ZTE tries to approach the idea of a folding phone by adding a second screen to the mix. While this could mean duplicating work, duplicating fun and duplicating the work, the story is not as simple as it initially seems. An undoubtedly interesting and fresh look at what our smartphone futures could eventually end up bogged down by problems we still have today. This is our complete review of ZTE Axon M.
ZTE Axon M- Design and screen
The obvious design option lies in the foldable nature of the Axon M, and at a glance it almost looks like the original Nintendo DS. However, instead of the screens being inside the fold, they are in the outer shell. The deployment of the device reveals 5.2-inch dual IPS panels with Full HD resolution. Using both screens together as one in extended mode produces an effective 6.75-inch tablet surface, which we will cover later.
Taken by themselves, the IPS panel is decidedly normal: the colors are not particularly strong and I noticed that the secondary screen plays a small game of reaching the main screen, as elements in the right path just behind everything on the left. This does not break the overall experience, since you only really notice when scrolling through long apps and websites. So, apart from the fact that there are two screens, these screens are not very special.
There is little to say about the internal part, this is all the screens, all the time. Even the camera consists of a single lens at the top of the main screen, and the phone requires you to flip the phone closed to access the front or rear face modes.
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To the left of the main screen are all the buttons, including one that is used for “TV Mode”. Because this phone is exclusive to AT & T, the operator presses its DirecTV services as a primary way to use one of the screens while performing multiple tasks. This TV mode, however, can be configured in any media program such as Youtube, Netflix or HBO Go, and pressing and holding the button activates the programmable application, while pressing the key twice can open the camera.
With the buttons to the left and the fact that this phone is deployed to the right, use with the left hand became the norm during my time with Axon M. Using the phone with one hand in the closed configuration was not great thing, but unlocking the device that uses my right hand requires the use of my index or middle finger on the power button, where the fingerprint sensor is embedded. Sometimes, this was inconvenient considering that the flat power button is somewhat sunken in the frame of the phone; sometimes it was difficult to press it so that the sensor could read my fingerprint simultaneously.
In general, the weight gives the Axon M a sturdy feel, but having screens on both sides offers its own dangers. Anyone who hates a stained copy on their regular smartphones will be bothered by the fact that those same unseemly marks are displayed here on a real screen.
I have not seen cases that improve management or additional protection, so if you are clumsy in general, each hit or fall could mean a safe sentence. My unit actually fell down once because the screen simply slid out of a clean surface of the table, but fortunately it did not fall directly on a screen and instead suffered wear on one side. Fortunately, ZTE and AT & T secure the phone for up to two years, so getting a replacement will not be a big problem if these worst-case scenarios arise.
ZTE Axon M- Specifications
Before getting into the experience of using a dual-screen phone, let’s eliminate the rest of the specifications. Unfortunately for a phone that is expected to double time, the spec sheet reads like a single-screen device from last year.
The Snapdragon 821 is here with 4 GB of RAM, expandable storage beyond the 64 GB included and a 3,180 mAh battery. While we have many releases this year that exceed even the 6GB RAM threshold and the Snapdragon 835 , ZTE shoots a little in the foot for not trying to put the best absolute specifications in its exclusive Axon M.
|ZTE Axon M|
|screen||Both screens: 5.2-inch TFT LCD
Resolution 1920 x 1080
Corning Gorilla Glass 5
|Processor||2.15 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821|
|Micro SD||Yes, up to 2TB|
|Cameras||Rear camera: 20 MP sensor with an aperture f / 1.8, PDAF, double image stabilization, dual LED flash
Front camera: N / A: the rear camera can be used in frontal mode
Fast loading 3.0
USB type C
Wi-Fi 802.11 a / b / g / n / ac 2.4 GHz / 5 GHz
|Audio||3.5 mm headphone jack|
|software||Android 7.1.2 Nougat|
|Dimensions and weight||150.8 x 71.6 x 12.1 mm
ZTE Axon M- Battery
When it comes to battery life, using the phone in a closed configuration and using only one screen provided approximately 4 hours of screen time, which is typical of a normal phone.
On some occasions I tried to use the phone almost always with both screens activated, either in extended or dual mode, and the battery life was reduced by half, with my SoT dropping to around 2.5 hours. It tickled me the amount of sense that it had: with two screens in a battery, this is basically what we expected.
ZTE Axon M- Camera
The camera is composed by a unit that is on the main screen, and is a shooting game of 20 MP that lacks a series of improvements that we could argue are necessary for the photography of high-end smartphones, starting with the optical stabilization.
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The application has some different modes, including somewhat robust manual controls, which is good. Unfortunately, it is a little painful to have to flip the phone every time to take pictures in front or in front. It is a novel idea to take advantage of any of the screens for the single powerful shooter, and I like to use the dedicated button as a trigger, but the results simply do not accumulate.
Without stabilization, the images were often fuzzy in all conditions except the brightest. Next to this main problem is the problem of the camera with the dynamic range, even with the HDR on. The lack of stabilization is also shown in the video capture, where the tremor breaks the 4K footage that would otherwise be decent. While the Axon M can be a decent shooter in bright conditions, the way it melts in medium illumination is difficult to look back.
ZTE Axon M- Hardware
The rest of the phone is pretty standard: a headphone jack is included here, and Dolby Atmos is equipped with the built-in speaker. However, it is a single trigger unit and works well enough to share the content that could be duplicating on both screens.
Sharing the content with another person through the tent configuration mentioned above is one of the most interesting aspects of Axon M, and if you and your partner are looking to watch the same video, this is the only phone that can do it. But what about all the other uses for a dual screen device? All those possibilities are designated by the ‘M’ in the programmable key bar, which changes the display mode.
It is possible to have the phone deployed with only the left screen on, an extended mode where the two portrait screens are used as a large canvas, a reflected mode where both screens show the same and finally a dual mode where any of the screens can be used independently for multitasking.
ZTE Axon M- Software
Multitasking is a focus for Axon M, and not just for the media, although that could be the best use case. Having YouTube on one side while writing emails on the other became a couple of common applications, and it was possible to put the whole phone vertically or horizontally. There are a couple of advantages and disadvantages: in the horizontal mode, the media looks much better; in portrait mode, writing is immensely easier, especially when you type with your finger.
One of my favorite double tasks has been for games, where I had Final Fantasy IX (I promise I’ll finish one day) on the main screen, while the secondary screen showed a tutorial that I referred to every time I got stuck. The double screen mode is the one that makes the most sense, and anyone looking to monitor their smartphones twice can see the Axon M as the only phone capable of such a feat.
In another mode, both screens can be used together as a complete canvas, since the software extends the applications. This is an interesting but ultimately flawed approach, where on the one hand you have twice as much space on the screen but on the other side there is a bevel cutting line that distracts in the middle.
While I could suspend reality and simply forget that the line was there, it was in the games that I found it annoying. Again, exchanges – having controls on any of the screens and a great overview of the game was fine, but cutting out what was in the center (usually the character that I controlled) proved to be a distraction and, ultimately, uncomfortable .
Using this extended mode definitely produced a ‘wow’ factor, but even those impressed people who showed this soon noticed the same persistent problems.
Initially, I fell in love with the use of dual screens, but then I realized that I was tolerating the only aspect that bogged down the rest of the experience: the software. Although the performance specifications are unsatisfactory for what could be a very demanding device, the software is even less equipped for the task.
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It all comes down to the lack of attention to detail, for example, why not do it so that the phone can be used in a single-screen mode, but switch to the screen at will? Or, when in the extended configuration, why does Instagram require the phone to be in landscape mode all the time, even when the auto turn is turned off? And while we’re on it, why is the original multi-window Android function disabled even when using a single screen? Imagine using three or even four applications at once, even if the specifications probably could not handle it.
As I mentioned earlier, this phone seems to be struggling with its compensations often: using dual screens can be a great tool for multitasking, but it requires users to adapt and be patient. All this could be addressed in future software updates, no doubt, but the Axon M will still be reduced to its knees with a specification sheet that has the flagship quality.
I wish I did not have to be so hard on a phone that is completely exclusive to its competition, but unfortunately, the reality of Axon M kept hitting me every time I folded the device to a single screen phone and used it like any normal device: In short, the dual screen simply does not satisfy any real need and any attempt to create them is not enough.
It is not enough to put another screen on an existing smartphone if it does not address your main experience first, and that, in a nutshell, is the main problem with the ZTE Axon M. We are excited to see what comes next, but unless you really If you are looking for a dual-screen phone, simply having this will not drastically change your Android life.