When you think smartphones, ASUS probably rarely comes to mind. While the company has been building Android phones for several years now, their market penetration outside of Asia has been relatively low, and so they rarely get much attention in American or European markets. But the ZenFone 2, when it launched at CES six months ago, definitely raised eyebrows.
At a starting price of just $199, ASUS is offering up a phone with extremely impressive specifications for a do-a-double-take MSRP - it almost sounds too good to be true. Thankfully, I don't think it is - the ZenFone 2 is a solid phone that works pretty much like any Android 5.0+ device you'll encounter while simultaneously blowing the doors off pretty much any competitor at this price point for raw spec sheet power.
Today at a press event during Computex, ASUS announced many new Android products, and I'm guessing you'll be intrigued by at least one of them.
Let's get to the headliner: the big news with the ZenWatch 2 is that it now comes in two sizes - 37mm and 41mm (width). The smaller 37mm sports an 18mm strap, with the 41mm having a larger 22mm band. Both have AMOLED dipslays with Gorilla Glass 3, IP67 dust and water resistance, magnetic charging cables, and use unspecified Qualcomm processors (likely still a Snapdragon 400). The ZenWatch 2 has a crown now, too, which ASUS says adds functionality, but isn't exactly specifying how just yet.
If you're still waiting for that Android Wear 5.1.1 update, don't worry! It's coming. Eventually. Probably. We hope. It might even be coming very soon now (really!), because Google's posted an update on its product forums officially announcing the update there. That post also contains the same list of Wear devices getting Wi-Fi support in the update that we'd seen previously, and it's unchanged. The Moto 360, Sony Smartwatch 3, and Samsung Gear Live will all get Wi-Fi. The Watch Urbane ships with the feature out of the box. Sony confirmed this a while back, as did Motorola. Samsung never issued a comment that I can locate.
The Asus ZenFone 2 is one of the more interesting unlocked phones to be announced lately, and you can secure yours right now on Amazon. A few more US retailers have product pages up, but it looks like it's just Amazon taking orders. The first round will ship on May 20th.
Asus hasn't had much of a presence in the US phone market aside from a few unpleasant PadFones, but that's about to change with the ZenFone 2. This device was revealed at CES in January, but now the US variant is official. It's coming May 19th for $199-299, and you can pre-order it tomorrow.
The ASUS Padfone form factors have always been incredibly interesting. It's a real shame that by the time they were picked up by a US carrier, the over-the-top modular form factor was toned down to something with a lower price tag and more mass appeal. Even so, if you'd like to check out this unique phone-tablet hardware, there's no better time than the present. An eBay vendor has a refurbished version of the Padfone X mini, complete with its 7-inch tablet dock, on sale for just $99.99.
The X mini is a low-end phone that can also double as a low-end tablet.
Yesterday, something odd happened...the 2013 Nexus 7 LTE got an OTA before its Wi-Fi counterpart. Thankfully, it appears that it was only a day early, as Google is now rolling out its latest Android build to the Wi-Fi only variant as well.
The OTA is build LMY47O, just like the LTE model, and weighs in at roughly 170 MB. If the update isn't available for you, fret not. We've got you covered. See below for a link to download the OTA file for manual sideloading.
Apple has spared no opportunity to advertise how customizable its debut smartwatch is, thanks to the promised number of bands wearers will be able to swap in and out. Unsurprisingly Google wants to take some of the wind out of those sails. The company has taken this moment to highlight a set of straps available for various Android Wear devices from the likes of Clockwork Synergy, E3 Supply Co., and Worn & Wound.
Clockwork Synergy and E3 Supply Co. provide bands for five Android Wear devices: the Asus ZenWatch, LG G Watch and G Watch R, Moto 360, and Samsung Gear Live.
ASUS, let's have a talk. I've become accustomed to writing your company name in all caps, despite the fact that it's not an acronym. And I could probably get used to calling a solid if unremarkable line of tablets a "MEMO Pad," again, with no particular rhyme or reason to the combination of uppercase and lowercase. But "MeMO Pad" is where I draw the line. You, your marketing, and I are just going to have to agree to disagree on that lowercase e. And that goes for you too, AT&T.
AT&T will be offering the latest version of the MEMO Pad 7 in an LTE flavor starting on Friday, April 10th.
The Chromecast is great! Wouldn't it be even greater if it could actually run Chrome, instead of being a point for streaming video and music? ASUS seems to think so. Tucked into an announcement of new Chrome OS laptops, Google posted a preview of the Chromebit on the official Chrome blog. It's basically Chrome OS on a stick: plug it into the HDMI port on your TV, add some MicroUSB power, and you've got access to a full copy of Chrome OS.
This isn't exactly a new idea - thanks to miniaturization of low-power hardware, manufacturers have been able to cram Android, various flavors of Linux, or even Windows onto these tiny HDMI sticks.