good way. The phone industry might be currently crushing over non-existent or thin bezels, but the ROG marches to a very different design drummer. The smartphone comes with a tall 6 inch 18:9 full HD+ AMOLED display with a screen resolution of 2160 x 1080 pixels, but the company has not shied away from putting prominent bezels on top and chin of the smartphone. Asus has not opted to go down the bezel-route just to take the road less traveled but for very functional reasons – anyone who uses a smartphone for playing high-end games knows that it can quite a task to handle smartphones with nearly no bezels while playing games. And there is no notch – no, we have nothing against notches per se but have failed to see the utility of them in many cases, especially when they are presented as design rather than functional features. In place of the notch, however, you have speakers above and below the display. And this is where the first real touch of design flair comes in – those speakers have orange grills. The color just brings so much life to the device which honestly many smartphones lack today.
While the front has a few sparks of its own, the design fireworks really light up the back of the device. Flip the phone around and the ROG-ish-ness of Asus laptops will you hit straight away.
The glass back comes with a touch of metal and plastic, and it looks anything but like a regular smartphone back. We were so tired of seeing those dual cameras placed in those capsule shaped units and those round fingerprint scanners that look pretty mulch the same across all price bands. But Asus took something as basic as camera units and fingerprint scanner and put up a bold and unapologetic gaming smartphone stamp on it – the cameras are in a horizontal set up, but this is in the shape of an arrow, with a flash at its tip, while the fingerprint scanner is in the shape of a slim hexagon. There are two speaker grilles on the back too but these two are placed in a very distinct quadrilateral unit, which juts out ever so slightly on the side, and yes, again comes with orange speaker grilles. And these are surrounded by laser etchings that make it clear that this is no run of the mill phone – and that ROG logo, with “Republic of Gamers” written right next to it, just to clarify matters.
We have not seen companies being so experimentative with the basics of the smartphone. Yes, we had seen changes of colors, texture, and shades at the back of a smartphone but no one in the business has really taken the sort of leap of design faith as Asus has with the ROG phone. And it is not a change for the sake of it. To our very pleasant surprise, the ROG phone did not feel all that different or uncomfortable when it came down to usage – Asus has managed to put the same things at largely similar positions, and yet in different shapes and sizes, giving the phone a great handfeel topped with a refreshing design. We were also impressed with the attention to detail on the smartphone. As it is a gaming phone, it comes with a cooling accessory that not only makes it looks even more, well, badass (it has the logo as well) but does not make you give up the 3.5mm audio jack and the USB Type C port, which it covers, by offering them on its frame as well to give you an uninterrupted gaming experience. Form meets function indeed!
Yes, we know we are going on and on about this, but the stark fact is that while all premium phones out there claim to be all powerful and well designed, very few actually seem to radiate what their specs represent. Hey, does the Pixel look anything like a camera – the camera does not even LOOK important on the device? And we saw more orange and speed on the ROG phone than the McLaren edition of another device! And while Apple did score a bit of a home run with the iPhone X, the XS and XS Max just seem variants of the same. The Asus ROG smartphone, on the other hand, is going to turn heads, and none of the heads that turn will mistake it for anything other than a gaming powerhouse!
Which makes us wonder: Is asking for good and just as importantly, distinct design unfair, especially when smartphone prices are going through the roof (even the iPhone XS seems a carbon copy of the X, for God’s sake)? If Asus has done it what is stopping the other well-established players from going a little outside of the basic design box and giving the users something that is as much of a beast on the outside as it is on the inside?