The American smartphone market is dominated by Apple and Samsung, but Asus is hoping the two giants have left some room in the low end for its latest ZenFone 4 Max handset. The company is hoping a flagship-style dual main camera setup, a giant internal battery, and an affordable price are enough to lure buyers away from more established players.
The ZenFone 4 Max has the looks of a high-end phone thanks to an aluminum body available in black, gold, and pink finishes. The pair of camera eyes staring out from the back of the phone reinforce the initial impression of flagship handset status. One of those peepers is a 13 MP picture-taker with an f/2.0 aperture, a 25-mm focal length, and an 80° field of view. The second eyeball is a 120° wide-angle camera with a 12-mm focal length. Asus says the auto-focus on the primary camera works in just 0.03 seconds.
The user-facing side of the phone has an 8-MP self-portrait snapper with its own flash. The selfie camera has an f/2.4 aperture, an 85° field of view, and a 24-mm focal length. The software running this camera has special features for skin softening and brightening, eye enhancement, and thinning cheeks. Asus says the 5.5" IPS display on the ZenFone 4 Max can display video for up to 22 hours thanks to the 5000 mAh battery built into the phone. Sadly, that screen has a rather unimpressive 1280x720 resolution. The battery can be charged from empty to full in four hours, or it can take in enough juice for three hours of talk time in 15 minutes. The company says the ZenFone 4 Max has fancy circuitry that lets it work as a power bank supporting 1A reverse charging for other devices.
Despite its appearances, the ZenFone 4 Max is an entry-level smartphone. The heart is an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400-series SoC paired with 2 GB, 3 GB or 4 GB of memory. Internal storage is 16 GB to 64 GB of eMCP flash memory, but users can add another 256 GB in the microSD card slot. The removable tray that holds the microSD card also hold a second SIM card. The ZenFone 4 Max is 6.1" tall, 3.0" wide, and 0.35" thick (15 cm x 7.7 cm x 0.9 cm) and weighs 6.4 oz (181 g).
Asus isn't making any bold claims about its proprietary ZenUI skin plastered across an unidentified subversion of Android 7, but it does say the interface is fast and intuitive. Luddites unready or unwilling to move on to Bluetooth headphones will appreciate what looks like a headphone jack on the top of the phone.
Asus' ZenFone 4 Max is available now starting at $199 for a unit with 3 GB of memory and 32 GB of internal storage. The phone is unlocked but only works with GSM networks. Sprint and Verizon users will have to look elsewhere.