ASUS today unveiled pricing details for the ZenFone 3 and its multiple variants in the Philippines. And man, are they expensive compared to a year ago.

To put into context how the current price compares to the previous generation, recall that the ZenFone 2 came in at P14,995, or $320, for the version with as much RAM and storage as the new ZenFone.

The ZenFone 3 runs P16,995 ($365) for the 5.2-inch variant with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage, P18,995 ($410) for the 5.5-incher with identical specs.

What happened to ASUS’ mantra of “empowering luxury”? Clearly it was abandoned like the batch of Intel chips ASUS refused to fit into all ZenFone 3 models, which are now powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon processors.

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ASUS upped the ZenFone 3’s specs; unfortunately, it also upped the price

To be fair, that decision, along with many others, paid off; in our review, we said the ZenFone 3 is “an across-the-board improvement over what came before.” We also suggested that anyone interested in the ASUS sequel should probably wait for a better deal, like a discounted OnePlus 3.

And we still stand by that comment — even more so now.

The more expensive ZenFone 3 Ultra and ZenFone 3 Deluxe, which cost P32,995 ($700) and P34,995 ($750), respectively, are even harder to recommend without reservation, especially because they betray the very qualities the ZenFone brand is founded on.

The P44,995 ($965) ZenFone 3 Deluxe with a top-end Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor and a ridiculous 256GB of flash memory is disagreeable; a phone that lacks waterproofing, a 2K display covered by shatterproof glass, and other nice extras found on today’s flagship offerings shouldn’t command that much money.

By contrast, the $400 OnePlus 3 has a metal body, a fingerprint sensor, and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Xiaomi’s Galaxy S7 look-alike, the Mi 5, retails for the same amount but comes with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with a company putting a premium price on anything. But in ASUS’ case, the company didn’t start out with products that make Samsung and Apple’s signature phones look like bargains. A couple of years ago, ASUS was on the other end of the spectrum; it was a disruptor.

Thankfully, the ZenFone 3 Laser and ZenFone 3 Max remain affordable to the average consumer; the Laser is tagged at P11,995 ($260), whereas the Max costs P8,995 ($190).

It’s too early to tell whether the ZenFone 3 will be as popular as its predecessors. But if ASUS fails to hit the 25 million shipment target it set for itself in 2016 — 5 million more units than last year — we know what is to blame.

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