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Asus CEO on ZenFone 5 vs. iPhone X: Our notch is slimmer

The ZenFone 5 will also be more affordable than its rival, says Asus CEO Jerry Shen.

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Are you two related?

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

It was Taiwanese tech company Asus' turn on Tuesday to unveil its latest flagship phone at Mobile World Congress. The Zenfone 5 is a slim, sleek, attractive device, but the first thought many people had was … haven't we seen this somewhere before?

There are no two ways about it: The Zenfone 5 with its big screen and interloping notch looks an awful lot like Apple's iPhone X. But Asus CEO Jerry Shen sees the Zenfone as a totally different proposition next to Apple's luxury piece of kit.

"Our price will be very affordable and attractive and for everyone to enjoy compared to the fruit company," Shen said. The company didn't say how much the Zenfone 5 will cost, but its top-end 5Z phone will be around £423 in the UK ($590 or about AU$750). 

The incorporation of a notch into the top of the phone's screen was a practical decision based on the criteria Shen gave his team. "We wanted to achieve a more than 90 percent screen-to-body ratio," he said. "I asked the team to give me the most beautiful device."

Asus needed to include a light sensor and forward-facing camera on the front of the phone. But if it removed the top bezel, these would have to be squeezed in at the bottom of the screen. Shen explained that this would leave the front camera pointing squarely at his chin, demonstrating his selfie pose for us.

"From the beauty decision, from the user experience decision, the team decided to use it this way and I agree," said Shen about the notch. "We do not want to copy, and actually they told me we are thinner, we are nano."

A couple of other manufacturers at the show, including French phone maker Wiko, have also built notches into their device screens, and there might be more to come. The next version of Android is rumored to accommodate notches, according a Bloomberg report earlier this month, in which case Asus may be one of the first Android phone makers to follow in Apple's footsteps.

Looking at the Zenfone 5 from the front, it might not immediately scream "Asus" to you, but the back of the phone is where the design steers away from familiar territory. It features Asus' patented concentric circle design that also appears on products in the ZenBook laptop series.

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The ZenFone 5 features Asus' signature concentric circles.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

"We need to embody our design language and the concentric circle is iconic," said Shen. "This is the way we try to identify our phones."

So there you have it. If you aren't sure if it's a ZenFone or an iPhone, all you need to do is flip it over -- or just check the price tag.

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