The ASUS ZenFone 2 shouldn’t be six phones
The ASUS ZenFone 2 is the best smartphone in the company’s lineup right now, and arguably, one of the boldest smartphones in the mid-range market. Or, you could say the ASUS ZenFone 2 is a mediocre device that’s trying too hard to be the best in the lower end market. Or, the ASUS ZenFone 2 sounds kinda like the other phones I talked about just now, but somewhere in between.
Well, I can say that the ASUS ZenFone 2 is actually all of the above. Our Editorial Director Michael Fisher debated the merits of choosing one of two ZenFones 2 (that is the correct way to execute that plurality, right?). Boy, does the rabbit hole go deep.
Four models currently share the ASUS ZenFone 2 moniker with distinctions in specs and price tags. Heck, even within the ZE551ML model name we see two differently dressed phones.
|Screen||5 inches||5.5 inches||5.5 inches||5.5 inches|
|Resolution||720p (294ppi)||720p (267ppi)||1080p (403ppi)||1080p (403ppi)|
|CPU||Dual-core 1.6GHz||Quad-core 1.8GHz||Quad-core 1.8GHz||Quad-core 2.3GHz|
|Battery||2500mAh||3000mAh||3000mAh (w/ fast charging)||3000mAh (w/ fast charging)|
|Approx. price on Amazon||179 USD||229 USD||199 USD||299 USD|
If you’re a person who’s researching your smartphone choices, you’d figure that there has to be a reason why all of these ASUS look-alikes are priced differently. You don’t know some of them and neither would you probably want to know them; why is the 2GB RAM ZE551ML priced lower than the ZE550ML on Amazon? Why even have the low-end ZE500CL when the next price point up is only 20 USD away? Why have two dissimilar sizes of device for one flagship set that your factories have to adjust for? And let’s not get started with the two new ZenFone 2 variants that were introduced at Computex.
To us, it seems that ASUS’s marketing department are putting six different phones with three sizes under one umbrella aesthetic. And that’s enough to slap the ZenFone 2 branding on all of them.
But this branding issue goes back to the other ZenFone lineups. There are three models in the ZenFone 4 series, four representing the ZenFone 5 brand and two are known as the ZenFone 6. All of them, of course, with different specs that I could bore you with in more tables. I won’t.
When you get a smartphone from a family of identically named devices, you would expect a relatively similar user experience between all of them. By definition, this is not ASUS’s case. The software can look all the same and you can switch the back covers between each of them (okay, most of them, but that’s my point) to your desire. But if you’ve bought that ZE550ML, you’re probably really regretting not getting the ZenFone 2. I mean, the ZE551ML. The one with the 4GB of RAM.
Stratification like this makes troubleshooting more complicated. Different components for different models need different manuals for the same help desk to sort out. That help desk might be prepared for all of that, but exchanges concerning the ZenFone 2 would likely begin with:
Help desk: “Okay, so which device do you have?”
User: “The ZenFone 2.”
Help desk: “Which model number?”
User: “Uhh, hold on.”
*20 seconds of rattling later*
User: “How do I find the model number?”
I know it’s just a minute extra of customer service, but considering that this phone’s bound to get the lion’s share of calls on some days (say it with me: flagship), you have to wonder how much time staff could save without that hassle.
And while I might appreciate the argument against releasing a family of samey flagships, I also understand that need for a OEM to provide that warm, fuzzy feeling of getting a cool new phone to every buyer … and their budget. Well, ASUS, how about dealing with that like how HTC or Samsung deals with that: use words. Or different numbers. Or more numbers. Use the straight-up model numbers, for all I care. Or even emoji. Any symbol going beyond “2” and isn’t “4,” “5,” or “6.”
Think about it: we could be in for a stupefying sight if the ASUS ZenFone 3 makes it to market later on this year; the company’s branding of active smartphone lineup will essentially be meaningless. All versions of each the ZenFone 4, ZenFone 5 and ZenFone 6 have been around for at least six months at this point, some of those up to 18. That means ASUS could drop the older ZenFone 4 and ZenFone 6 series before ZenFone 3 press time. If not, well, start counting your blessings, snarky writers.
All 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 of them.