Asus’ small phone that might is back for another year, this time with 2023’s flagship chipset and wireless charging.
Android phones are massive, so every summer for the past several years, when a new Asus Zenfone has arrived, it’s been a pleasure for the little phone aficionados among us. The Zenfone 10 follows in the trend of offering flagship-grade specifications in a “small” size — and yes, a 5.9-inch screen is considered tiny these days. We’re giving grades on a curve.
This year’s Zenfone has wireless charging, which was previously unavailable. Because of its small stature, it’s a little difficult to get working with some stand-style chargers — the charging coil on the phone appears to be just out of reach on my Belkin Qi charger, and I only succeed in getting it charging on a Pixel Stand (2nd gen) if I press it up against the centre of the charger and carefully set it down. A pad-style charger is most likely the best option.
Like last year, it has an IP68 rating and a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset. And the headphone jack is still there! The screen resolution is 1080p, like on the Zenfone 9, which is adequate for a screen this big, with a refresh rate of 120Hz. There is a 144Hz setting that will only activate when gaming, thus 120Hz is the highest refresh rate for all intents and purposes. The Zenfone 10 has a 4,300mAh battery, which has been sufficient to power through a day of moderate usage in my casual daily use.
The top panel is made of Gorilla Glass Victus, the side rails are made of aluminium, and the rear panel is made of polycarbonate plastic with a textured feel that I can only describe as “papery.” The review unit I’ve been using is the eclipse red model, and wow is it red. According to Asus, the phone will be available in all colour choices in the United States. Unfortunately, it will only function on AT&T and T-Mobile in the United States, not Verizon. That is one Zenfone tradition that I hope Asus would discontinue.
The Zenfone 10 retains the 50-megapixel f/1.9 primary camera with OIS from last year, as well as a 13-megapixel ultrawide and an improved 32-megapixel pixel-binning selfie camera. The gimbal-like stabilisation introduced with last year’s model now has a new mode that dynamically changes the degree of shaking correction required for the conditions – modifying the field of vision in the process.
There’s also a new shortcut that allows you to launch the camera app from the lock screen and capture a burst of three shots without having to press the shutter button. I’d use this a lot when my baby is doing something sweet and I’d normally miss the photo fumbling with the camera app.
Asus promises two OS upgrades and four years of security fixes for the Zenfone 10 – a considerable increase over the Zenfone 9’s two years of security support. It will first be available in Europe for €799 — the same price as the Zenfone 9 — and will be available in the United States in Q3 of this year.
When it does arrive in the United States, it will be a niche gadget. Most people want a larger phone, but I applaud Asus for sticking with this size. The Zenfone 10 contains an option to speed up animations that was previously only available in developer mode, indicating that the business is listening to its users. It was so popular on the Zenfone 9 that Asus incorporated it as standard software. That’s both incredibly geeky and just wonderful. Personally, I’m pleased this little phone with many smart features is returning for another year.