Chinese OEMs are slowly but surely expanding their presence in the U.S. market, bringing to the highly-competitive arena what these companies are already known for around the world, great devices at comparatively more affordable price points. ZTE’s latest high-end offering is a prime example of this, and is a device that ZTE claims is made entirely with the consumer in mind. Of course, this is not the first time we’ve heard this bold claim from other OEMs. Does ZTE manage to stand true to their statement? We find out, in this in-depth Axon Phone by ZTE review!
Looking at the current crop of high-end and mid-range smartphones, it is immediately noticeable that design has become a very important aspect of the smartphone experience. The availability of various color options, different material choices, and the use of premium build materials from the likes of Samsung, LG, HTC, and Motorola means that ZTE had a difficult task on their hands as far as design was concerned, and fortunately, the Axon Phone delivers.
The body of the Axon Phone is made entirely of a smooth metal that gives it that high quality premium feel that we all expect from any high-end smartphone, and a tapered back with rounded corners, similar to what is seen with a device like the HTC One M9, makes the device sit very comfortably in the hand. The great feel aside, the smooth metal finish can make the phone feel a bit slippery, and not helping the handling experience is the fact that the device is quite tall due to the large bezels and front speaker grills. Reaching up to the top to access something like the notification shade does require some hand gymnastics, and makes the phone feel even less secure when you can’t maintain your grip.
The Axon Phone is clearly not in the race for being the thinnest or lightest device either, with it weighing just shy of 175 grams, and coming in at just a little over 9 mm thick. This isn’t a bad thing though, as the added heft makes the phone feel even more substantial than it already is.
To give the Axon Phone a unique design element, ZTE added a distinctive grill pattern that can be found in multiple locations, such as the earpiece, front-facing speaker, and the rear camera. This is designed to make the phone stand out and focus the attention on certain parts on the device without being too over the top, and it definitely works. The grills aesthetically flow well with the overall design of the phone, and there’s no denying that it will garner a double take when out and about.
Taking a look around the device, the buttons are in very ergonomic locations, which helps alleviate some of the concerns with regards to the handling experience. The power button is on the right side, with the volume rocker and the SIM card slot on the opposite side. Also on the right side is a dedicated camera shutter button, which is something we do appreciate but is unfortunately not often seen with Android smartphones. Up top is the headphone jack next to a microphone, and the microUSB port is at the bottom, also next to another microphone. Finally, the Axon Phone features a capacitive circle home button, with the two dots flanking it, which act as the menu and recent apps keys. A nice touch with the home button is that it also doubles as a notification light, and will pulsate any time you get a notification or to indicate that the battery is low, which certainly proves to be very useful.
For ZTE to truly compete with the heavy hitters, the Axon Phone had to be packed to the gills with the latest and greatest in current smartphone tech, and once again, ZTE manages to deliver, with it all starting with the display. The Axon Phone features a 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with a Quad HD resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 534 ppi, and there’s no doubt that this is a fantastic looking screen. It is is big, bright, and beautiful, with accurate color reproduction, and great viewing angles and contrast, making for a display that is an absolute pleasure to use. The large size and high resolution make it ideal for any sort of content, and there’s a nice amount of saturation that makes the screen pop. Brightness isn’t an issue either, and outdoor visibility is comfortable, and while you may not get the deep blacks afforded by AMOLED panels, the black levels on this LCD screen are still pretty good.
Under the hood, the Axon Phone features the octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, clocked at 2 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 430 GPU and a whopping 4 GB of RAM. Despite some known overheating issues, this processing package is still one of the best in the business right now, and that is reflected in the performance of the Axon Phone. Opening, closing, and switching between applications are all smooth, multi-tasking is an absolute breeze, and playing graphically intensive games caused no trouble at all. As good as the processor is, some of the credit for this fluid and lag free performance has to be given to the software which isn’t bogged down by a slew of pre-installed applications or unnecessary features.
As mentioned, the Snapdragon 810 is notorious for running hot, but this wasn’t exactly the case with the Axon Phone, which is a good thing. The device did get warm on a few occasions, but that was only during long gaming sessions, and would happen with almost any smartphone out there. Feeling the heat permeate through the metal body is a little bit jarring, but it has yet to get the point where the device got uncomfortably hot to the touch, and/or rendered any features or applications inoperable.
ZTE made a very big deal about the audio experience provided by the Axon Phone, and deservedly so. The Axon Phone is the first smartphone to be released in the U.S. with a Hi-Fi audio chipset built-in for both listening and recording. You can use any pair of headphones or earbuds that you are comfortable with, but ZTE does include a very nice pair of JBL earphones in the box, available for free if you took advantage of the pre-order system, but will otherwise require an additional $50. The Hi-Fi audio definitely works well and it was easy to notice a difference in audio in comparison to a couple of other flagships like the Galaxy S6 and HTC One M9, while using the same JBL earphones with all of them.
On the Axon Phone, the sound is not only louder, but it is also a lot fuller, with depth especially along the mids and lows.
One aspect of the audio experience that isn’t quite what you might expect, however, is the front-facing speaker. The presence of dual speaker grills would lead you to believe that the device features a dual stereo speaker setup, but that is unfortunately not the case with there actually being only a single speaker on the bottom grill. The speaker does sound good and gets quite loud, but without a second speaker up top for a true stereo sound, the audio can be very lopsided, especially when using the device in the landscape orientation while watching videos or playing games, and is not particularly impressive overall.
Apart from the standard suite of connectivity options, the Axon Phone also comes with 4G LTE support for the AT&T and T-Mobile networks in the U.S. As far as storage is concerned, 32 GB is available on-board, but rather odd and disappointing is the lack of expandable storage via microSD card. 32 GB of storage should still be enough for most users, but if you’re heavily media-centric, some memory management will be required on your part.
When it comes to the battery, the large 3,000 mAh battery that powers the Axon Phone allows for some good battery life, but it isn’t spectacular. It is good enough to provide a full day of use with around 4 hours of screen-on time, but that is the upper limit as far as screen-on time is concerned. Even on a day with heavy usage, that involved playing a lot of games and taking lots of pictures, the phone still managed 4 hours of screen-on time, despite lasting only around 8 hours off the charger. With more casual usage, that number jumps drastically to between 13 and 16 hours, but with the screen-on time showing only a slight increase to around 4.5 hours. If you do end of charging the device halfway through your day, you will be able to take advantage of its fast-charging capabilities via Qualcomm QuickCharge 2.0. that will have you back up and running in a short amount of time.
Another big highlight of the Axon Phone is when it comes to the camera. The main camera on the rear is a 13 MP shooter with a f/1.8 aperture and OIS, but there is also an additional 2 MP camera for capturing depth information, similar to the Duo Camera setup seen with the HTC One M8. Selfie lovers will be happy with the 8 MP front-facing shooter with a wide angle lens, that should provide for some great self portraits, and also allow users to easily fit additional subjects into the frame.
The camera UI is simple, and navigating through the various elements involves swipes across the viewfinder to switch between modes. Typical modes like manual, panorama, sport, HDR, slow motion video, and more are all available but the one that stands out the most is the bokeh mode, which takes advantage of the refocusing capabilities of the camera. What is interesting about this bokeh mode is that it allows for manual f stop control, or at least, that is what you are led to believe. It does alter the depth of field or background blur, but unlike a real aperture change as possible with a DSLR, it doesn’t affect how much light enters the lens, regardless of if you’re shooting wide open at f/1.0 or f/8.0.
Shooting in this mode will allow for images to be refocused after the fact, along with the level of blur to be adjusted, and the camera does a really great job of separating objects in the foreground from the background. It can look very artificial if you get too carried away with the blur effect, and it can only fully refocus on a different part of an image if it hasn’t already been blurred out by the camera’s natural bokeh. It’s cool and can be rather convincing if you follow the appropriate guidelines, but right now, it still feels more like a novelty than a must-have feature.
In terms of general every day picture taking, the camera experience is mostly more positive than negative. The shutter speed and auto focus is very quick, which makes it very easy to snap photos, helped along by the inclusion of a dedicated camera shutter button. While the physical button is a nice touch, some unfortunate omissions are the lack of the half press to focus feature as well as the fact that the button cannot be used to launch the camera from a sleep state, but is hopefully something that will be addressed and added in a future update.
In fair to good lighting conditions, the camera is able to produce some pretty excellent images with adequate, natural looking colors, and maintains a high level of sharpness and clarity even when zoomed in. Dynamic range is just okay though, and tends to crush the darks a little too much, resulting in the loss of a lot of detail because of it. HDR works well to alleviate that in most situations, but in some cases it does tend to bias towards a more overexposed look with less natural looking colors. Macro shots can also be very hit or miss. The camera can sometimes find the right focus point quickly, but other times, it almost becomes an exercise in frustration to get the image that you want.
Even with OIS and a f/1.8 aperture, low light and night time photography is decent at best, and the image processing may be to blame. There’s a lot of noise reduction going on, which leads to softer details, and colors are much more muted in these situations, that it makes it tough capture an appealing image. As a whole, the camera is good, but as it stands right now it seems to fall a bit short of the hype.
On the software side of things, the Axon Phone offers a very clean Android experience in comparison to the far more heavily skinned iterations seen with other ZTE devices. The device ships with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, and it is mostly a stock Android experience with all of Google’s Material Design elements kept intact. There are a few changes, like the custom launcher that offers the typical features like widgets and wallpapers, but you can also change the home screen scroll effect to something a little more dynamic. Themes are also available, but the theme engine isn’t very robust at the moment, leaving users with only a few choices to pick from.
The Quick Settings toggles have also been slightly tweaked, allowing users to rearrange the shortcuts to any order they find useful, and there are a lot more toggle options available as well, beyond what you find with stock Lollipop. Another functional change from Lollipop is the addition of a quick info panel that is accessible with a swipe from the bottom, which houses a music player, starred contacts, a step counter, and sports news from Yahoo. It can be useful to some, but I found it to get in the way more than anything, especially when trying to swipe away the notification panel, which launched this quick info panel instead.
ZTE has also kept the app experience extremely clean by not bogging things down with a slew of pre-installed bloatware. There is only a couple of pre-loaded applications with Argus and RockMyRun, both of which are geared towards health and fitness. Argus is a simple pedometer to help keep track of your steps, and can constantly keep you updated on your lockscreen and notification panel. You can even connect with friends to see how well they are doing, and helps keep you motivated towards meeting your health goals. The RockMyRun app on the other is essentially just a music player, but can tailor the tempo of the beat to the pace of your run to help keep you going. Listening to the music is free, but if you want manual control over the tempo, or have it automatically change based on your pace, you will have to pay a $4.99 per month subscription fee for the service, which also removes any in-app ads.
|Display||5.5-inch TFT LCD with 2560 x 1440 resolution, PPI 534|
|Processor||2.0 GHz Octa-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 (MSM8994)|
|Camera||Dual lens rear: 13MP, 2MP, dual LED flash, 4K HD, Front: 8MP, 88 degree wide-angle, 1080p video and 4K at 30FPS|
|Connectivity||T-Mobile, AT&T network compatible: LTE B2/B4/B5/B12/B17/B29/B30, LTE IR B7/B3/B1/B13, USM/HSPA 850/1700/1900/2100 MHz, GSM/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, CA Band 2/4 + Band 17, LTE (Cat 6)|
|Software||Android 5.1 Lollipop|
|Dimensions||6.06″ x 2.9″ x 0.37″ (154 x 75 x 9.3mm)|
Pricing and final thoughts
The Axon Phone is available now for pre-order directly through ZTE and other outlets like Amazon, Ebay, and NewEgg, for $449.98, with the color options including phthalo blue, ion gold, and chromium silver. To make users feel more at ease with buying an unlocked phone, the Axon Phone comes with Passport 1.0, a protection plan that offers free premium protection, along with a 2 year warranty, advanced exchanges, and free two-way shipping should anything ever happen to your device.
So there you have it for this comprehensive look at the Axon Phone by ZTE! While its premium metal build, Quad HD display, a decent camera, and the latest processing package may not be above and beyond what is available with any current generation flagship, what makes the Axon Phone so impressive is its price point, which is significantly cheaper than any device this phone is directly competing with. ZTE may be the fourth largest smartphone manufacturer in the US, but their presence is generally unknown when compared to the heavy hitters of the Android world, but the Axon Phone is the company’s gateway to changing that, and they are certainly on the right track.
If you’re the owner of a Samsung Galaxy S6 or S6 Edge on T-Mobile’s network and have been experiencing battery life woes, a fix is headed your way. Starting today, both of Samsung’s most recent flagship devices are receiving minor updates that will bring various bug fixes and device improvements, as well as battery improvements.
The Galaxy S6 Edge’s update brings version number G925TUVU2COF8 to the device, while the Galaxy S6’s update comes with version G920TUVU2COF8. Both updates come in at roughly 103MB in size. It should also be noted that if you never updated your phone to the most recent Android 5.1.1 build, the update will come in at around 635MB.
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As per usual, the update may take a day or two to make its way to your device. If you’d like to check manually, head to Settings>About device>Software update. Have you received the update on your device yet? If so, be sure to let us know in the comment section below if you’re seeing any changes.
Those “do not eat” desiccate packets of silica gel that keep shoe boxes dry could soon help keep data centers cool. IBM has launched the THRIVE project with aims to do just that by creating a heat pump that runs on waste heat.
Normally heat pumps work by absorbing ambient heat which vaporizes refrigerant stored in an evaporator. That vaporized refrigerant then rises into an electrically run compressor which liquefies it. The heat is expelled and the refrigerant runs back down into the evaporator.
The THRIVE, however, uses an passive adsorption heat exchanger (which runs on heat at around 60 degrees C) in place of the condenser (which runs on electricity). This adsorption heat exchanger works kind of like a radiator. It pulls in massive amounts of vapor and compresses it within its multitude of fins. Silica gel, like that used in desiccate pouches, will be packed between these fins to improve their cooling efficiency.
“Through the extensive use of the adsorption heat pumps we are looking to develop in THRIVE, it could theoretically be possible to reduce the electricity demand for heating and cooling purposes by up to 65% and the consumption of fossil fuels for heat production by up to 18% by 2040.” This would correspond to savings of around 1.8 million tons of CO2,” Dr. Bruno Michel, one of the THRIVE project leaders at IBM Research – Zurich, said in a statement.
[Image Credit: Shutterstock / kubais]
Source: IBM Research – Zurich
Everyone has a Windows upgrade horror story. For me, it was an XP installation that inexplicably crashed halfway through the upgrade process, somehow corrupting my hard drive at the same time. And with Windows 10 launching on July 29th, it’s hard to avoid the traumatic flashbacks to past Windows releases. But fret not. Windows 10, it turns out, offers the smoothest Windows upgrade process ever. It’s remarkable for just how unremarkable the entire endeavor actually is. Still, there are a few things you should know before taking the plunge.
What’s new in Windows 10?
For the most part, Windows 10 is a refined version of the Windows you already know, but there are a few notable additions. Cortana, the virtual assistant that debuted in Windows Phone recently, is finally making its way to the desktop. If you’ve used Siri or Google Now, you’ve got an idea of how Cortana works, but I’ve found Cortana to be a lot more useful since it’s always listening for your voice commands.
Microsoft’s new Edge browser is also a great addition. It’s still somewhat shocking Microsoft so deftly put the legacy of Internet Explorer behind it. It’s fast, stylish and has some compelling features like web page annotation. If you’ve gotten annoyed by Chrome’s and Firefox’s increasingly demanding memory needs, Edge might be worth a look. Finally, if you have an Xbox One, Windows 10 offers the ability to stream games from your console to any PC. (Just be prepared to upgrade your network so that it can run smoothly.)
Should I upgrade?
Yup. Windows 10 brings together everything we loved about Windows 7 with a few elements from Windows 8 that actually worked well. And don’t forget it’s completely free for existing Windows 7 and 8 users (for the first year). Yes, you’ll still be able to keep using the OS for free afterward. Starting next year, Windows 10 will be $120 for the Home version and $200 for the Pro version.
Our full review is coming later this week, but after using it for several months in preview form, I’m confident in recommending it wholeheartedly. The only stumbling block might be if you rely on hardware that doesn’t yet have drivers for Windows 10 (more on that later).
Can I upgrade?
Most likely. Windows 10’s minimum requirements are pretty much the same as Windows 7 and 8: A 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM (2GB for the 64-bit version) and around 20GB of free space. If you’ve bought a new computer in the last decade, it should match those specs. The main thing you might have to worry about is clearing up disk space.
How do I upgrade?
Right now, Microsoft is giving Windows Insider testers first dibs on the OS, but you can sign up to get in the upgrade queue. If you’re running a qualifying Windows 7 or Windows 8 system (that should be most of them), you’ve likely seen a “Get Windows 10″ app in your system tray. If not, run Windows Update until you do. You just need to click “Reserve Your Free Upgrade” in the app to join the queue.
I’ve found that Windows 10 does a decent job of automatically recognizing hardware on your system, but if you’re using specialized equipment, be sure to check and see if your drivers are compatible with Windows 10. I also recommend backing up your data before upgrading, although if everything goes right, you won’t lose any data or settings.
Once you’ve got access, simply run the installer and follow the prompts. The installation process is mostly a hands-free affair once you get it going. Your computer will reboot a few times and will then ask you for some personalization options to get Windows 10 going. The entire upgrade process should take around 30 to 45 minutes.
What if I need a new computer?
Windows 10 can run on just about any modern computer, but if you want to take advantage of all the OS has to offer, there are a few things to look out for. If you’re interested in Windows Hello, Microsoft’s fast biometric login feature, make sure to get a computer with either a fingerprint sensor, or infrared camera (for facial recognition). Right now that list mostly consists of devices with Intel’s RealSense 3D camera, including the HP Envy 15t Touch and the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 15. That will definitely grow over time, so keep an eye out for RealSense if you’re looking to buy a new PC over the next year.
Microsoft hasn’t been shy to create miscellaneous software for Android. In the past, the company’s released a smart lock screen and even made a keyboard designed to be used with Excel. Now Microsoft is working on its own Android launcher, currently dubbed Arrow Launcher Beta. As the name reveals, this is an early version of the product, and you can only get access to it by signing up for an invite to the testing program. So how does it work? The Arrow Launcher is sleek and straightforward, offering a quick view of three main pages: People, Apps and Notes & Reminders. Those pages, according to Microsoft News, can’t be removed or have others added to them — likely to keep things concise. You can give it a try by downloading the APK, but you’ll need to request a proper invite to receive updates after the install.
[Image credit: Microsoft News]
Via: Android Community
Source: Microsoft News
Some of the US’ bigger tech firms have already made conspicuous efforts to embrace clean energy and otherwise tackle climate change, but they’re reinforcing that commitment today. Apple, Google and Microsoft are among the 13 corporate giants helping the White House launch the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, which encourages companies to cut pollution and use sustainable resources. The tech industry members aren’t really changing course (they’re already using or moving to 100 percent energy, for example). However, they’re definitely showing how their bread is buttered — they’re “setting an example” for others, and pushing for good results from the climate negotiations in Paris this year. Think of the pledge as both a publicity grab as well as a formal acknowledgment of ongoing work.
[Image credit: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite]
Continuing on with its stream of exclusive content, Apple Music is today premiering the video for Keith Richards’ latest single, “Trouble.” The video is exclusively available through Apple Music Connect on Keith Richards’ page on the artist-focused social networking site.
Because the video is shared on Apple Music Connect, it does not require an Apple Music subscription to watch. Designed to let fans connect with artists, Apple Music Connect’s content is all available for free and will continue to be free after people’s three-month free trials expire.
— Apple Music (@AppleMusic) July 27, 2015
“Trouble” is the newest single from Rolling Stones member Keith Richards, originally released in mid-July. The single is part of his upcoming album, Crosseyed Heart, which is his first solo album in over 20 years. The full album is set to be released on September 18.
Alongside the debut of the “Trouble” music video on Apple Music Connect, Keith Richards also did an interview with Zane Lowe on Beats 1 radio. It will replay tonight at 10:00 p.m. Pacific Time.
Apple uses exclusive content and interviews as a way to lure customers and distinguish itself from the myriad other music services available, and has premiered videos like Pharrell’s “Freedom” and Eminem’s “Phenomenal.” A recent rumor has suggested some of the exclusive videos Apple has offered, including Drake’s “Energy,” have been developed in-house with Apple working alongside artists to produce content for Apple Music.
Over on its official blog, Google tells that it is planning changes in relation to Google+. The company has divided this into two phases: tightening its focus on the platform itself and removing Google+ integration from its other services.
For the first phase, it is removing features it believes “aren’t essential to an interest-based social experience out of Google+.” Google+ Photos is one such an example. Many of its features already have been moved to Google Photos. In addition, Hangouts and other apps will receive location sharing.
As for the second phase, the company explains that it has heard the criticism of users not wanting their Google+ profile to be their identity for all other services.
The biggest outcry in relation to this potentially came from YouTube users whom, for whatever reasons, did not want to use their real names on that platform. Google gave them the ability to use aliases and nicknames at a later time, but a Google+ page still was associated with that account’s name. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that YouTube will be one of the first products to remove this integration.
Google stresses that the accounts tied to its services will remain unsearchable and cannot be followed.
Lastly, these changes will be released in set stages over the next several months.
Source: Google’s Official Blog
The cheapest 4G LTE smartphone Samsung makes is their new Galaxy J1. It was launched earlier this year in a few select markets. The affordable price is what really appeals to customers and in particular customers in the UK.
A leaked image of a stock update for Three UK employees shows that the Galaxy J1 is “heavily constrained” as they are in need of more stock. The Galaxy J1 is said to be in high demand in the UK because it only cost £8 per month on contract or £59.99 unlocked.
The price and 4G LTE capabilities is hard to beat, but the rest of the specs aren’t as great. It only has a 4.3-inch WVGA LCD display, Cortex-A7 processor, 512MB RAM, 4GB storage with microSD card support and 5-megapixel rear camera as well as running Android 4.4 KitKat.
Come comment on this article: Samsung Galaxy J1 selling well in the UK
A new report claims that Samsung is building a selfie drone codenamed ‘Project Selfie Camera Drone’. According to Sammobile, the new device Samsung is working on could be something similar to the Lily camera, a drone that would follow you while video-recording you.
Details regarding the drone are not yet available, and the project has not yet been finalized. OnePlus launched its own drone a few months ago, the OnePlus DR-1, and the Samsung Selfie Drone might just be a way to compete in the growing drone market.
Samsung hasn’t confirmed anything at the moment.
Come comment on this article: Samsung is apparently working on a ‘selfie drone’