Competition in Android smartphones is better now than it's ever been, and not just in the flagship segment. With devices like the Moto G, the ZenFone 2, and various Blu designs, the mid-range is heating up with phones that are jam-packed with value. But how about the low-end, entry phone segment? For those people who just want a device that runs a few apps, plays a nice round of Threes, and maybe browse for some sports scores? Before a few years ago, they were limited to whatever bottom-of-the-line, low-margin phones Samsung and LG would spare.
ASUS is riding high on ZenFone Fever, and at an event in India called - wait for it - Zenfestival, the company announced a slew of new ZenFone models. ZenFone 2 Deluxe, ZenFone 2 Laser, ZenFone Selfie, and ZenFone Max. Well, actually, only one of them was new - the ZenFone Max. The Laser, Deluxe, and Selfie were all announced previously, but the Max is the only really interesting one anyway (it even has a laser, don't worry).
The ZenFone Max is clearly targeted at emerging markets, blending an extremely large 5000mAh battery (how thick is this phone?) with a much more modest Snapdragon 410 processor, compared to the speedy if power-hungry Intel Atoms in the standard ZenFone 2.
Asus has seen some success with the budget-oriented unlocked Zenfone 2, and now a less expensive variant of the device is coming to AT&T as a prepaid GoPhone. The Zenfone 2E keeps many of the design cues from the Zenfone 2, but pulls back on the spec sheet a bit.
Asus announced a new ZenWatch several weeks ago, and now the original ZenWatch is getting a price drop, presumably to pave the way for the new version. It used to sell for $199.99, but now you can have the first-gen ZenWatch for just $129.99.
Asus has a history of making inexpensive Android tablets. While it doesn't make Nexus tablets anymore, the Taiwanese OEM is still chugging along in the tablet market. The latest tablet from Asus is the ZenPad S 8.0, and it's now available at Best Buy in the US. It doesn't appear to be for sale through any other channel yet.
Windows Phone, eat your heart out. Android is now capable of virtualizing a full and up-to-date Windows desktop operating system. Well, one phone is at least, and it's probably not one you would have guessed: the ASUS ZenFone 2. XDA-Developers forum member ycavan managed to get Windows 7 running on his phone using a variety of custom tools, some impressive technical skill, and quite a lot of patience. Check it out in the video below:
To be clear, this is Windows 7, virtualized, running on a local virtual machine client accessed via the aSPICE KVM client for control. Windows is not being emulated (it's been done with older versions).
Compared to other "premium" Android Wear watches, the ASUS ZenWatch is kind of square. No, I mean it's literally a square. Okay, technically it's a rectangle, but you know what I'm getting at here. When manufacturers decide they're going to fancy up their Android Wear devices, they tend to make them circular, as was the case with the Moto 360 or the LG Watch Urbane. Not so with this one.
The ASUS Zenfone 2 has proven a popular device in its first few weeks on the market. It's reasonably priced and has good specs. As David pointed out in our review, the software is its biggest issue, so you know there are tons of users anxious to mod the crap out of it. Good news on that front—there's now a bootloader unlock method, and it's not terribly messy.
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.