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.
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.