To be clear, I'm not saying these features aren't helpful. The ones that actually worked in the preproduction sample we tested actually held up well -- the screen never turned off while my eyes were on it, and Power Boost did seem to work for certain applications. What's really odd is that ASUS actually built some features into the ZenFone 5 that rely on machine learning to improve performance over time. Consider the camera. After taking photos for between one and three weeks, the ZenFone will start to offer edited versions you might like.
If you find them pleasing, you can accept those changes, and that feedback will help shape the way the camera processes images in the future. If you don't like them, you can dismiss them and never worry about them again. Also in the camera is an intelligent-scene mode that interprets what's in the frame and fires up the correct scene mode. Since we were inside an office on a chilly Barcelona afternoon, there weren't many sweeping vistas to test this feature with. The phone quickly launched its sunset, food and flower modes when pointed at printed pictures of, well, sunsets, food and flowers. Squeezing this kind of functionality into a midrange smartphone is good news for consumers, and for that, at least, ASUS deserves credit.
Ultimately, whether or not these are actually AI-powered features is a philosophical question. As long as these features work -- and my current sense is that they do -- most people probably won't care about the distinction. Even so, I got the impression that ASUS wanted a nice, round number of buzz-inducing AI features it could tout at its very first smartphone launch at Mobile World Congress and applied the AI label too liberally. I don't think that ASUS is necessarily pulling a fast one, but I do think it's being at least a little disingenuous.
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