Massive smartphones, formerly known as "phablets," are now the norm despite initial ridicule, primarily from Apple's camp. People with phones that don't feel like they want to jump out of their hands and drop to the ground have naturally started longing for the good old days. Mini or compact phones are becoming increasingly rare, even among high-end smartphone brands. However, every once in a while, something comes along that deviates from the norm and does provide an answer to those pleas. The ASUS Zenfone 9, whose existence was accidentally revealed by the company, might be the throwback phone you've been waiting for.
Compromises have always been an integral part of smartphone development. After all, it wouldn't make sense to stuff the kitchen sink into a gadget that needs to fit in your pocket. With their big displays, the latest crop of smartphones makes this all but impossible, so the foldable phone was developed as a compromise. One solution is to use a device with a smaller screen, but ASUS appears to be taking a more traditional approach with its next high-end flagship.
Compared to iPhones released before 2019, a screen size of 5.9 inches seems quite large. However, it pales compared to the displays of today's top-tier devices. There is less room to see the screen, especially considering the large bezels surrounding the display, but it is more portable and convenient to use. ASUS's stated goal of using the Zenfone 9 as a sports action camera when paired with the right accessories appears to be at the heart of the company's decision to prioritize ergonomics over functionality.
The phone also includes a 3.5mm headphone jack, a feature that has disappeared from modern smartphones. Fairphone 4, which is designed to be easily disassembled and reassembled, also uses a single USB-C port for charging and audio output instead of two separate ports. ASUS Zenfone 9 users need not forego their wired audio gear or waste money on a frequently misplaced adapter. This is a subtle but crucial addition for those who aren't in the market for new headphones or speakers. Despite the large hole in the back, the phone has the highest dust and water resistance rating.
Because of the Zenfone 9's small form factor, its dual cameras stand out even more than usual, like two squinting eyes protruding from the back of the device. It has been established that ASUS is prioritizing functionality and user-friendliness over design aesthetics, so it should come as no surprise that the ASUS Zenfone 9 won't exactly turn heads. The primary camera on this phone has been marketed as capable of 6-axis stabilization, making it ideal for recording sports or other high-action scenes. For the same reason, you'd have a better grip on it because of how much smaller it is.
Since the promotional video for the ASUS Zenfone 9 has been removed, it is unclear if this design represents the final product or an early prototype. Given the track record of the flagship Zenfone, this concept is not entirely out of the realm of possibility. It's great that there's still competition in the smartphone market for those who want something so unusual. Next year's Zenfone, we hope, will be able to do the same things in a more aesthetically pleasing package.