Zenfone 8 Q&A: Asus talks compact challenges, possibility of future small phones

Asus Zenfone 8 rear against tree

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Asus has announced the Zenfone 8 series, featuring the more conventional Zenfone 8 and the flip camera-toting Zenfone 8 Flip. The two phones are starkly different propositions, but the Zenfone 8, in particular, represents a departure from the series’ more eccentric designs.

The Taiwanese company made the decision to offer a more compact device in the Zenfone 8, featuring a 6-inch screen and a 148mm tall design compared to much bigger flagships in the industry. We’ve seen more pocket-friendly devices like the iPhone 12 Mini reportedly lag behind their larger stablemates in terms of sales, so what prompted Asus’ shift in strategy? Director Chih-Hao Kung elaborated on the decision to a group of journalists at a Zenfone 8 series briefing.

Our verdict: Asus Zenfone 8 review | Asus Zenfone 8 Flip impressions

Why go compact in the first place?

Kung acknowledged that compact flagships aren’t the most popular category around. Nevertheless, he explained that they’re not aiming specifically to make something akin to a Samsung Galaxy flagship, Xiaomi Mi series phone, or Huawei P series device:

Those are great phones. There are a lot of options if you want a flagship phone that’s very large, has three, four, maybe five cameras, and costs €1,000. So for us, we’re also about offering options that aren’t necessarily in the market anymore. Because we do believe that there is a need or a wish for something like the Zenfone 8.

 

Of course, a smaller device comes with a few compromises, and wireless charging is indeed one feature not available on the Zenfone 8 (nor the 8 Flip). The Asus representative explained the company’s thinking behind the decision for the smaller device.

“When we’re [planning] smartphone design, there’s always this balance between choices. And for us, we still haven’t decided to basically sacrifice battery capacity to do wireless charging,” Kung explained, adding that they could make the phone thicker but had other uses in mind in that case. “If we want to make the device thicker, let’s say by 1mm, we can use that space to add more battery.”

Asus Zenfone 8 standing on tracks

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Kung acknowledged that wireless charging is convenient, but “a big battery is beneficial always [sic], not just when you’re charging.” In saying so, he refused to rule out wireless charging coming to future Asus smartphones.

The Zenfone 8 also lacks the third rear camera seen on the Zenfone 8 Flip (a telephoto camera). Kung chalked this up to size considerations as well:

We can put in three cameras, we can put in four. But that means maybe scaling down the batteries by quite a bit, or maybe not use the (Snapdragon) 888, maybe using a 6-series CPU (sic).

Will the real Zenfone flagship please stand up?

Despite the smaller battery and lack of a telephoto camera, the Zenfone 8 actually has a number of features missing from the Flip. These features include a 120Hz refresh rate, OIS on the main camera, an IP68 rating, a 3.5mm port, a 16GB RAM version, and Gorilla Glass Victus. The phone is also cheaper; €599 (~$728) compared to the Flip’s €799 (~$971) price tag.

It turns out that Asus views the compact device as its main flagship rather than the Zenfone 8 Flip:

We’re used to seeing larger devices as being the better devices in terms of specifications. Like larger must mean more expensive, and better in every way. That’s not specifically so with the Zenfone 8 series. So Zenfone 8 is our flagship device of 2021 for Zenfone.

Asus’s device should clearly be on your radar (alongside phones like the Pixel 5 and Galaxy S21) if you want a pocket-friendly flagship phone. But is this just a one-time deal or the start of a compact series? Kung says a once-off pocket-friendly phone is “not the plan” in response to a question from Android Authority.

“I would say it’s not a one-off, so it’s not specifically just a one [time] thing,” he elaborated.

Kung also confirmed that they expect to sell more Zenfone 8s than Zenfone 8 Flips, which isn’t a surprise given the price difference between the two. But he noted that Asus will be “going wider” with the Zenfone 8 in terms of market availability too.

Unfortunately, Kung had no comment when asked whether Asus would release a Zenfone 8 Pro down the line.

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