Asus Zenfone 2 Challenges Competition with Low Price

Citizen journalists beware: There’s a new Android smartphone in town that’s slim, powerful and downright cheap and comes from a company you may not have even known was making smartphones: Asus.

Asus Zenfone 2 Android 5.0 smartphone.

Asus Zenfone 2 Android 5.0 smartphone.

At a crowded New York press conference Monday, Asus, better known for its PCs and tablets, showed off the new 5.-5-inch Asus Zenfone 2 Android 5.0 smartphone–a unit with plenty of photo and video features amateur and professional journalists and social media mavens might appreciate. And its phone and data features aren’t bad either.

Not only does the Zenfone 2 come with a powerful Intel Atom processor, a high-quality 13MP PixelMaster camera and sophisticated low-light technology, but it also comes with something one might not expect from an unlocked smartphone: an attractive price.

At $299 for an unlocked Zenfone 2 with 4GB of internal RAM, 64GB of storage and a 2.3 GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3580 processor or $199 for one with 2MB of RAM, 16GB of storage and a 1.8 GHz Atom Z3560 processor, the Zenfone 2 is significantly cheaper than unlocked flagship smartphones like the Apple iPhone 6 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S6 and the LG G4.

Asus Zenfone 2 colors and finishes.

Asus Zenfone 2 colors and finishes.

At 4GB of RAM, the $299 Zenfone 2 also has more built-in memory for running programs than the iPhone 6 Plus, which gets away with 1GB of RAM by running memory-effiicient iOS 8, and Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S6 (3GB) and LG G4 (3GB).

The slim Zenfone 2 has a 1920-by-1,080-pixel 5.5-inch display and a 13MP rear camera which can—with a little software magic—capture 52MP images. The camera’s F2.0 lens, combined with special low-light and backlight modes, make it possible to capture clear images dark conditions without turning on the flash.

Asus Lolliflash external LED flash.

Asus Lolliflash external LED flash.

Speaking of flash, a cute, but useful photo accessory is the Asus Lolliflash, a small, bright LED light that pops into the headset jack and provides additional lighting for nearby objects.

Also notable is the Zenfone 2’s fast charger, which switches between a fast-charging 9-volt, 2-amp mode to a standard 5-volt, 2-amp mode as needed. With the charger, a 10-minute charge provides 4 hours of 2G talk time or 2.7 hours of 3G talk time, according to Asus.

Asus Chairman Jonney Shih

Asus Chairman Jonney Shih touts Zenfone 2’s Super Resolution mode.

The Zenfone 2 can handle two active SIM cards at the same time—a useful feature for overseas travelers. One SIM can handle up to 4G data speeds while the second card handles only 2G data speeds.

ASUS Chairman Jonney Shih introduces Zenfone 2 to New York media.

ASUS Chairman Jonney Shih introduces Zenfone 2 to New York media.

Asus Chairman Jonney Shih, who hosted the press event, said the Zenfone 2 was well-suited for impatient, get-it-done-now New Yorkers. The Zenfone 2 went on sale Tuesday at numerous online and retail outlets.

Second photo courtesy of Asus.
Text and all other photos © Copyright 2015, Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

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Don’t Get Stopped at the Gate: Keep Some Power in Your Pocket

Lepow Moonstone External Battery

Lepow Moonstone External Batteries

There are many ways to miss a flight, but a dead cell phone shouldn’t be one of them.

Unfortunately, new TSA security regulations for some foreign airports require that cell phones and other electronic devices be turned on while going through security. Devices that cannot power on won’t be allowed on flights. This rule doesn’t currently affect domestic U.S. flights; just some incoming international flights from certain destinations.

Innovative Technology Justin Slim Power Bank

Innovative Technology Justin Slim Power Bank

One way to avoid such hassles is to travel with an external battery–one that connects with your phone or tablet via a standard USB cable. As long as you keep these portable power banks charged, you’ll always be able to give your device enough juice to power up and get through security. The good news is that many power banks are slim, stylish and inexpensive.

When shopping, keep an eye on a battery’s milliampere-hour (mAh) rating, which gives you an idea of which devices it can charge and how long it can keep them going. For example, Innvovative Technology estimates that its Justin-brand 2,000 mAh power banks provide enough power to add nine hours of talk and web surfing time to a smartphone and its 6,000 mAh units will increase smartphone time an extra 27 hours or add five hours of web, audio and video time to a tablet. For the sake of comparison, note that the internal battery of an Apple iPhone 5s is rated at 1,560 mAh.

Powerocks Magicstick

Powerocks Magicstick

Innovative Technology’s Justin Slim Power Bank barely makes an impression in a jacket pocket but has enough room inside for a 2,000 mAh battery. Four LEDs let you know how much of a charge it has left.

Moonstone power banks from Lepow (photo at top) are encased in smooth, polished plastic and come in an assortment of colors and power capacities. Moonstones comes in 3,000 mAh, 6,000 mAh and 9,000 mAh versions and provide two USB ports: one standard and one higher-powered, fast charge port. Thus you could charge a smartphone on one port and a tablet on the other. Moonstones are roughly three inches square but vary in thickness.

Also colorful and stylish are the Magicstick power banks from Powerocks USA. The purse-size small cylinders house a 2,800 mAh battery and come in a choice of eight colors.

Champ Bodyguard Battery Rechargeable Power Bank

The Champ Bodyguard Power Bank includes a personal alarm and a flashlight.

The Champ Bodyguard Battery Rechargeable Power Bank adds a flashlight and a personal alarm siren to its capabilities as a 2,200 mAh lithium ion portable battery.

Some coffee shops and restaurants, like the ones in New York’s Madison Square Garden and a few Starbucks locations in Boston, now offer wireless charging hotspots built into some of their tables. Place a compatible smartphone or battery on the right spot and the device will charge up without wires.

Duracell Powermat GoPower Overnighter

Duracell Powermat GoPower Overnighter

The Duracell Powermat GoPower Overnighter charges smartphones and tablets with a standard USB cable, but the unit itself can be charged via an AC adapter or computer USB port or wirelessly by placing it on a Duracell or compatible wireless hotspot or charging station. The 4,400 mAh battery has a single USB port and comes precharged for immediate use.

PS72

Rayovac 2-Hour Power Pack

Rayovac’s inexpensive 2-Hour Power Pack doesn’t even need a USB cable. The small unit has a built-in micro USB port and plugs directly into your smartphone. Instead of a built in rechargeable battery, it uses a removable Rayovac CR123a battery, which you may be able to find at an airport electronics stores should your unit run down at the wrong time. A similar version with a connector for the iPhone 4S and earlier iPhones is also available.

Like the Lepow Moonstone, the Anker 2nd Gen Astro series chargers can charge two devices at the same time via two USB ports. Anker’s PowerIQ technology in the 2nd Gen Astro (6,000 mAh), Astro2 (9,000 mAh) and Astro3 (12,000 mAh) identifies the device connected to each intelligent USB port and adjusts the charging current accordingly.

Anker Astro

Anker 2nd Gen Astro

The Anker 2nd Gen Astro series units lack buttons: To wake them up you simply shake them. A circular power readout lets you know how much of a charge is left inside.

Of course none of the above power banks will do you much good at the airport security gate or anywhere else unless you remember to charge them regularly. So power up and happy travels.

 Text © Copyright 2014, Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features