I Wish I Had Waited for This One: The ASUS Zenfone Zoom
While at the Dark Android Project I generally recommend only tablets for secure devices, the fact is that most people still want to use smartphones. And I get lots of questions into the site and to my science and tech podcast, Sovryn Tech, asking me what are the best Android smartphones available. So I like to keep those tech suggestions updated, and while not having to take up precious podcast airtime, I do it here on the Dark Android Blog.
Keep in mind, I still like to stick with some of the principles behind the Dark Android Project when I make smartphone suggestions. My criteria for an acceptable smartphone are thus:
- No fingerprint reader (insecure, and removes your 5th Amendment Rites).
- No voice co-processor (very rare to find).
- Needs a MicroSD card slot for ease of ROM transfers.
- 1080p or lower resolution screen is preferable, as anything greater unnecessarily drains the battery.
And that’s the bare minimum. Removable batteries and open processor architecture (like the Intel Atom’s) are nice bonuses if you can do it, but good luck with finding removable batteries in phones anymore (they exist, but they’re increasingly rare), so I can’t make it a requirement otherwise the only phone I’d buy would be the LG G4. And one thing you want around any device you ever by is a “cult following”. Like Nexus devices. They have a “cult following”, where people just go nuts with all of the things they develop–without Google’s permission–to keep those devices alive, be it through software or alternative operating systems.
Right now, the best phone on the market–especially when you consider the sub-$300 price–is the ASUS Zenfone 2 with 4GB of RAM. It also happens to be my “daily driver”, so I speak from experience just how fast and powerful this thing is. ASUS has been making some phenomenal products for years (including routers, the Dark Android’s top tablet pick–the 2013 Nexus 7–was built by them though many forget it, and of course the Zenbooks, and some of the best motherboards on the planet), and I think their entries in the mobile device business have been stellar. While other Zenfone 2 models have been released (the Zenfone 2 Laser), I’ve been hoping that ASUS wasn’t going to just stop there.
And now they’re releasing a phone that I really wish I had waited for. The ASUS Zenfone Zoom is essentially a Zenfone 2 with a giant 3X optical zoom camera on the back. I mean, it is a giant camera. But otherwise it has all the proper trimmings that the Zenfone 2 has, and that’s a good thing. The quad-core Intel Atom processor (that is open and allows you to run alternative operating systems…even beyond Android-based ones), the same 4GB of RAM (which is still very uncommon in a phone, but amazing), 64GB or 128GB of onboard storage and a MicroSD card slot, a 1080p screen (great for battery life), and 2 SIM card slots for global travellers. No fingerprint reader. No voice co-processor (thank you, Intel). All the good stuff. Just with–again–a giant camera (not unlike some Nokia phones that are known for their cameras).
Two positives and one negative here due to the camera. First positive is that the camera is obviously going to take amazing pictures, and if you’re into that, it’s handy to have such well-built massive camera on it. Second positive solves one of the flaws with the Zenfone 2: the damn thing is so slim and slick that it slides out of my pockets and is not very easily grippable. I have to have a case on my Zenfone 2, otherwise I can’t hold it and it constantly falls out of wherever I put it. Also, when laying it on a table, it rocks back and forth when I press on it. Absolute pain in the ass, but the camera bump that said massive camera creates to have it built in creates a surface that let’s it lay flat, and it makes it far more grippable. It’s just a better design for the phone overall, so why not slap a bunch of camera lenses in the back of it?
Well, that leads to the one negative about the phone. Personally–and for privacy and security’s sake–I think having a great camera on your phone is a negative. People should see shitty cameras as positive things because it disempowers the Surveillance State by giving them lesser quality pictures and videos to spy on everyone with. And if you agree with that sentiment, then the ASUS Zenfone Zoom is not for you. But perhaps you feel you’re already handing over a lot of your privacy and security by owning a smartphone in the first place, so why not go all the way and have a great camera on your phone? Yeah, I can appreciate that line of thinking.
So I leave it to you. As a degree of media production is a major part of my business, having an awesome camera like the ASUS Zenfone Zoom has would be helpful. There is no set street date yet for the phone, nor is their talk on price (though I imagine it will stay in the $300 range), but I’ll admit I wish I could have waited until the Zenfone Zoom was released. It has all the right specs, and the camera is a nice feature for my own workflow. And as far as Dark Android-styled smartphones go, it’s one of the best on the market.