Yesterday, ZTE took to the stage to introduce a brand-new “revolutionary” smartphone with the ZTE Axon M. What makes this device so special isn’t what we’ve seen across other devices in 2017. Instead of joining the bezel-less movement, the Axon M is actually a foldable smartphone with dual 5.2-inch displays.
Now, we’re going to take a look at a few reasons why you should love (or hate) the ZTE Axon M.
LOVE: Dual Displays
This is something that we’ve been expecting from OEM’s as smartphone design has become somewhat stagnant. I mean, you can only redesign the square so many times while still calling it a square.
While everyone else has been focused on creating slimmer bezels, the Axon M decides to ignore those complaints and pack dual 5.2-inch displays into the device. This allows you to be more productive, even if you’re just lounging around the house watching some videos.
These displays aren’t the best in the world, but they should be more than adequate for media consumption and some fun interesting gameplay. As for those displays, these both feature a resolution of 1920 x 1080, and in my brief time with the Axon M, there was nothing negative to really point out.
HATE: 2016 Specs
While many dead-panned the LG G6 for being powered by 2016 flagship specs, there was an asterisk attached to the device. It was pushed early to beat the rush of the Galaxy S8 lineup, and there were many reports that Samsung was actually hoarding the Snapdragon 835 which has come to power many 2017 flagships.
Now, if we dead-panned a device that launched way back in March, but thought differently about the Axon M, how would that make you feel? Sure, the Snapdragon 821 is still adequate, but it’s already dated considering the SD835 has been out all year and the SD836 is around the corner (presumably to launch with the OnePlus 6).
I don’t have an answer as to why ZTE opted to not use the SD835 with the Axon M, but it could prove to be a costly move. Especially for a device designed to be so productivity focused.
LOVE: Productivity Powerhouse
Speaking of productivity, the Axon M will help you in so many more ways if you’re really trying to get some work done. The dual display panels allow you to use the phone as you normally would, but will fold out to bring you a display measuring in around 6.8-inches.
Plus, with the various Axon M modes, you can get the device working in ways that were convoluted and annoyingly unnecessary. Obviously, we’ve had split-window mode on devices for the last few years, but the Axon M takes that to the next level.
You can run two apps simultaneously (i.e. Twitter and YouTube), or you can even run the same instance of an app side-by-side. OR, you could use the Axon M to play your buddy in a game of chess while you’re sitting in the living room or on the train, and each would have their own screen to play on.
HATE: Only One Camera
This one threw me off guard a bit during my hands-on time with the Axon M. The rear of the device features some ZTE and AT&T branding, but there is no camera to be found.
Instead, ZTE opted to place a single 20MP camera on the left display panel. When attempting to take pictures, the right screen will act as the viewfinder, and the secondary display panel will be turned off to conserve battery.
We’ll have to see how the camera stacks up once our review unit arrives, but first impressions of the camera seemed to be just okay. It’s clear that the camera wasn’t the focus with the Axon M, and that may turn many potential buyers away.
LOVE: Headphone Jack
I was debating on even including this section, but considering the hubbub surrounding the omission of the 3.5mm headphone jack on the upcoming Pixel 2 lineup, I felt that it was important to mention. Along the top of the Axon M, ZTE has included the 3.5mm headphone jack, which will make many people rather happy.
There’s no super impressive DAC similar to that found in the LG V30, but at least you’ll be able to use your traditional headphones if you decide to spring for the Axon M.
HATE: Where’s the protection?
Recently, I’ve been using my phones without a case, and sticking to either a dbrand skin or nothing at all. However, with dual displays that don’t fold into one another, that raises the question of how the Axon M will be protected.
According to reps at the event, there are OEM accessories on the way, but there was no mention of a specific release date or what kind of accessories were being released. Of course, this is likely to change after ZTE delivers a specific release date for the Axon M, but I would still be very wary of keeping the device protected over the long haul.
LOVE: Fingerprint Placement
You wouldn’t notice it at first glance, but the ZTE Axon M does include a fingerprint scanner. Considering how annoying it would be to unfold the device every time you wanted to unlock it, ZTE opted to integrate the scanner in a spot that you wouldn’t expect – the power button.
By no means is ZTE the first to do this, but it’s a rather intuitive option for those who want to keep their device secure. It is a bit odd at first, but once you hold the Axon M in your hand, the placement makes perfect sense. There was just no point in putting the scanner on the display as it would take away from using the Axon M in any orientation.
HATE: Flagship pricing
To go along with the 2016 spec-sheet, something that must be discussed is the price. ZTE has partnered with AT&T here in the US and stated that the Axon M will be priced at either $24.17 per month or $725 outright.
What other device has left us scratching our heads when it comes to the price and has seemingly had a tough time gaining market share? The Essential Phone. The difference here is that the PH-1 embraces the bezel-less movement, includes a flagship spec-sheet, and is still having a hard time getting off the ground.
ZTE could see similar issues as the Axon M is seemingly designed for an extremely niche market, and won’t garner the same appeal of other options on the market.
Conclusion: It’s a coin flip
There’s a lot to love here with the ZTE Axon M, as it does open the doors to a new category of smartphones. However, ZTE made some odd choices when it comes to the likes of the specs, pricing, and others which may make it even more of a difficult sell when the Axon M is launched later this year.
All-in-all, in my time spent with the Axon M you can definitely see the usefulness of the dual-display setup. The problem arises with the fact that I’m not exactly sure that the Axon M will take off and begin replacing the smartphone slabs that are already present in our homes today.
Nonetheless, one thing you can’t take away from the Axon M is that this is a first for smartphones in the modern age, and may very well have just opened the floodgates for new and exciting devices to come next year.
Let us know what you think about the Axon M and whether it will be a viable option once it is released later this year.