When ZTE unveiled its new foldable phone, the Axon M, yesterday at Duggal Greenhouse, it made some pretty grandiose claims, saying that it was “creating a new smartphone category.”
That didn’t seem entirely true to us, as we’ve seen a few similar phones in the past like the Kyocera Echo, but this latest attempt seems to be the most refined take yet on a niche design.
ZTE promotes four different ways to use the Axon M: Traditional, Extended, Dual, and Mirror modes. In Traditional mode, the Axon M looks like any other candybar-style phone. All of the hardware buttons are lined up along one side of the phone, and the power button doubles as a fingerprint sensor, in Sony fashion.
With Extended mode, once you flip out the second display, the entire system UI spans across both screens, giving you a much larger surface area for games, maps, and so on. Certain elements feel a bit clumsy, like how the notification tray covers the top half of both screens, but in the case of apps with large amounts of information like spreadsheets, this could be a useful way to display everything at once — so long as you don’t mind the large bezel divide between the screens.
If that split is just too much for you to handle, Dual mode might be a bit more useful. With it, you can run different apps in each screen, whether that’s your calendar and email, YouTube and Slack, or even just two separate tabs in Chrome. This certainly seems like the most practical way to make use of the dual displays, and I like that it works in both portrait and landscape view.
Lastly, Mirror mode lets you display the exact same contents on both displays. ZTE demonstrated this for use in two-player games, where each player would have their own view rather than huddling around the phone laid flat on a table. Outside of gaming, however, I’m not entirely sure where this feature would be useful.
Regarding other details, the Axon M sports a Snapdragon 821 chipset, 4 GB RAM, and 64 GB of storage, expandable by up to 256 GB via microSD. Both of its displays are 1080 LCD panels protected by Gorilla Glass 5, and make for a combined measurement of 6.75-inches diagonally.
The Axon M runs Android 7.1.2 Nougat, though ZTE says it’s committing to regular software updates, including moving to Oreo in the near future. ZTE is also offering a free two-year warranty with every Axon M through its Axon Passport M program.
The Axon M will be launching next month exclusively on AT&T in the US for $24.17 per month on the AT&T Next program. We’ll be doing our best to get our hands on a review unit.