ZenFone goes premium, but will it translate to success for Asus?

Has Asus done justice with the pricing of the new ZenFone 3 series? Or will the strategy of premium smartphones be fruitful for the company?

Asus has a certain nostalgic value as the brand always takes me back to the days when I first started assembling my own desktop PC. Even today, I run on Asus hardware which includes a motherboard and a GPU. Needless to say, the company still makes solid PC components. However, in the past two years, it has evolved into more than just a hardware OEM.

The Taiwan based company entered the smartphone space in 2014 with its ZenFone series. This happened only after it gained recognition for making two Nexus tablets in consecutive years. The ZenFone entered a naive budget segment which was being dominated by the likes of Motorola and Xiaomi. It was actually quite good looking, I even got one for my dad.

This was followed by the ZenFone 2 series last year. It created a buzz in the smartphone world, and not for all the good reasons. The company announced multiple models with a bunch of variants and model numbers. It got very confusing and honestly I still don’t remember which ones which.

This year the company has gone all out. The new ZenFone 3 series was announced at Computex 2016 and just yesterday it was announced for the Indian market. While the high-quality design and premium finish is impressive, what really made me tick was the pricing. This year the ZenFone lineup has been pushed up into the premium segment. The most affordable model in the newly announced series is the ZenFone 3 Laser priced at Rs 18,999. For comparison sake, this is the same price bracket at which the 4GB RAM version of the ZenFone 2 was announced last year. The most expensive handset, sporting the all new Snapdragon 821 SoC, is at a whooping Rs 62,999. Seriously?

I got a chance to speak to Asus CEO, Jerry Shen along with the regional head, Peter Chang before the launch. They said that the ZenFone 3 series offers a great blend of design, hardware and performance. The company wants to take things to the next level. This year is all about going premium. A lot of attention has been given to the design, be the high-end fully metal bodied ZenFone 3 Deluxe with its invisible antenna design or even the ZenFone 3 laser with its curved matte metal finish.

Now I agree that the ZenFone 3 series is a big step up from the last generation. But the pricing is ludicrous. For me, the ZenFone was value for money. The way Asus has priced the 2016 range puts them in direct competition with flagship smartphones. Not only the big names, but also the Chinese players that are offering similar hardware and performance at half the price.

I have to give it Asus for being bold, but will premium be equal to success for the company this year? I beg to differ.

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