This humble new phone exposes the hypocrisy of modern iPhone and Galaxy flagships

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In the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of using a device that many of you have probably never heard of. I certainly didn’t have high hopes or expectations for it either. That device is the Asus Zenfone 9, which arrived at the office on a summer day, an occasion I completely ignored until one of my colleagues who also share an obsession with compact phones told me about it.

I should check out.

I approached the Zenfone 9 with a bit of skepticism: historically there have been very few good compact Android phones, and frankly I wasn’t very confident that Asus of all companies would have finally made THE ONE. Well what a hasty conclusion that was and the more I used this phone the more I was surprised by its super powers.

For those of you who aren’t familiar (probably most of you actually), the Zenfone 9 is a flagship phone in a really compact body. It has a 5.9-inch screen with smaller dimensions than your average phone, so it’s extremely easy to use with one hand. It’s also noticeably smaller compared to what will pass as a “small phone” in 2022, typically 6.1 or 6.2 devices.

Achievements unleashed

But most importantly, Zenfone 9 is powered by the brilliant Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip, Qualcomm’s new top-of-the-line processor. We say “brilliant” and we don’t usually waste these kinds of compliments on just any processor. The truth is, we’ve had quite a few issues with some previous Qualcomm chips. Look no further than the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, and you might see a number of devices having issues with cooling this chip, causing all sorts of problems, especially for smaller devices.

At the same time, small phones remain a form factor that many people love, even if they know that this small size can be detrimental to performance. Recently I tested the new Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4, another small and this time foldable phone, and its small size turned out to be an absolute disaster for the gaming performance of this device. The phone faltered terribly, and in just a few minutes the flagship chip dropped to a level of performance that even some mid-range phones could easily beat. Yaks!

Asus successfully avoided that trap. The Zenfone 9 is both compact AND can maintain its powerful performance. And all that costs just a hair with extra thickness (but really clever technique has made it possible to avoid those pitfalls).

Check out a run of the 3D Mark WildLife Extreme stress test running for 20 minutes straight, our go-to benchmark for measuring throttling. The Zenfone 9 is pushing the throttle, let’s not kid ourselves, but it drops to a score of nearly 1,500 points, down from an initial burst of 2,800 points. That’s just brilliant compared to the Z Flip 4, which has the same chip but drops to less than 1,000 points! That’s a huge 50% difference in game performance in favor of the Zenfone!

Of course, the small Asus phone can’t keep the full performance of the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip like big phones can. A prime example of this is the OnePlus 10T, an absolute beast of an artist and barely loses points during the same intense 20 minute test. Serious mobile gamers should still avoid smaller phones and opt for something the size of the OnePlus instead, but if you absolutely insist, well… Asus shows you how!

That one function (c) ™

But what I was especially excited to see on this phone is a feature that other phone manufacturers told us is absolutely impossible to include in a modern phone without making big sacrifices. And this little phone manages to take up this one feature and expose mainstream flagships for their hypocrisy.

And that feature is the 3.5mm headphone jack.

Oh no, we haven’t forgotten that!

Look, the Zenfone 9 somehow has a 3.5mm headphone jack. It’s on the top of the phone and it works like a charm.

If you believe Apple and other mainstream companies, the 3.5mm headphone jack isn’t just a relic of the past, it’s much scarier. It takes up SPACE! Boo! And smartphones have very little space, the companies will continue their story and sow the seed of doubt further in your head. So which would you prefer, these companies ask, the backwards and outdated headphone jack or… more battery life?

What a way to say this! Of course, no sane person would want to sacrifice their precious battery life, the biggest complaint of most smartphone users, for an “old and useless” headphone jack, right?

And could you even have a phone with a headphone jack and good battery life? (“Impossible!”, some phone manufacturers will tell you)

Well, it turns out it can! Even worse, you can have a super-compact phone with a headphone jack and incredible battery life!

The Zenfone 9 is just that. Asus says the battery lasts 1.9 days between charges. A weird number, but I found it oddly in line with my experience with the phone. Yes, with all my social media and messaging apps, taking quite a few photos and videos, this phone could last me a little over a day and a half. Almost two days actually, just a little shy. 1.9 days actually describes it well.

We don’t know how Asus did it, but we’re damn sure a small company like Asus, which probably sells a few million phones a year — as much as Apple and Samsung sell in a weekend — if Asus could, we bet those big boys could too!

Of course, that can make it difficult for them to sell you a new pair of wireless earbuds every 3-4 years! I’m not one for conspiracies, but I see the Zenfone 9 and I like what Asus has done, and I like it a lot. Check out this phone, sometimes it feels great to be out of the matrix and that’s exactly how I felt using this phone.

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