One year after we first saw it at CES 2015, Asus has announced plans to release the ZenFone Zoom in the United States. The $399 smartphone, which features a 13-megapixel camera with a Panasonic sensor and 3x optical zoom, will be available beginning in "early February." Asus says it'll offer up more details about the release — and a full spec sheet for the US ZenFone Zoom — on January 20th.
Aside from the upgraded camera, we expect the rest of the device to closely resemble the high-end ZenFone 2, which proved to be a pretty great deal for the price. The Zoom's $399 price gets you a 5.5-inch 1080p display (protected by Gorilla Glass 4), 4GB of RAM, a 3,000mAh battery, and quad-core Intel processor. For storage you can choose from 64GB or 128GB, but since this phone supports microSD cards up to 128GB, picking the 64GB version seems more sensible. The Zoom's rear design evokes the Lumia 1020, though Asus favors a leather casing over the Lumia's colorful plastic.
The Intel-powered ZenFone 2 was able to stand toe-to-toe (or at least come close) with many of 2015's flagship smartphones. But it was also dragged down by a ton of Asus bloatware and disappointing battery. And in that regular model, the camera really wasn't anything spectacular.
But Asus is emphasizing that the Zoom's camera is completely different, with a 10-element lens created by Hoya. I'm not entirely sure why that's brag-worthy, since Hoya is a company most photographers associate with lens filters rather than the lens itself. Anyway, using that 3x optical zoom, you'll be able to focus at distances of just 2 inches, so the ZenFone 2 could be good for some mobile macro photography. Will it be better than what a Moto X Pure Edition or Nexus 6P can do? Hopefully we'll get a better idea of that next month.