For the road warriors and frequent drivers who want a connected vehicle without shelling out for a new car with built-in WiFi, T-Mobile’s just announced SyncUP Drive should fill the coverage gap between your cell phone and your home internet. The new device brings the big pink carrier up to speed with competition at AT&T and Verizon (both of which already have similar devices) and adds smart vehicle diagnostic features as well as a phone-free connection to T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network.
With the ability to connect up to five different devices to its WiFi network, the SyncUP Drive should help families keep a full carload entertained and saves carpool drivers the trouble of fiddling with phone tethering while they’re on the road. Plus, as the little ones graduate to driving age, the on-board diagnostics will be able to track their driving behavior, monitor the vehicle’s location via GPS and provide instant notifications through a new companion app if there’s any sign of car trouble.
Like other aftermarket hotspots and vehicle tracking devices, the SyncUP plugs into your vehicle’s on-board diagnostics (OBD) port, so it should be compatible with any internal combustion engine vehicle built after 1996. (T-Mobile says the device isn’t compatible with electric, hybrid or diesel engines yet, but you can check compatibility here.) The device goes on sale November 18th, 2016 for a full retail price of $149.99, or free after bill credits when you tie it to a 24-month plan with 2GB or more of data.
ZTE is making waves this year by pushing out a phone most Android enthusiasts crave, at least on paper. For the increasingly common and competitive $400 price, the Axon 7 offers a stylish metal unibody, QHD AMOLED screen, dual-front facing speakers, a rear fingerprint sensor and the latest Snapdragon 820 chip with 4GB of RAM. Oh, and you’ll be getting 64 GB of storage too. However there’s some serious competition in the field for the same price or less. Let’s find out if this phone deserves your money.
As soon as you hold the Axon 7, you’ll notice its heavier than just about every flagship phone today. This can be credited to the all metal body and the larger 3250 battery, but there are other phones with similar features that weigh noticeably lighter. To most people, the slightly heavier weight may not matter, but I did find it uncomfortable to hold horizontally for awhile while watching Netflix in bed with the phone or a lot of YouTube videos as it added a strain on my wrist when holding with one hand.
Heaviness aside, this feels like a truly premium phone. The aluminum body is smooth all over with no sharp edges on the sides or bottom, and it’s curved just right on the back to fit in the palm nicely.
I’m impressed that ZTE was able to keep this phone so compact. For a 5.5 inch phone with a decently sized battery and front facing speakers, this phone is still shorter than the 5.5 inch OnePlus 3. The phones shares the very common top and bottom antenna line like many other metal devices today, and I’ve found reception to be more than acceptable where I’m located in Athens, Ohio using AT&T LTE. WiFi speeds have been very fast, however I’ve noticed it takes a little longer to connect to my house and school WiFi than other smartphones I’ve tested recently.
The fingerprint sensor is located on the back of the device which will be a hit or miss to all of you. After using this and the Nexus 6P, I’ve easily gotten use to having my index finger on the sensor as I’m pulling the device out of my pocket, waking up the screen as soon as I look at it. The sensor used on the Axon 7 is very fast, and I would place it between the Nexus 6P and OnePlus 3 (the 3 being the fastest I’ve used).
My biggest complain about the phone’s build is the capacity navigation keys at the bottom. From left to right, these act as the back, home, and recent buttons. I suppose I like how minimal they look, but they are took close together and it makes it difficult accurately tap them. I really wish ZTE allowed us to toggle software navigation keys, because these aren’t even back-lit, making them impossible to see at night.
ZTE knew exactly what a hardcore Android enthusiast wanted here and placed two front-facing speakers on the phone backed up by Dolby Audio. I was really impressed with the sound that was coming out of these. Dolby Surround is on by default with this device, but you can toggle it in the quick settings to hear the difference. Turning Dolby on while playing out the speakers provided a much more area effect to the audio, which was very apparent in videos and movies. When Dolby is off, movies and music sound a bit louder actually, but lose the surrounding effect and clarity. I always kept Dolby on.
Overall though, I found these speakers to be very clear, but not as loud as some phones I’ve listened to. The Alcatel Idol 4S takes the cake as having the best phone speakers I’ve ever heard.
The Axon 7 gives us the same panel used on the Samsung Galaxy S6, which is a damn good screen. Samsung has yet to sell its latest generation of AMOLED panels to other companies, so this screen as good as AMOLED screens get except for the newest Galaxy S7 phones.
With the 1440×2560 QHD resolution, I could not see any pixels even if I squinted close up. The phone got very bright, but in direct sunlight I did have some trouble seeing smaller text and overall detail. It’s not on par with Samsung’s ability to “overdrive” their displays in sunlight.
Regardless, this screen can easily be featured as the highlight of this phone for how great the colors are and how crisp everything is. However going back on fourth between this phone and my OnePlus 3 daily driver, I can notice the improved clarity of the QHD panel closer to my face, but I’m still completely satisfied with 1080p screens and am not sure is QHD is worth the cost yet. Still, these two phones are the same price, so if the higher resolution is really worth it to you, you’ll be glad to know this screen is noticeably better.
ZTE is giving us almost the best the market can offer with the Axon 7 in terms of performance. The Snapdragon 820 chip coupled with 4GB of RAM offers a quick and pleasant Android experience, but isn’t perfect.
Because most high-end Android phones offer near identical performance, the best way to rate the Axon 7’s performance is to compare it with the other big hitters this year, as I have used several of them.
After using the Galaxy S7 Active, Idol 4S, OnePlus 3, HTC 10, and for a limited time, LG G5, I can say the multitasking is slightly worse on the Axon 7, as apps take slightly longer to hop back into even when it’s still in memory. I also ran into a few hiccups during my time of use where I tried to go back into an app I just used to see it had closed and needed to reopen. While the Snapdragon 820 chip is plenty fast enough to open apps in 1-2 seconds, there is no excuse as to why an app so recently used should have closed down. Like I said though, this only happened a few times.
Small problems aside, this phone just doesn’t offer a jaw dropping fast experience as I had witnessed when first using the HTC 10 and OnePlus 3. It’s fast, don’t get me wrong, but not the fastest by a long shot.
In daylight, the Axon 7 takes some amazing photos. With the 20 megapixel rear-shooter, I loved being able to zoom into photos more than other phones I’ve used this year. Colors and brightness all looked great during the day, and detail was very crisp.
Starting with a few shots I grabbed in glorious Gatlinburg, the detail in these are very impressive in large part due to the optical image stabilization in the camera helping balance pictures being taken. Usually the sun is over exposed in pictures like these taken with smartphone cameras but this one was incredibly well balanced as the trees still held a lot of detail.
The phone’s camera does struggle at night, much more than other high-end phones I’ve used. When capturing our school’s library at night, the lights are easily seen, but not much else even with HDR mode enabled. Detail on the townhouses shown above aren’t very impressive either, and the lights are way overexposed.
After using the phone for about a month, I’ve always felt comfortable that the phone would last me a whole day. My current schedule includes unplugging the phone at 8:30 a.m. and making till about midnight when I go to sleep with about 15% or slightly less left.
My daily phone agenda involves using GroupMe about all day (I think I’m ready for college to be over), about 15-20 minutes of Snapchat use, occasional SMS texting, heavy Reddit use, about an hour of Netflix and YouTube combined, constant Gmail syncing and a few other apps. About 80% of my day I’m connected to WiFi and the rest I’m on LTE. I don’t usually play games on my phone so I’m using the Axon 7 as I would my daily driver.
I rank the Axon 7 slightly lower than the OnePlus 3 which would rarely reach less than 20% by the end of the day for me, and lower than the Idol 4S (also a $399 phone) which got me the best battery life out of either of these devices. However this phone is still a really solid performer and if it does need a quick sip, Qualcomm Quick-Charge allowed me to charge the phone 0% to 54% in 30 minutes.
This is the first ZTE device I’ve ever reviewed, so I was nervous about their software experience. They’ve clearly tuned things quite a bit from previous devices, as the software strongly resembles stock Android with small cosmetic changes. I actually really like the shade of dark blue that carries throughout the system UI – much more than stock Android. Also the way the pull-down notification bar and quick settings change color with the wallpaper is a really nice touch.
On to the functional side of things, ZTE made the default homescreen launcher their “Stock Android” launcher, a quick and fluid homescreen that includes an app drawer and similar aspects of the Google Now Launcher, except for the actual integration of Google Now. ZTE included another launcher that you can switch to in your settings menu, but I couldn’t stand it as it was just an attempt to mirror iOS. Both of these launchers were pretty basic and lacked customization, so I downloaded a different launcher.
ZTE’s settings menu includes two columns. One for quick access to common categories of the phone, and the other is about the same as stock Android. As part of habit, I always swiped left to get to the normal “All settings” view.
One of the stand-out features ZTE included with the Axon 7 is Mi-POP, a software navigation button and can be dragged around your screen in case you don’t want to use the capacity keys. I liked this feature, and used it for a bit without problems, but I hate having clutter on my screen and eventually disabled it, even if it meant having to use the capacitive keys more.
ZTE allows for a decent amount of customization, at least compared to stock Android, and I always like being able to change the color profile of my display. The three options for the color mode include natural (the dullest, looks more like and LCD panel), normal, and vibrant. Vibrant was a bit too saturated for my eyes so I stuck with normal and really liked it.
My biggest grip with the software by far is the lockscreen, and the way the phone displays notifications. Or should I say hides them? For some reason, the folks at ZTE thought it was a good idea to hide your notifications and only allow you to see them if you tap a small bell icon. I couldn’t begin to provide a solid explanation as to why that would be a good idea. There are phones that can show you notifications without even turning the screen on (thank you, moto). If they don’t do that, you might be able to double tap the screen to see your lockscreen notifications. Pretty convenient if the phone is laying on its back. With the Axon 7, there is no hand wave gesture and no double-tap. I have to press the power button, then tap a small icon on the top left just to see who called me or texted me.
Sure, this is first-world problems, but the worst part is you can’t disable it. Not even after a couple software updates. Sorry ZTE, but just about every other phone offers a better way of doing this.
While there are some notable downsides to having this phone, such as the poor low-light camera, occasional performance stutter, the frustrating “feature” of hiding notifications from you on your lockscreen, and the lackluster navigation keys, ZTE has seriously stepped their game up this year and is offering a flagship phone that I almost wanted to purchase myself.
The all-metal build that carries over to the front-facing speakers has caught more than a few eyes when using in public, and the screen of this phone is a thing of sheer beauty. I can confidently say these are the second best speakers I’ve ever heard on a smartphone and I’ll definitely miss having those. Playing Fallout Shelter and Monument Valley provided the best gaming I’ve experienced on a phone, and to the average user, every day usage is going to feel very fluid. This is a phone that looks excellent on paper, and for the most part is. However some software adjustments are needed before I can recommend this phone over some of the other competition in this price range.
Since the start of September, phone manufacturer ZTE has been running a crowd-sourced contest slash internet brainstorming session to figure out what features its customers want most in their next phone. Well, the results are in and ZTE has announced the grand prize project of that contest: it’s an “eye-tracking, self-adhesive phone”. Sure, why the heck not.
The eye-tracking system would utilize a pair of front-facing cameras capable of following the user’s eye-movement. This will allow the phone to, say, automatically scroll through webpages when you read to the bottom of the screen. Since these cameras work far more efficiently when the phone is stable, rather than in your hand, this device will incorporate self-adhesive polymers into the back of the case so that you can stick it against walls, railings or any other stable surface. What’s more, the screen itself will use a split screen design that will only display information to the person sitting directly in front of it. If you’re trying to shoulder surf someone or look at their screen from an oblique angle, all you’ll see is a static background image.
This idea garnered 36 percent of the vote against four other finalist ideas. Intelligent Smartphone Covers earned 21 percent of the vote, Stock Android Flagship Phone got 19 percent, VR-Interactive Diving Mask got 16, and Powerglove got just 8 percent. ZTE reports that “thousands of consumers from 176 countries” participated in the voting process. The company has committed to follow through and actually produce the phone. It plans to bring the phone to market in 2017 after crowdsourcing a name it.
As promised, ZTE is launching the Axon 7 Mini in the US… and it might just hit the sweet spot if you’re more interested in price than raw performance. The 5.2-inch Android phone (“mini” is clearly a relative term) is now available for pre-order at just under $300, or a full hundred bucks less than the full-size Axon 7. The first orders should ship around October 27th. To recap, you’re still getting the Axon 7’s stereo speakers (with Dolby Atmos support), dual SIM slots and an 8-megapixel front camera. The cost-cutting mainly comes through the 1080p screen, a modest Snapdragon 617 processor, a less-crisp 16MP camera, and reductions to both memory (3GB) and storage (32GB) — it’s really a mid-tier phone with some premium perks.
As such, it’s a tough call as to whether or not you pick the Axon 7 Mini over its rivals. The Moto G4 Plus starts at a lower $250 price and touts a bigger screen, but lacks the audio prowess and won’t feel as high-end as its ZTE counterpart. And a lower-end version of ASUS’ ZenFone 3 can pack more processing power and similar cameras for a comparable price, if you’re willing to shop around. ZTE’s main advantage may simply be its industrial design — it’s hard to find a sub-$300 phone in the US that doesn’t make significant compromises in material choices or sound quality.
Since August, ZTE has been running an American Idol-style contest where, instead of singers, people are asked to judge the firm’s future product development. Users were asked to suggest plausible ideas that the company could create and sell within the next rough year, that folks could then vote on. ZTE took three of those offerings, added a further two from a concept phase, and will now put all five to a very public final vote. Between now and October 19th, you’ll be able to select which of the potential candidates you’d like to see built — and hopefully will buy once it hits shelves.
The final five options are:
- An eye-tracking, adhesive smartphone that you can stick to a wall and control with just a glance, which is ideal for reading e-books in the bath.
- A series of intelligent smartphone covers that expand the utility of your smartphone, much like Alcatel’s Magic Flip cases.
- A power glove that would control your fingers for use in rehabilitation or to teach you how to undertake dextrous tasks, like playing the piano.
- A stock Android flagship phone that would take on the Nexuses and Pixels of this world.
- A VR diving mask that’ll let you swim in a pool and make you think that you’re swimming in the ocean.
Since there are already intelligent smartphone covers and stock Android devices, we’re more excited for some of the other options ZTE Is pushing. The notion of a powered glove for rehab and learning, much like the one Georgia Tech devised back in 2012, seems like it has plenty of potential. Then again, the idea of being able to go diving in VR, too, seems like it deserves further exploration. Still, we can’t tell you what to vote for, so you can head over to ZTE’s website and make your own choice.
When ZTE launched its Project CSX challenge to crowdsource ideas for a mobile device, it was hard not to wonder which of those grandiose visions would make the cut. Well, now we know: ZTE has unveiled the three ideas that made it to phase two of the competition, where people will submit product concepts that translate those ideas to reality. Each of the winners is rather unusual, but just realistic enough that ZTE could put it into production.
One is a self-adhesive smartphone that sticks to most any surface, and uses eye tracking to help you scroll through books without touching the screen. There’s also a Power Glove-style wearable that guides you through high-dexterity tasks like playing the piano or typing. Lastly, an augmented reality diving mask would give you digitally enhanced experiences both underwater and on solid ground.
You have until September 30th to submit a product concept based on these ideas, and voting will run between October 1st and October 10th. The grand prize voting (which decides what ZTE will build) will take place between October 12th and October 19th. You won’t see a physical product until sometime in 2017, but you now have an inkling of what to expect.
Source: ZTE (eye tracking), (glove), (diving mask)
Sources say CR7 fell over when he saw the Nubia Z11. Absolutely no one was shocked. That’s what happens when you have a reputation for being the best diver on the pitch.
We’re live all week from Berlin, Germany, for IFA 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.
We’re edging ever closer to the official start of IFA 2016 (that’s today as you read this), but the pre-show events continue. Huawei, ZTE and others brought new phones, and Sony showed its hand — even if some of that was familiar. There was also a surprise visit from the future. If that future is the 1950’s version of robots.
We’re live all week from Berlin, Germany, for IFA 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.
ZTE’s Axon 7 was a surprisingly good phone which proved that the Chinese company is capable of delivering on its “affordable premium” promise. In order to capitalize on that success, ZTE is offering a cheaper, more petite version. The Axon 7 Mini will arrive stateside in October, and while US pricing hasn’t been announced, it will retail in Europe for EUR299. That’s about US$330, which is $70 less than the original, as well as the OnePlus 3 and Alcatel Idol 4S.
I briefly played with the Axon 7 Mini and found it to be a capable variant for the price, but altogether unexciting.
Like a fun-sized candy bar, the Mini resembles a compressed version of the original Axon 7. They both have the same handsome design and feel equally solid and smooth. The new phone also has dual stereo speakers that ZTE said are actually louder.
The similarities end there, though. The Mini has a 5.2-inch full HD display compared to its big brother’s 5.5-inch 2K screen, leaving it with a lower pixel density (424 ppi). That’s still pretty decent, and I didn’t notice a huge difference between the two device’s panels.
ZTE didn’t just shrink the Axon 7’s display and price; you’ll also find a smaller battery (2,705mAh vs 3,250mAh) and less-sharp rear camera. Despite the loss of megapixels, the Mini’s 16-MP camera still took decent pictures that looked crisp and vibrant. The camera up front retains the same 8-MP resolution, and delivered selfies that were clear and bright. In low light, though, the Mini’s single-tone LED flash may lead to less accurate colors than the Axon 7’s dual-tone light.
The biggest trade-off ZTE had to make to bring the Mini’s price down was in the processor. Instead of the premium Snapdragon 820 that powers the Axon 7, the smaller phone is equipped with a lower-end Snapdragon 617 chip. It also offers less RAM and storage (3GB and 32GB respectively), but I didn’t notice any lag during my time with the phone.
The Mini will also take a longer time to recharge than the original, since it supports Quick Charge 2.0 instead of the newer 3.0. This means it’ll get to 46 percent in 30 mins of charging versus 83 percent in the same time on its larger counterpart.
Overall, the Axon 7 Mini is an affordable phone worth considering, especially for those who don’t want a hefty handset. And at about $330, it could be the best phone for the price. But ZTE isn’t really surprising anyone here. Releasing two sizes of a flagship is basically an industry standard at this point. We’re far more interested to see what ZTE will produce out of its attempt to crowdsource a mobile device through its Project CSX campaign, where the company will let the public submit and vote on ideas for a mobile device that it will produce by 2017.
We’re live all week from Berlin, Germany, for IFA 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.
ZTE isn’t wowing anyone with its new Axon 7 Mini phone, but it does have a far more intriguing device up its sleeve. The Chinese company shared some updates on its Project CSX campaign, which is an effort to crowdsource ideas for a groundbreaking mobile device. Starting today, you can start voting for one of the top 20 ideas in the company’s forum.
Since the campaign opened up for submissions at the beginning of the month, it has received about 300 ideas from all over the world.
The device isn’t confined to just phones. It can be anything mobile, as long as it’s affordable and uses technology that’s realistic within a year. Some of the more intriguing proposals that ZTE’s vice president of product planning and technology Jeff Yee shared include a Bluetooth glove that can move your fingers to teach you how to do things, such as play the piano or guitar. Some others are less novel, but make a lot of sense, such as a smartphone with an embedded solar panel to draw power from the sun.
ZTE will pick three of these ideas on Sept 11 for phase 2 of the campaign, which lets the public submit technical drawings for the selected proposals starting Sept 12. Come October, the company will pick the final designs for users to vote on, and the people behind the entry with the most votes will win a trip to CES 2017 in Las Vegas.
It’ll be interesting to see what Project CSX results in, and if the eventual product will help ZTE create something truly compelling. The company has committed to bringing the device to fruition by 2017. In the meantime, you can submit your ideas or keep up with the wild suggestions over at ZTE’s forums.