Asus accidentally leaked a promo video for its apparently upcoming Zenfone 9 on its YouTube channel, and the phone’s got some very interesting quirks and features, to borrow a phrase (via XDA, TechGoing). Perhaps the most interesting (at least for the people who could take or leave a headphone jack) is what Asus has done with the side-mounted fingerprint sensor, which the video labels as the “smart key”: it shows a creepy CGI hand swiping through a webpage by sliding its finger along the side of the phone.
It’s not exactly unusual to have some sort of gesture built into the fingerprint reader — phones like Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip / Fold 3 let you bring down the notification shade with a similar swipe. (And those phones are far from the first to do it; I remember that feature from my Pixel 2.) But using it to actually scroll through content feels like a fun throwback to the age where phones had physical dials or roller balls for scrolling. Will Asus’ version, which it calls “ZenTouch,” be an RSI disaster or a gimmick you use once before turning it off forever? Perhaps. But will it feel rad as hell that one time you try it? I’d bet yes.
ASUS Zenfone 9
Snapdragon 8+ Gen1
8 + 128 / 8 + 256 GB / 16 + 256 GB
– 5.9-inch 120Hz screen
– 4300 mAh dual battery
– Sony IMX766 rear main Camera – ZenTouch
– 3.5mm audio port
– IP68 level waterproof
– Red, black, blue
— SnoopyTech (@_snoopytech_) July 7, 2022
Fun side button aside, the Zenfone 9 seems like a very interesting gadget. According to Twitter user SnoopyTech (who’s had some accurate leaks before), the phone will have a 5.9-inch screen with a 120Hz refresh rate and will be powered by the same Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chip that Asus put in its gaming-focused ROG Phone 6. They also say the phone will cost between 800 and 900 euros, around $850 to $950 US. That’s a fair bit higher than the $699 starting price for the previous-gen Zenfone 8, which my colleague Allison Johnson called “fantastic” in her review.
We’ll have to wait for an official announcement and hands-on to see if that price jump is justified (or if it’s even accurate), but the video does indicate at least a few improvements that could help justify the added cost. The battery has gotten a bit bigger compared to the Zenphone 8, which had a 4,000mAh cell that provided “just okay” runtime. The video also says that the phone’s two cameras are “massively upgraded” and shows that the main one features a “6-axis hybrid gimbal stabilizer.” It then shows that feature being used with a truly whacky accessory called the smart backpack mount, which looks like it’s trying to emulate a piece of gear that professional videographers use to hoist heavy cameras all day — but for a phone.
Accessories aside (there’s also a seemingly modular phone case that you can connect a kickstand/wallet to), this preview actually gets me excited to see the Zenfone 9 officially revealed. Sure, it’s not the iPhone Mini clone running Android that some people want, but it seems like it’ll continue the Zenfone tradition of being a compact-ish but high-end Android phone with a few fun features thrown in to keep things interesting. And a headphone jack — I cannot get enough of the headphone jack.