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Asus Brings PC Gaming Excess to Android With New ROG Phone

(Bloomberg) -- Asustek Computer Inc., best known for its PC and gaming enthusiast gear, launched the latest in its Republic of Gamers smartphone line targeting Android gamers in markets like China.

The ROG Phone 5 maintains the heritage of over-the-top specs and design: its exterior is decorated with angular motifs and its interior is populated with up to 18GB of memory and Qualcomm Inc.’s latest Snapdragon 888 processor. It has a custom-made 6.8-inch Samsung OLED display, contains two battery cells and is cooled by a vapor chamber system -- and its higher-tier models bundle an attachable fan cooler for even more performance.

In the commodified Android device market, Asus is betting on its brand association with gaming and the broad enthusiasm for a tailored user experience. The ROG Phone 5 comes with an app providing a console-like interface and Asus is working with game makers to add support for the highest refresh rates its display is capable of. Though to break past its 0.2% global market share, the company will need some help, according to Neil Mawston of Strategy Analytics.

“Fancy smartphone features are only one leg of a three-leg stool. A top global smartphone vendor today also needs a loud mobile brand plus extensive retail presence; two things that Asus lacks right now,” Mawston said.

Asus has found success partnering with Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. The two companies have collaborated on the marketing of ROG Phones and certification of games in China for several generations and the country is one of Asus’ main focus markets, the Taiwanese manufacturer said.

Unlike the PC market, where higher clock speeds and more memory can translate into being able to play at higher fidelity or on larger screens, in the mobile realm practically every company relies on the same basic architecture. And the leading duo of Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. consistently tout their devices’ gaming capabilities, pushing brands like Asus to focus on hardcore gaming fans.

“For these branded gaming phones to grow, vendors will need to heavily invest in esports tournaments and have their phones become the official competition phone so that demand can flow from top to bottom,” said IDC analyst Yexi Liao. “Gaming performance is their top selling point and hence the target audience has to be both hardcore gamers and professional gamers.”

Asus has seen “big growth” in sales between each successive ROG Phone generation, the company said, and it appears committed to the niche it has carved out. The ROG Phone 5 starts at 799 euros (about $950) and scales up to 1,299 euros for an Ultimate fan edition with maxed-out memory and storage.

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