THE trend for selfie-centric smartphones began last year with front-facing cameras bumped up to feature at least a 5MP sensor.
Sony was among the first to capitalise on the trend by touting its Xperia C3 smartphone as the world's best selfie smartphone. Soon after, other companies such as HTC, Microsoft and Oppo jumped on the selfie bandwagon.
So, Asus' entry into this space in June with the ZenFone Selfie can be considered as playing catch-up.
The 5.5-inch Android phone boasts a pair of 13MP camera sensors on the front and back. It runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 octa-core processor and has 3GB of RAM.
Colours wise, it comes in pure white, baby pink and tiffany blue.
But is the phone any good?
The ZenFone Selfie does not deviate much from the current class-leading ZenFone 2 series when it comes to design.
The ZenFone Selfie's ergonomically curved back - which is more pronounced than the ZenFone 2's - provides a natural grip when holding a phone of its size.
But in its pursuit to achieve an ultra-thin edge, Asus located the power button at the top of the phone, which makes it hard to reach on a handset as big as the ZenFone Selfie.
This issue can be circumvented if you enable the double tap gesture to activate the phone's screen on and off.
The handset packs 32GB of internal storage, which can be expanded by 128GB through a microSD card. It also has two SIM card slots that support 4G LTE, although only one can be used for data and voice calls, while the other slot has to be dedicated for voice calls.
The ZenFone Selfie comes with a 5.5-inch Full-HD 1,920 x 1,080 pixels resolution IPS display reinforced with Corning Gorilla Glass 4. That translates to a pixel density of 403 pixels per inch.
The handset also has a Bluelight filter which is said to help reduce eye fatigue.
PERFORMANCE & BATTERY
For this review, we compared the ZenFone Selfie against smartphones such as the ZenFone 2 ZE551ML (4GB RAM), HTC Desire Eye, Sony Xperia M4 Aqua and Xiaomi Mi 4i.
In a test that evaluates a device's central processing unit, memory, data transfer, and 3D graphics performance, the ZenFone Selfie fared reasonably well against the competition. But the Mi 4i's second generation Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 octa-core chipset helped it to maintain a healthy lead.
Running a benchmark test for an Android phone's capabilities in handling graphics in a game, the ZenFone 2 is on-par with phones of its class. But it was left in the dust by the Intel-powered ZenFone 2 and the Snapdragon 801-powered HTC Desire Eye.
This just means that while the phone is capable of playing most mainstream games from the Google Play Store, some cutting-edge graphics-heavy games may not play as smoothly as on the ZenFone 2. But this should not matter to most consumers.
In our standard video battery test, the ZenFone Selfie - which has a removable battery - lasted the longest, with an uptime of 9hr 35min.
That translates to an estimated 40 per cent more battery mileage than the Mi 4i, even though the Xiaomi has a smaller screen and bigger battery.
The battery longevity of the ZenFone Selfie is due to its relatively low power consumption.
The ZenFone Selfie allows you to take wider selfies through a mix of hardware and software. There is a 88-degree wide-angle lens for the 13MP front-facing camera (hardware) and a panorama feature (software) to capture up to 270 degrees of scenery. The concept for a selfie panorama is not new though - we have seen something similar in the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and other Android phones.
The key to taking good selfie panoramas is practice and steady hands. During our initial attempts, we could not get well-stitched pictures as our framing kept shifting up or down.
Image quality is good for a 13MP shooter. Sufficient details are captured with good colour balance.
At a retail price of $399 (without contract) and available in Singapore from Sunday, the ZenFone Selfie is priced quite decently for a mid-range smartphone.
You can get it at a promotional price of $379 with a free Lolliflash accessory worth $17.90 if you buy the phone from Sunday to Oct 31.
While it retains the basic DNA of the ZenFone 2, the ZenFone Selfie does come with some differentiating features such as the 13MP front-facing camera (the ZenFone 2 has a 5MP sensor).
While the ZenFone Selfie's Snapdragon 615 chipset lags slightly behind the Intel chipset of the ZenFone 2 in performance benchmarks, it still offers better battery mileage.
At the end of the day, the decision to purchase the ZenFone Selfie over the ZenFone 2 depends on how much you value hardcore mobile gaming and benchmark performance, and if you can live with the ZenFone Selfie's pastel colours.