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What’s Next From Asus To Grab U.S. Smartphone Share?

Asus expanded its selection of unlocked phones for the U.S. market with the introduction of ZenFone 2 Laser, which is optimized for picture taking and includes laser autofocusing previously available only in LG phones in the U.S.

The company’s first unlocked U.S. phones were launched in May and consisted of a $299 Zenfone2 with 4GB RAM and a 2GB RAM version at $199. They feature quad-core 2.3GHz and quad-core 1.8GHz processors, respectively, and 5.5-inch 1080p display. About two months ago, Asus added a 32GB version of the Zenfone 2 with 4GB RAM at $229.

In July, the Chinese phone maker launched the ZenFone 2E for AT&T’s prepaid GoPhone service.

The LTE-equipped Android 5.0 ZenFone 2 Laser steps up to a Snapdragon 615 octacore processor running at 4×1.7GHz plus 4x1Ghz with 3GB RAM. It’s available in 32GB and 64GB versions at $199 and $249, respectively, at Newegg and the Asus store in November.

The launch is part of an effort to get more aggressive in the U.S. smartphone market. The company had dabbled in smartphones before, having previously sold the Asus PadFone X and PadFone Mini through AT&T. The phones plugged into the back of a larger tablet-like display so users could switch screen sizes as needed for different tasks.

The new phone features a 5.5-inch 1080p display with 401PPI, Corning Gorilla Glass 4, and high sensitivity for use with gloves. An enhanced PixelMaster 2.0 camera features laser auto-focus for quick autofocusing, 13-megapixel rear camera with wide-angle F/2.0 aperture five-element lens, and dual-LED real-tone flash to capture images in low-light situations while maintaining natural skin tones. It captures 1080p video up to 30fps.

Compared to the other unlocked Zenfone models, the Laser model also adds dual active LTE SIMs and removable battery. It drops NFC.

The front camera features 5 megapixels and 85-degree wide-angle lens with f/2.0 aperture.

Other features include 128GB MicroSD card slot, 802.11n W-Fi with Wi-Fi Direct, Category 4 LTE delivering up to 150Mbps peak speeds, dual active Micro SIM support, and 3,000mAh removable battery.

The company’s unlocked phones can be used on the AT&T and T-Mobile GSM networks and with prepaid plans from Straight Talk, Walmart Family Mobile, MetroPCS, Simple Mobile, Brightspot, Net10, h20 Wireless, Cricket Wireless and others.