I’ve just found photos I never even realised I still had on an old microSD card!!
This was my first EVER touchscreen phone, because, after experiencing their other stuff for years by that point, like fuck was I not going to make my first ever touchscreen phone an ASUS phone. And in 2015, this was also their first ever phone – the wonderful Zenfone 5. It was announced in 2014 but I believe, if my memory serves, it didn’t actually release here until early the following year.
I’d come from a BlackBerry to this, and was expecting it to not recognise half my screen taps, swipes and prods. How wrong I was. ASUS launched this, as they have done just about every single one of their phones since, with some unique claim over other phones. For this, their first, their claim was it had the “world’s fastest” response time for your screen. And it certainly was impressively responsive – sometimes my finger hadn’t even reached the screen and was a hair’s breadth away – it still recognised it.
This phone handled anything that I threw at it. What you have to bear in mind is, this was a time when most phones came with 1GB (or weirdly, 1.5GB) of RAM. If you wanted a 2GB phone oh man you would be asked to PAY for that 1 extra GB – usually to the tune of a £50 to £100 premium. ASUS priced a 2GB phone at significantly LESS than a 1GB phone! And yes, they could do this by cutting some corners here and there. For example, the screen navigation at the bottom you see was actually printed on the phone – not in-screen navigation. Do you think this bothered me, in the slightest…???!! No, the only people it bothered were the fucking cretins who write for Android sites. They, of course, gave scant mention (if at all) of the fact you were getting 2GB of RAM for well under the price Samsung were asking for a paltry 1GB (but of course, ASUS don’t pay for mindshare, so let’s keep quiet over that one, eh lads?).
I’ve read so so many times people whinging about the “bloatware” on this phone but again, I can’t relate to that criticism in the slightest. Yes it had stuff on I never used – I just deactivated it and never used it. I don’t recall ever struggling to find the spare memory for anything because of it – you see that’s the follow-up these morons never actually finish with. All they ever blurted out was “BLOATWARE!!!!!”……um…….yeah…? And this affected you…..how?? They never did, of course, because to do so would kind of kill their whole ‘criticism’ in the first place, and they couldn’t then feel like one of the ‘knowledgeable’ ones.
I have my own criticisms of the phone though – it did fall short in a few areas that I take for granted will be sorted with the latest Zenfones.
The first was sound – ohhhh god it was weak. The alarm did always wake me up, but I needed to really raise the volume on it. Not to max, but close. In addition to this, it wasn’t even downward firing – let alone front facing. It was coming out a little tiny speaker on the REAR of the phone – an utterly terrible placement, considering what was I usually going to do before I slept after using my phone in bed? That’s right, put it face up on my carpet – which of course, helped to muffle my alarm call. My solution was to find a hardback book or something just flat and hard, and that definitely helped. In their defence though, this speaker placement was hardly unique to ASUS at that time.
The other downer, of course, was the battery, clocking in at, perhaps a respectable for 2015 sounding 2110mAh. But I don’t think that at this time ASUS had put much thought into fine tuning of their battery life preservation. As a result I knew full well that if I got out my car on 13% to do my shopping, my Zenfone 5 would be dead by the time I left the supermarket.
But you know what? I lived with even those 2 gripes, because I adored my Zenfone 5. The ZenUI was so beautifully simple to use. No fuss, no fancy flashy gimmicky shit, with utterly pointless added animations. It just did exactly what you wanted it to do, how you wanted to, when you wanted to. The font customisation for one is one I’ve not seen before or since on ANY phone – including ASUS phones. It was mind-blowing the number of customisations you could make to the look of the UI.
In fact, I loved the simplicity so much that I even bought another Zenfone 5 after I’d bought a Sony Xperia Z2 (in hindsight – still THE best Xperia Sony have ever made to date), such was my love of the ease of use and simplicity of the ZenUI.
I have some lovely photos still around from this phone. It was the phone that I took with me around Star Wars Celebration Europe, 2016. As I said, this phone could do anything – and I took a great few panoramic shots with it, along with a couple of 360 stitched phones (yes, the very first ASUS phone did both of those things – though the 360 was via an app, of course, but the panoramic capability was built into their software).
Jonney Shih said during the Zenfone 5 launch that it was “empowering luxury – for everyone to enjoy!”. That was the sweetest thing, and it really WAS!!! For what you got, for less than £200, trust me you had NO chance of getting the same level of spec from another half decent electronics company, and certainly not a hope in hell of getting it from Samsung.
The colours were lovely and vibrant and bright, of course, the screen did not to well in bright sunlight (although not many inexpensive phones did at that point). But this phone never ever let me down. I loved it so much, and if I had a re-run of that year I wouldn’t even look twice at any other choice.
ASUS have certainly had their ups and downs in design choices since, but their first ever phone was perfection.