Sep 13th, 2019

If you haven’t noticed, smartphone prices are out of control. Buying a new Samsung, Huawei or Apple smartphone will easily set you back $1,000 and you’ll likely spend more than that if you’re looking for additional storage. A few years back, OnePlus introduced the concept that a flagship smartphone doesn’t need to be ridiculously expensive and now we’re seeing other companies embrace that philosophy as well.

The new ZTE Axon 10 Pro is the latest budget flagship smartphone to hit the market, delivering 95% of what truel flagship smartphones have to offer, but only charging $550. For that price, the phone delivers a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage (an extra $50 will get you 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage), a microSD card slot, a triple camera setup which includes a 48MP Sony sensor, 20MP camera with an ultra-wide lens and a 3x telephoto lens that’s paired with an 8MP sensor. Upfront, you’ll get a 20MP front-facing camera in a tear-drop notch that cut out of the 6.5-inch AMOLED display which also features an embedded fingerprint sensor.

On the power side, the 4,000 mAh battery should be enough to get most people through a long day and it should charge pretty quickly thanks to Quick Charge 4.0. The one standout feature here is the inclusion of wireless charging. Yes, most flagship smartphones do have this feature and the top-tier devices have reverse wireless charging as well, but it’s pretty rare to see wireless charging in a phone that costs less than $700. OnePlus even omitted the feature from this year’s OnePlus 7 Pro.

When it comes to design, the ZTE Axon 10 Pro isn’t anything special, featuring an aluminum frame sandwiched between Gorilla Glass on the front and back. The blue color option has been done before, but we’re always glad to see options besides the usual black and whites that we see with more devices. As with most ZTE devices, the build is refined and the fact that the third camera on the back of the phone isn’t raised like the others is a nice touch. The power button on the side falls perfectly where your thumb rests, but if you use the in-display fingerprint sensor to unlock the phone, which happens to work extremely well, you’ll never really need it.

ZTE has never been known for delivering incredible software on its phones, but the company has been slowly inching its way back to a stock Android experience. Using the Axon 10 Pro isn’t that different than using a Pixel smartphone. You get the basic Android launcher, the Google Feed, minor tweaks to notifications and Quick Toggles and you’d be hard-pressed to notice any substantial changes to Settings. With this stripped-down version of the software, ZTE sholud be able to roll out new updates to the Axon 10 Pro a lot quicker than it’s done with its other devices in the past.

On paper, the ZTE Axon 10 Pro checks all the right boxes. After 24 hours with the phone, I have not spotted any issues or red flags, but there also hasn’t been anything that really stands out. Competing purely on price is commendable, but the Axon 10 Pro will need a bit more if it plans to content with the OnePlus 7, ASUS Zenfone 6 and Xiaomi Mi 9 Pro. The phone could surprise me over the next week as I work on our review, but we’re not holding our breath.

Let me know what you think of the ZTE Axon 10 Pro and if you’d be willing to give it a shot if you’re looking for flagship specs but want to empty your bank account in the process.

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