On its YouTube channel, Asus accidentally posted a promo video for the rumored Zenfone 9, which has some very intriguing features and quirks. To borrow a phrase (via XDA, TechGoing). What Asus has done with the side-mounted fingerprint sensor, referred to in the video as the “smart key,” may be the most intriguing (at least for those who could care less about a headphone jack): the video depicts a spooky CGI hand scrolling through a webpage by sliding its finger along the side of the phone.
Having a gesture integrated into the fingerprint reader is not particularly uncommon; for example, Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip / Fold 3 phone allows you to close the notification shade with a similar swipe. (And those phones are by no means the first to do it; I’m reminded of my Pixel 2’s feature.) However, using it to scroll through content feels like a fun throwback to the time when phones used physical dials or roller balls to scroll. Will Asus’ version, dubbed “ZenTouch,” cause RSI problems or will it just be a gimmick you use once before turning off permanently? Perhaps. But how will it feel the first time you give it a try? Yes, I’d wager.
Aside from the amusing side button, the Zenfone 9 appears to be a very intriguing device. The device will have a 5.9-inch screen with a 120Hz refresh rate and be powered by the same Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chip that Asus used in its gaming-focused ROG Phone 6, according to Twitter user SnoopyTech (who has previously had some accurate leaks). The price of the phone is also stated to be between 800 and 900 euros, or $850 and $950 USD. That’s quite a bit more expensive than the $699 starting price for the Zenfone 8 from the previous generation, which my colleague Allison Johnson praised in her review as “fantastic.”
The price increase’s justification (or accuracy) won’t be clear until we get a hands-on and official announcement, but the video does show a few upgrades that might help to offset the higher price. In comparison to the Zenphone 8, which had a 4,000mAh cell that offered “just okay” runtime, the battery has grown a little bit. The main camera on the phone has a “6-axis hybrid gimbal stabilizer,” the video reveals, and it also claims that the phone’s two cameras have been “massively upgraded.” The smart backpack mount, a truly bizarre accessory that appears to be an attempt to mimic the equipment used by professional videographers to hoist heavy cameras all day, is then shown using that feature.
Aside from the accessories (there’s also a seemingly modular phone case to which you can attach a kickstand or wallet), this sneak peek actually makes me eager to see the Zenfone 9 made public. Even though it’s not the Android-powered iPhone Mini some people are hoping for, it appears to carry on the Zenfone tradition of being a somewhat compact but high-end Android phone with a few interesting features thrown in. And a headphone jack, which I find to be absolutely indispensable.