Phone

ZenFone Selfie: Built for people who like taking selfies

The ASUS ZenFone Selfie (ZD551KL)
The ASUS ZenFone Selfie (ZD551KL)PHOTO: ASUS

There's just a bit of a trade-off on performance and ease of use

The rather unimaginatively titled ZenFone Selfie is great for, well, taking selfies. If you are a social media junkie who thrives on Instagram likes and Facebook comments, then this 5.5-inch phone could be the one for you.

But the 13MP front camera aside, nothing else about the Selfie really stands out.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 at the heart of the phone is a mid-tier chip, which is to be expected for a $399 phone. But this also means that there is a noticeable lag when processing burst shots, or editing pictures in post-production.

The highlight of the Selfie is its 13MP dual-flash front camera, which megapixel-wise can go toe-to-toe with the rear cameras of many phones out there.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $399

    PROCESSOR: 64-bit octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 1.5GHz

    DISPLAY: 5.5-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixels in-plane switching display with 403ppi density and Corning Gorilla Glass 4

    CAMERA: (Rear) 13MP, f/2.0-aperture, auto-focus lens with dual-LED flash, (front) 13MP f/2.2-aperture, wide-angle (88-degree) lens with dual-LED flash

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 5.0 (Lollipop)

    MEMORY/RAM: 32GB storage with 3GB of RAM, expandable up to 128GB

    BATTERY: 3,000mAh removable battery


    RATING

    FEATURES: 3/5

    DESIGN: 3/5

    PERFORMANCE: 2/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 3/5

    OVERALL: 3/5


    The ZenFone Selfie is not the only phone that can turn a photo of tired eyes and wrinkles into a flawless, glowing selfie. There are many apps, such as BeautyPlus and InstaBeauty, that can do the same thing, although their features and modes all differ. Some apps have a live view of the edits, while others beautify a picture in post- production. Some apps allow users to add a full face of make-up to a shot, while others let you try out accessories or a new hairstyle. The Straits Times looks at three of these beauty apps:


    YouCam Makeup

    Free

    Platforms: Android and iOS

    YouCam Makeup is one of the most comprehensive beauty apps on the market.

    Users can edit their pictures live, or in post-production, after the pictures are taken. Editing a picture live offers fewer options to choose from. In post-production though, the variety of changes offered is immense.

    In the eye category alone, a user can select from the following tools: Eyeliner, eyelashes, eyeshadow, eyebrows, eye colour, eye bag removal, eye enlarger, brighten, double-eyelid or red-eye removal.

    Users can even choose to add a full face of make-up to a picture, which includes eyeshadow and lipstick.

    There are natural and costume looks to choose from, but many of the costume looks are too garish to look real, with outlandish eye colours, masks and extravagant eyelashes.

    For its natural looks though, YouCam Makeup is one of the better apps out there.

    The changes to the eyes are quite subtle, and the eyebrows are not too heavily pencilled in. Some of the resultant pictures look convincing enough that it takes a second look to notice that the make-up is virtual.

    If the default ones in the app are not to your liking, you can download more looks for free.

    When I used it, YouCam Makeup identified all my features accurately, and there is also the option to manually define the boundaries of features if the automatic identification is inaccurate.

    The app also has a feature called Beauty Circle, a Pinterest-like function where users can share looks that they like and discover new ones.

    There is also a Beauty Tips section, where there are videos telling users about the hottest looks and how to get them, as well as interviews with beauty bloggers and actresses.


    MeituPicFree

    Platforms: Android and iOS

    MeituPic, or Mei Tu Xiu Xiu (as the app is known in Chinese), is one of the most popular beauty editing apps around.

    In fact, the Chinese company has released several smartphones to capitalise on the Meitu brand. The latest one, the Meitu M4, also has a 13MP front camera like the ZenFone Selfie.

    Trying the MeituPic app on my HTC M8 phone, though, was not a seamless experience.

    It does not have an integrated camera with a live view, so users cannot see what their edited photos will look like as they are taking the picture. Instead, all editing has to be done in post-production.

    However, MeituPic does have several interesting functions that differentiate it from other beauty apps. For example, it has a Taller function, that users can use to make their legs look longer in a picture. It also has an Acne function to smooth over pimply skin.

    The home page menu also has options to create collages, use the Meipai function to create 10-second video clips, and even play games.

    However, as the app was originally made in Chinese, some parts of the English app have still not been translated. For example, if you click on the Materials or Gamebox buttons on the app's home page, Chinese menus pop up.


    Perfect365

    Free

    Platforms: Android and iOS

    Perfect365 is one of the more bare-bones apps around. Although it can edit pictures and add make-up to faces, it has no extra bells and whistles, like social features, beauty tips or games.

    It does have an integrated camera, which comes with the handy option of letting you take a four-shot burst, and then choosing the best picture to work on.

    It also has a live make-up view, but I found tracking in that mode inaccurate. Putting on "lipstick" in the live view caused a shapeless pink blob to plaster itself over my lips in the image, instead of tracking the edges correctly.

    Also, in the live view, there is no option to make subtle changes to individual components of the face, such as enlarging the eyes. Instead, users can choose only from a pre-set selection of make-up looks.

    Perfect365 is also the only app out of the three with in-app purchases. In order to get new looks and make-up styles, you have to download them for a fee. On average, four looks cost US$1.99 (S$2.80).

I used it in both bright and low light conditions, and it fared reasonably well in both, delivering acceptably sharp pictures with low noise.

The phone comes with selfie-facilitating software as well.

The default camera app has modes to take selfie panoramas and to select the best facial expression out of multiple shots. Of course, it also has the all-important Beautification mode. With this mode, users can edit their picture in five ways, including skin softening (this helps to gloss over uneven skin tones), enlarging the eyes and even cheek thinning.

After some experimentation, I learnt that putting most of the settings at about a five out of 10 is best. Overdoing it can result in strange alien-like pictures which, while amusing, are probably not the best to post online.

The beauty modifications are also shown in the camera's live view, so you can see the tweaks happening as you toggle through them.

I enjoyed fiddling with the Beautification mode, but it seemed like it could not handle too many faces at once. When I took a selfie with two other people, it detected only two out of three of our faces at a time.

Also, while it is nice to have such features integrated into the phone's default camera app, there are now many other more powerful applications that let you do the same thing (see other story).

Design-wise, the phone is certainly eye-catching. It comes in white, Barbie pink and baby blue, which may endear it to the younger crowd.

My review set had a pearly pink plastic cover, which looked surprisingly elegant. The phone is also gently curved at the edges, providing an easy grip and sitting well in my hand.

The phone's buttons are located at awkward places though. The power button is at the middle of the phone's top edge, which makes it tough to press if you are holding the phone with one hand.

The volume buttons are at the back, just below the rear camera. They are sunk into the casing and have barely any travel distance, making them difficult to use.

In terms of performance, the Selfie will get by without blowing your socks off. While browsing and messaging was smooth, pictures took several seconds to turn up in my gallery after snapping them, and scrolling through menus was sometimes jittery.

• Verdict: A great, reasonably-priced phone for the selfie-obsessed, but be prepared to sacrifice performance and ease-of-use for that perfect picture.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2015, with the headline 'Built for people who like taking selfies'. Print Edition | Subscribe