The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is the most complete smartphone ever made. It offers a nice, big, beautiful AMOLED display, a formidable camera system, unique S-Pen features, and sheer, raw power. You will pay a really high price tag for it all, but this is the one phone that may be worth every penny.
For $399, the ZTE Axon 7 is one of the only Daydream VR certified phones on the market., which means it can take advantage of Google’s latest vision for VR. That’s not just marketing speak, either, as Daydream phones have some serious requirements to be called such, the most consistent of which are the inclusion of a Snapdragon 820 chipset, 4GB of RAM, and a 5.5-inch 2560 x 1440 display.
At $99, the ZMax Pro brings an immense amount of value with features like a massive 6-inch Full HD display and even a fingerprint sensor. For horsepower, the phone relies on an octa-core Snapdragon 617 chipset and 2GB of RAM, and a 13MP camera on the rear should do well enough for some casual memory capturing.
The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are the first smartphones to achieve a score of 98 from DxOMark’s mobile testing labs, beating out the likes of the Galaxy S8 and HTC U11. HTC’s camera takes well-balanced photos with a pleasing color balance, great sharpness and detail, and remarkable low-light performance. Add in Google’s AI-infused enhancements and there’s little that can match it.
The Moto G5 is a great option for kids. The smartphone comes in starting as low as $199, and it has a wide range of features to ensure your child can do whatever you need with it. Specs include a 5-inch 1080p display, a 13-megapixel rear camera and 5-megapixel front camera, and a 3,000mAh battery with Turbo Charging.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 Active may not be the most durable phone on this list, but it certainly is the most well-rounded of the lot. This phone’s tough exterior can withstand more than a punch or 2. At the same time, you don’t have to sacrifice powerful specs, a beautiful display, and a great camera.
Amidst a sea of increasingly bezel-less smartphones, ZTE is looking to differentiate itself from its competitors. The company’s flagship smartphone of 2017 may not pack the top-tier hardware specifications we’re seeing in the latest flagships from Samsung, OnePlus, or Google but it has one particular hardware feature to make up for it—a second screen. Indeed, ZTE is attempting to do what Kyocera failed to do with its Echo device back in 2011. The company is hoping to beat Samsung to the market with the first truly functional, foldable smartphone. Can the ZTE Axon M live up to expectations?
Before we talk about the Axon M, we need to talk about its predecessor, the Kyocera Echo. The Echo was released far ahead of its time when Android was still in its pre-Holo days. Not only was the ecosystem inadequate for the Echo (the device had a “tablet mode” before Google started its tablet push with Android Honeycomb), but it was clunky to use.
When folded together, the Echo measured approximately 17mm in depth which is far thicker than the average device today. Furthermore, the large bezels contributed to the feeling that the device was huge (keep in mind that 4.7″ was large for a smartphone back then). For these reasons and some more we haven’t listed, the Kyocera Echo failed to capture the market and the foldable smartphone concept died with it.
The 2011 Kyocera Echo
But this is 2017 where the industry has been improving on every aspect of smartphones down to nearly eliminating bezels in some cases. Thus, the time is ripe for the foldable smartphone concept to be revived, and it seems that ZTE is the first to take a crack at it. Meet the ZTE Axon M.With a strong hinge connecting two regular smartphone displays and software trickery via Android’s splitscreen functionality plus some home-baked tricks, Axon is pushing a flexible design ahead of the advent of foldable and bendable smartphones in the coming years.
Both of the Axon M’s displays measure 5.2 inches in their diagonal, both featuring the traditional 16:9 aspect ratio as well and they are protected by Gorilla Glass 5. Above the “back” display you’ll see the camera – a single camera for both selfies and regular pictures – and the device closes like a flip phone giving you a screen on each side. At 1080p resolution, they aren’t the sharpest displays out there, but the relatively small size of each pushes the pixel density to 426 ppi, and you’ll end up seeing twice as many pixels as in other FHD displays once you enter the signature modes that make this device so special.
There are three modes that the Axon M can be used in: Extended Mode, Dual Mode, and Mirror Mode. In Extended Mode, applications can be stretched across both displays to fill up the combined screen area. In Dual Mode, you can run two different applications at the same time on each display. Finally, in Mirror Mode the Axon M can mirror the same app across both displays.
On stage, ZTE demonstrated a few uses cases of each mode. For Extended Mode, the company showed a user scrolling through their Facebook feed that stretched into the other display. The company stressed how this results in reducing the amount of overall scrolling that a user needs to do. In Dual Mode, ZTE showed off watching a video while also sending a tweet at the same time (and also spoiled a certain Game of Thrones episode in the process). Finally, in Mirror Mode the company showed off a chess game being played between two players on opposite ends. They attempted to show off Google Duo video conferencing, though the person who was being called never picked up so we didn’t get to see that in action.
The device launches with Android Nougat 7.1.2 on board, but ZTE is promising a prompt update to the latest Android Oreo. They also promise regular software updates for the device.
Developers looking to optimize their applications can head to developer.ztedevice.com to learn more, though ZTE states that most applications will not need to be optimized for use on the Axon M, and they made sure that the top hundred Play Store applications work without a hitch on this device as well.
Powering the device is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 SoC with 4GBs of RAM. Though the Snapdragon 821 was last year’s premiere SoC, it’s by no means inadequate. Some of the fastest phones out there including the first generation Google Pixel and Pixel XL are based on this processor, and at the same top clockspeeds of 2.15GHz. By itself, the Snapdragon 821 shouldn’t pose a problem in terms of performance, though some of you may understandably be disappointed by the lack of the latest offering from Qualcomm.
Even with the Snapdragon 821 SoC, the ZTE Axon M isn’t guaranteed to be a smooth performer. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 delivered embarrassing real-world performance when compared to its contemporaries, after all, though Samsung did clean up its act with its Galaxy Note 8. ZTE doesn’t have room for mistakes, however, since I can’t see users giving dual screen smartphones a second chance if this generation is inadequate. Do keep in mind that the phone is essentially powering up two FHD displays, so we’ll have to run it through its paces in order to see just how well it can keep up and perform in the real world.
It’s been 6 years since the Kyocera Echo, but this time we hope it’ll only be one year for the next Axon M. We’ll let you know how the Axon M performs in our hands-on review!
ZTE has embedded a 3,180 mAh capacity battery into its dual screen Axon M. Whether this will be enough for the Snapdragon 821 and two TFT LCD displays is something we’ll have to find out through day to day usage in the coming weeks.
ZTE Axon M Pricing & Availability
The company states that the phone will retail for $725 exclusively at AT&T, and for $24.17/month on AT&T Next. The company has also announced a partnership with NTT Docomo in Japan. In China, the M will be available through China Telecom and JD.com in Q1 2018. Finally, the company states the M will launch in Europe during Q1 2018, but no further information was given about which countries it will be available in.
Axon Passport M program will come for free for all purchases of the Axon M.
Available now on Boost Mobile for $130, the ZTE Blade Force offers HPUE connectivity, a 5.5-inch HD display, Snapdragon 427 processor, Android Nougat, and more.
Devices like the Google Pixel 2 XL, Samsung Galaxy Note 8, and LG V30 might be the hottest and flashiest Android flagships on the market, but they’re also some of the most expensive. If you’re looking to pick up a new handset that does everything you ask it to and won’t cost an arm and a leg, the all-new ZTE Blade Force just might be for you.
On the front of the Blade Force is the phone’s 5.5-inch IPS display. The 1280 x 720 resolution certainly isn’t the highest around, but it should be perfectly serviceable for browsing Twitter and watching YouTube videos. That activity will be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 427 processor and 2GB of RAM, and to get you through a full day of use, there’s a 3,000 mAh nonremovable battery.
There’s also an 8MP rear and 5MP front-facing camera, 16GB of storage that can be expanded up to 128GB, 3.5mm headphone jack, Bluetooth 4.2, and Android 7.1.1 Nougat.
In addition to all of the above specs, the ZTE Blade Force also features something called “High Performance User Equipment” (or HPUE for short). Sprint introduced HPUE last December as a way for extending its 2.5GHz coverage by up to 30-percent compared to phones without this tech, allowing for a stronger signal wherever you go.
The ZTE Blade Force is available for purchase starting today (October 10) for $129.99 from Boost Mobile.
ZTE first introduced its popular Blade series into the U.S. earlier this year with the remarkably good V8 Pro, and although the Force may not be quite as impressive as the V8 Pro from a specifications point of view, it still manages to offer a compelling package for not a ton of cash.
Chinese companies already have a hard time doing business with the US (mostly over spying fears), and it’s about to get worse. Reuters sources understand that the US Commerce Department is about to slap ZTE with restrictions on what it’s allowed to import from its American suppliers. From March 8th onward, those companies will reportedly need to apply for export licenses to ship anything to ZTE, and those grants will “generally be denied.” The move would be punishment for allegedly breaking export rules by shipping US tech to Iran.
We’ve asked ZTE for comment and will let you know if it has a response, although it has already said that it was ramping down its Iranian business to avoid trouble. Whatever its answer, it’s safe to say that these export limits could seriously hurt ZTE, especially its budding mobile device business. Some of the firm’s American bigger partners include the likes of Intel and Microsoft — it’s going to have to scrounge for alternatives if it can’t get key chips or software from US companies. While this doesn’t mean that ZTE gear is going to disappear from stores shelves, it may have to take a roundabout route to get there.
ZTE’s Android projectors have often seemed like answers to a question no one asked, but the company might have found an audience with the newly unveiled Spro Plus. The device combines a 500-lumen projector with an Android-based control system that includes an 8.4-inch AMOLED screen, a Snapdragon 801 processor, optional LTE data and 128GB of expandable storage. In effect, it’s a chunky mid-range tablet that can cast 80-inch images on your wall.
It’s ostensibly designed as an all-in-one machine for presentations and conferencing (there’s an optional USB camera). However, ZTE isn’t shy about admitting that this could also make a good movie machine — imagine watching a big-screen flick on the same device you used to check Facebook minutes earlier. The main catches are the wait time and the cost. You’ll have to wait until summer to get the Spro Plus, and mum’s the word on price. The odds are that it’ll cost as much as a good dedicated projector, so you’ll have to decide whether or not this two-in-one approach is worth some compromises.