The Asus Zenfone AR is available in India. The smartphone is priced at Rs. 49,999 and will be exclusively available on Flipkart. As part of the launch offer, Zenfone AR buyers get a discount of Rs 2,500 on Google's Daydream View headset. Asus has also partnered with Reliance Jio to offer up to 100GB additional data to ZenFone AR users. The smartphone was first showcased at CES 2017 and is finally available in India. Even though we have seen smartphones powered by the Snapdragon 835 platform, the 821 which runs the Zenfone AR is a capable one.
The ZenFone AR is the company’s AR-enabled smartphone that will allow Project Tango-based applications to run on the phone. The phone is also Daydream-ready, essentially making it the first phone to have support for both Project Tango and Daydream or you could say AR and VR support (in terms of the Daydream standard set by Google). Lenovo’s Phab 2 Pro was the first phone to support Project Tango but it didn’t fulfil the standards for Daydream. We spent some time around with the ZenFone AR and here’s what we think about the device and the AR/VR applications.
Hardware inside and build quality
The ZenFone AR’s highlighted specifications include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chipset running on 8GB of RAM. The mammoth memory on this phone makes sense because of high demand of memory to run AR/VR applications. Being Daydream-ready, the device has a 1440x2560 Super AMOLED display with a screen size of 5.7-inches. This enables a really sharp display that serves crisp content in Daydream. Just like the Phab 2 Pro, the ZenFone AR also has a tri-camera system (named as TriCam here) including the primary shooter along with motion and depth tracking sensors. The device charges and transfers data using a USB 2.0 Type-C 1.0 connector, while continuing to support a 3.5mm headphone jack. Those were the highlighted features of the ZenFone AR and you can read the rest of the specifications here.
The ZenFone AR has a good build quality with a metal frame and a leather-like coating on the back cover. It provides a good grip around the phone. One area we need to explore is battery life on the ZenFone AR which will be possible once we receive the device for review. With a battery capacity of 3,300mAh, 2K display and AR/VR applications, it will be interesting to observe how efficiently it can run and maintain a suitable charge capacity.
Project Tango at work
The primary focus of the ZenFone AR is AR and VR applications but it ticks off almost the entire checklist required for a flagship device. We got to try a few of them at the press conference which can also be viewed in action on our Facebook Live video on the same. Starting off at the most interesting and useful implementation of AR and VR, the BMW i Visualiser drew most of the crowd. The idea behind the app is to give you a virtual tour of all the components of a car including the exterior and interiors. The visualiser app also let you change the colour accents of different parts of the car such as the body paint, seat cover colour, etc. The car was virtually mapped in an area based on its real dimensions. To have a look at the various parts of the car, all you had to do was point the ZenFone AR to the mapped area through the visualiser app. Because of the AR/VR implementation, you could walk around and have a virtual tour of everything, even the little details of the dashboard.
The other applications included Holo which was only for entertainment purposes. The app let you place different characters from different downloadable packs. You could resize and reposition these characters wherever you wanted. Even after moving the camera away from them, the characters managed to retain their position and other aspects. The other application we fiddled with was iStaging, an app dedicated towards interior design. Here you had the liberty only to place objects with real world dimensions. You can’t alter the size but you can place them on any surface. The app works great without any hiccups in maintaining their given position and orientation. There is also an app where an island appears and what you have to do is sling rocks at the structures on the island to break them.
The quality differed among the applications where the BMW i Visualiser was able to offer the best one in terms of sharpness and detail. With open APIs available for Tango, there are many AR apps out there that can be browsed using the Tango app. Overall, it was a satisfactory experience and we are expecting more Project Tango based apps to flood the Play Store.
What remains to be seen is whether AR is a unique enough proposition to attract customers. If you are looking to Invest 50k in a smartphone, you are spoiled for choice. You have the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S8, Sony Xperia XZ Premium, iPhone 7 and more to chose from.