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Posts tagged ‘ZTE’

13
Sep

ZTE wants your help bringing crowdsourced ideas to life


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)

4
Sep

Cristiano Ronaldo’s latest tech endorsement is a ZTE phone


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.

3
Sep

IFA 2016 day zero: Selfie-phones and barista robots


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.

1
Sep

ZTE’s Axon 7 Mini smartphone won’t wow you, but it’s cheap


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.

ZTE Axon 7 Mini: Hands-on

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.

1
Sep

Your vote will make ZTE’s crowdsourced device ideas a reality


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.

We’re live all week from Berlin, Germany, for IFA 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.

9
Aug

ZTE ZMAX Pro Review – is a $100 smartphone worth buying?


Owning a phone doesn’t mean having to endure a costly investment. The times have changed, obviously, since phone makers are making it more affordable than ever to own a smartphone. Take for instance ZTE, who for the longest time placed its attention on making entry-level devices that were easy on the pockets, but is making a significant charge yet again by upping the ante with its latest affordable option.

Related ZTE articles:

  • Getting to know the ZTE Axon 7
  • ZTE Axon 7 review
  • ZTE ZMAX Pro hands on | What is a $100 smartphone like?

Most people agree that sub-$200 is pretty aggressive for brand new phones, however, ZTE thinks that more can be done. Cutting that cost in half, the ZTE ZMAX Pro is undeniably tempting with its hard-to-resist price of $99.00 – and that’s all you’re going to have to pay for it. This threshold might not be anything new for the pre-paid market, but what makes it impressive is the fact that it’s slapped with a handy fingerprint sensor, something you wouldn’t expect in something price like this.

Buy the ZTE ZMax Pro now

Design

The first order of business with the design is its size, something that’s arguably going be the biggest deal breaker for people. It’s a mighty big phone that pushes it well into the phablet category, so it’s quite honestly a handful to operate. Being so wide and all, two-handed operation is going to be the preferred method with the ZMAX Pro, since one hand operation is nearly impossible unless you have larger-than-average hands.

Size aside, ZTE has actually fashioned it with a pleasant design that doesn’t make it feel like a phone in its price range. The soft touch matte finish of the rear combined with the faux-metal bezel are nice touches, pushing it well beyond the context of being “cheaply” made. We really didn’t think that a phone could be this decent looking and constructed, just because phones under the $100 threshold tend to be sub-par in terms of this.

ZTE ZMAX Pro hands on 30

Despite its gargantuan size, they’re mindful about the placement of the power and volume keys – they’re positioned on the right edge, making them accessible to the thumb. Meanwhile, a USB Type-C port is found on the bottom, ensuring that it’s going to be compatible with whatever USB-Type C accessories that are beginning to come out now.

Display

ZTE ZMAX Pro Review 5

Dominating its façade is a 6-inch 1080p TFT LCD display with Gorilla Glass 3, which is again something you wouldn’t think of getting with a sub-$100 smartphone. Better yet, the fact that they’ve opted to go with 1080p resolution shows that they want to make a statement – implicitly saying that phones of this caliber deserve more. And to that, it’s nice to know that it’s sufficiently detailed enough to make out.

ZTE ZMAX Pro sRGB chart

In looking at the other aspects of the display, however, it indicates that it has an extremely colder color temperature than most at roughly 8000K. It’s far from that ideal reference value of 6500K, which makes whites appear bluish in tone. Moving onto color accuracy with this TFT LCD display, it’s a miss on nearly all fronts – including the color teal, which is probably the easiest color to reproduce accurately. All of the values in the sRGB color gamut chart miss their intended target reference marks, where magenta and teal in particular are heavily influenced by blue.

Even though it reaches a peak brightness output of 460 nits, the overall tone of the display seems washed out. Sure, we dig the specs for a phone of this caliber, but our testing reveals that its characteristic aren’t quite up to the levels you’d find in some pricier things. Then again, should we be surprised by this revelation?

Performance & Hardware

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Given its price point, the Snapdragon 617 chip makes perfect sense in powering this affordable smartphone. Paired with 2GB of RAM, it suffices for the basic stuff, but it’s not suited to do more intensive operations – gaming in particular, where it exhibits too much choppiness for it to be a candidate. Okay, it’s not the gaming type, nor is it for power users who demand a lot more, but on a base level, its hardware combination is enough to get by.

For $99.00, we’re actually pretty stoked to know it’s packing 32GB of internal storage. Best of all, too, you can supplement its capacity because there’s a microSD slot on hand. It’s a feature that people probably wouldn’t expect to find in a phone with its price, but it’s a delightful that they opted to offer it.

ZTE ZMAX Pro Review 8

Something that adds a lot more value to the phone is the fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone, it’s an unexpected treat quite honestly. Given that it’s a feature that’s relatively uncommon in entry-level phones, you can say that we feel a teeny bit spoiled to find it. As for the sensor itself, it’s slightly recessed, but works well in adding that extra layer of security. In addition to simply just unlocking the phone, it can also be used to quick open an app, take a photo, or answer a phone call.

Increasingly becoming a standard for ZTE’s phones, the ZMAX Pro features capacitive buttons beneath the display. Unfortunately, the two dots flanking the home button can’t be programmed for anything else besides acting as the back and recent apps functions. In the rear and towards the left corner, we can make out the speaker grill, which emits a decent volume output, but doesn’t pack a whole lot of substance with its quality.

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Conducting phones calls is a breeze with this one, thanks in part to the loud volume out of its earpiece and speakerphone – it’s potent enough to use in noisy conditions. Accompanying the strong volumes, we have clear and distinctive voices as well that solidifies its performance in this area. On the other end of the line, too, our callers didn’t have any problems discerning our voice.

Battery

ZTE ZMAX Pro Review 1

The single most underrated portion about the ZMAX Pro in our opinion is its battery, a modest 3500 mAh cell to be exact. Considering the phone’s gigantic size, you might think it could’ve been larger, but don’t be fooled because when it’s paired with the screen’s 1080p resolution and Snapdragon 617 processor, it delivers longevity like no other. In fact, we’re able to get through a solid 2 days of battery life – and even into the start of a third day.

Using the included USB Type-C charger, it takes approximately 125 minutes to fully recharge its battery. That mark might not be close to some of the fastest recharging phones out there, but it’s not the slowest either at doing it.

Camera

ZTE ZMAX Pro Review 6

In all fairness, the area where we see the biggest disparity in terms of quality against higher-priced alternatives is the performance in its cameras. For the ZTE ZMAX Pro, it relies on a combination consisting of a 13MP rear camera and a 5MP front-facing one. There’s nothing fanciful about them, nor the accompanying hardware – they’re just as ordinary as any other low priced phone. Running the camera app, there’s a decent mixture of modes and options at our disposal, like its manual mode, which people will probably appreciate having in a phone like this.

Regrettably, the phone’s biggest weakness is exposed here with the cameras – there’s just nothing spectacular about their performances. It’s okay enough to use for outdoor shots when lighting is ample, but there’s a noticeable level of over-sharpening, which seems to try and compensate for the rear camera’s softer details capture. Under low light, however, things take a dip even more as details become more speckled in tone. And finally, the HDR mode seems to just boost the contrast with shadows, making images appear a bit overblown.

ZTE ZMax Pro Camera Samples:

Moving onto video capture, which tops out at 1080p resolution, the results don’t improve much at all, as the general performance is similar to its still shot capture. Over-sharpening again is evident here, but this time, videos tend to have an under-exposed tone to them. And don’t bother using it under low light, just because noise and its muddy results don’t make it flattering to watch.

Software

ZTE ZMAX Pro Review 17

Purists will love that the ZTE ZMAX Pro is mostly running a stock experience. In particular, it’s running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, which has the general look and feel of stock Android. Anyone getting into Android will have an easy time getting acquainted, since it’s pretty streamlined and straightforward. Yes, there’s some bloatware from MetroPCS, but given that it’s at the mercy of the company, it’s something you’d expect.

Power users, though, will probably feel that the experience isn’t up to snuff with their demands. Multi-tasking is generally reserved to just apps switching with the recent apps menu, but you won’t find any other enhanced features that would aid in its productivity. The biggest question with the phone, much like most budget stuff, is whether or not it’ll get upgraded to the next version of Android in a timely manner.

Gallery

Final Thoughts

ZTE ZMAX Pro Review 16

Owning a cheap phone no longer means you’re getting a cheap phone, that’s just not the case anymore after checking out the ZTE ZMAX Pro. The $99.00 price tag it’s stickered with is without a doubt an aggressive move on its part, especially more given its phablet-esque stature and the inclusion of a fingerprint sensor. These are two things in particular that you wouldn’t expect to find in a phone in its price range, but that’s the beauty about it – you do get them!

Pricing is quite favorable here, but there are some other factors that’ll dictate your decision to buy it. First of all, this is strictly a MetroPCS exclusive, so you’ll have to settle with that reality if you intend to reap the benefits of its incredible pricing. This is arguably a factor that’ll limit its overall reach, as being confined to one carrier means it won’t get as much face time face time from consumers. And secondly, there are still some sub-par qualities with it – such as the inaccuracies with the display and over-sharpening effect with its cameras.

Related ZTE articles:

  • Getting to know the ZTE Axon 7
  • ZTE Axon 7 review
  • ZTE ZMAX Pro hands on | What is a $100 smartphone like?

Then again, these compromises can be overlooked due to its price point, which again is the focal point here with the ZTE ZMAX Pro. At the end of the day, it’s a worthy recommendation if you’re on a tight budget.

Buy the ZTE ZMax Pro now

4
Aug

Engadget giveaway: Win an Axon 7 smartphone courtesy of ZTE!


It’s getting easier to find high-quality phones at affordable prices these days and this week’s giveaway offers one of the latest in that category. ZTE’s Axon 7 smartphone just launched this month and offers a series of premium features just $400. Inside the aluminum unibody shell, there’s a 2.15GHz quad-core Snapdragon 820 processor running Android 6.01 Marshmallow, plus 4G of RAM and 64GB of storage. On the front you get a 5.5-inch, 2K resolution screen protected by a sheet of Gorilla Glass 4.0, and for selfies you get eight megapixels worth of duckface smiles to share with friends. There’s a rear-facing 20-megapixel camera, as well, for serious captures. Oh, and it has Dolby Atmos software on board and front-facing speakers for some serious sound. Sound good? Luckily, ZTE has provided one of these handsets in gold for a lucky reader this week. All you need to do is head to the Rafflecopter widget below for up to three chances at winning a ZTE Axon 7!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • Entries are handled through the Rafflecopter widget above. Comments are no longer accepted as valid methods of entry. You may enter without any obligation to social media accounts, though we may offer them as opportunities for extra entries. Your email address is required so we can get in touch with you if you win, but it will not be given to third parties.
  • Contest is open to all residents of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Canada (excluding Quebec), 18 or older! Sorry, we don’t make this rule (we hate excluding anyone), so direct your anger at our lawyers and contest laws if you have to be mad.
  • Winners will be chosen randomly. One (1) winner will receive one (1) ZTE Axon 7 smartphone ($400 value).
  • If you are chosen, you will be notified by email. Winners must respond within three days of being contacted. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen. Make sure that the account you use to enter the contest includes your real name and a contact email. We do not track any of this information for marketing or third-party purposes.
  • This unit is purely for promotional giveaway. Engadget and AOL are not held liable to honor warranties, exchanges or customer service.
  • The full list of rules, in all its legalese glory, can be found here.
  • Entries can be submitted until July 27th at 11:59PM ET. Good luck!
3
Aug

Tell ZTE what to build next


Looks like ZTE is getting around to keeping its promises. After teasing us at CES with plans to develop a crowdsourced mobile device, the Chinese electronics maker today opened up its Z-Community forum for feedback and ideas. Called Project CSX for now, the resulting product is slated for a 2017 release. In addition to getting bragging rights for your brilliant suggestions, you’ll also be rewarded with small cash prizes if you send a winning idea or popular submission.

To submit an idea, you’ll first have to register for an account on Z-Community. Your suggestion has to be for a mobile product, use technology that’s realistically possible by 2017 and “the final product must be affordable for the general population,” according to the company. Sadly, this probably means my super-feasible idea for a snack-and-cash-dispensing phone that’s also a teleporter won’t qualify.

Submissions must also be unique, and ZTE said there will be methods to check if your idea has already been turned in.

There are plenty of incentives to take part in this process. Other than contributing to a device that lives up to your (very realistic) dreams, registered participants can get early access to the eventual product. ZTE is also offering up a chance to win a trip to CES in Las Vegas.

Jeff Yee, senior vice president of technology planning and partnerships, said that the company “will see this project through.” Although the initial investment amount for Project CSX was confidential, he said the development of new mobile devices can range between half a million to $5 million or more.

ZTE will own the intellectual property of the final device, which is yet unnamed. The company will also solicit input on a name later on in the process.

While ZTE may be the first phone maker to call for ideas around a product, it’s not the first company to turn to the public for suggestions. Mozilla opened up its logo design process in June to get input on its next look. And although it never actually happened, TCL also announced plans at CES 2015 to crowdsource ideas for a new Palm device.

However, ZTE does appear to be letting its fans get more involved with the entire production process than Mozilla is, and is clearly more committed to developing an actual product than TCL was. In the meantime, those of you with genius ideas for the next big mobile device should probably get cracking on your submissions before someone beats you to it.

31
Jul

The Axon 7 finally fulfills ZTE’s ‘affordable premium’ promise


Over the years, smartphones have either been high end and expensive, or dirt cheap and shoddy. But, two years ago, the industry shifted and midrange phones that had great specs for lower prices started to fill the gap. ZTE has long been a proponent of what it calls the “affordable premium” device, and has thrown out middling handset after middling handset that met only the “affordable” part of that promise.

Last year, the Chinese company debuted its Axon line, which was stuffed full of features to fulfill the premium promise. But the Axon Pro fell short, with an oddly hollow metal body, glitchy software and short battery life. It was also more expensive than last year’s OnePlus. This year’s Axon 7, however, is shaping up to be a far better contender, with the same $399 price as the OnePlus 3 and offering a higher-res screen, sharper camera and more premium design.

The Axon 7’s design is the result of a team up between ZTE and BMW DesignWorks, and it’s a definite improvement over its predecessor. My gold review unit has a smooth matte finish on its metal body that helps it reject fingerprints and is accented by eye-catching glossy chrome edges that are also around the camera and recessed fingerprint sensor. It looks and feels gorgeous in an elegant way that upstages the OnePlus 3.

Just like its predecessor, the Axon 7 has a row of dot cutouts on the top and bottom of its front face, but unlike the Pro, these grilles actually hide speakers. (The old Axon’s grilles misled a lot of people into thinking it had dual speakers, but it only had one.) Below the display are capacitive keys for Back, Home and All Apps. There’s also a dual SIM card slot on the left edge — a welcome feature for frequent travelers.

ZTE says the Axon 7 will eventually be ready for Google’s “Daydream” mobile VR platform, and its display certainly seems prepared for the task. The 5.5-inch Quad HD AMOLED screen was a great canvas for my Netflix binging and Instagram sprees, but it was unfortunately dim in sunlight. Although it doesn’t fix the lack of brightness, the Axon offers built-in software that lets you customize the display’s color output. The tool lets you pick from three saturation profiles — “Natural,” “Colorful” and “Gorgeous” — as well as “Warm,” “Normal” and “Cool” color temperatures. I set the screen to “Gorgeous” and “Normal,” which delivered higher contrast levels and deeper hues.

Complementing the screen is a HiFi audio setup. Not many smartphone makers pay attention to quality sound, but ZTE is so proud of its system that it devoted six pages out of a 33-page reviewer’s guide to it. The only other component that got as much love was the camera. For the most part, the coverage was justified.

The Axon’s dual front-facing stereo speakers pumped out distinct, clear sound that drowned out my laptop’s speakers while both devices were set to their maximum volumes. The phone’s speakers were so clear, in fact, that I could easily hear the crinkling of wrapping paper in the background of a scene over dialogue and overlapping music. The Axon was also loud enough to hear from another room. Dolby Atmos enhancements created a surround sound that is more immersive than I’ve experienced on other devices. One of the few other phones to place such a heavy emphasis on audio is the HTC 10, which lets you tailor music output to your hearing.

Continuing its quest to outdo the competition, ZTE also stuffed a 20-megapixel rear camera into the Axon 7. That sensor is sharper than what you’ll find on the iPhone 6s, Nexus 6P and Galaxy S7. The Axon 7’s camera has phase detection autofocus (PDAF), with optical and digital image stabilization that, when combined with the high megapixel count, should theoretically result in crisp pictures. However, real-world image quality was hit or miss. My shot of mosaic art at the 8th Street NYU subway station was clear enough to show individual tiles on the wall, but landscapes with buildings in them sometimes looked blurry.

The camera struggled in low light, too. Upper East Side buildings looked like grainy, dark brown, blobs in a nightscape, and the whole scene was covered with artifacts. Other phones, such as the similarly priced Alcatel Idol 4S, fared better in the same situation.

Up front, the Axon 7’s 8-megapixel front camera takes decent portraits that have accurate colors and are sharp enough to see details such as my individual eyelashes. Thankfully, the “Beautify” mode erases imperfections on your face without going overboard and making you look like a painted-over caricature. Unlike most of this year’s smartphones, though, the Axon doesn’t offer a front flash feature for low-light selfies.

Armed with the same Snapdragon 820 chip as this year’s Android flagships, the Axon 7 was impressively responsive. I relished taking down an enemy Pokémon Go gym as well as catching an oddly evasive Pidgey without any annoying lag — in both cases with a host of apps running in the background.

Even when I used AZ Screen Recorder to capture my exploits while switching between the game and a Netflix video, the Axon kept pace without missing a beat. The only app in which I encountered delay was Pokémon Go, but that appeared to be a server issue rather than the device’s performance.

You’ll be able to enjoy day-long Pokémon Go expeditions without fear of running out of juice, too. The Axon 7’s 3,250mAh battery typically lasted about a day and a half of light use, and I was surprised by the hours of “White Collar” I was able to stream (an impressive 6.5) before the low-battery alert popped up. When powered up with the included charger, the Axon 7 can get back up to 50 percent life in just 30 minutes, the company said.

Although it runs a pretty clean version of Android 6.0.1, the Axon 7 comes with some ZTE-made software changes that I was surprised to find helpful. Most interesting of these is the Power Manager that not only lets you monitor your battery consumption but also gives you the option of setting “power-saving policies” for individual apps such as disallowing autostart, scheduled background wake-up and allowing deep sleep.

A cool Mi-Pop tool adds a floating shortcut to the screen that you can place within reach of your thumb so you can access essential navigation buttons such as Back, Home and All Apps without stretching across the phone. This is a handy tool because trying to reach across the Axon’s face can cause you to drop the phone.

There’s also an intriguing “Voiceprint” function that’s supposed to let you unlock your phone with your voice, but after I excitedly went through the setup process and said my keyphrase three times for the Axon to store it, the method never worked. No matter how many times I said, “Hello there” to the phone, whether its screen was on or off and regardless of the angle at which I held it (ZTE recommends 45 degrees away from your face), I couldn’t get into my phone.

A small thing that infuriated me: Taking a screenshot doesn’t automatically save it to your phone. You’ll have to tap a checkmark below a preview of your snapshot to keep the file. What a waste of time.

Though software glitches like this exist, they’re thankfully rare, and overall the Axon 7 feels like a dependable, well-made handset. If you want a cleaner OS and can live with a less-sharp screen, the OnePlus 3 is a better bet at the same price. But those who prefer a great multimedia experience and a distinct aesthetic will find a more suitable companion in the Axon 7.

26
Jul

ZTE Axon 7 review


It was merely a year ago when we found out that ZTE was behind the mysterious “Axon Phone,” a promising offering which aimed to keep the consumer in mind. With its Axon sub-brand, ZTE hoped to capture more of the U.S. market by striking a balance between affordability and premiumness.

Interested in ZTE?

  • ZTE Axon 7 hands on
  • ZTE VR announced
  • ZTE ZMAX Pro hands on
  • ZTE Grand X Max 2 review

After testing the original ZTE Axon extensively, we granted it our 2015 Editors’ Choice award for its incredible value. Although the original Axon wasn’t perfect by any stretch, it did incorporate unique features like a two-year premium warranty while still making only a few compromises.

On the surface, the succeeding Axon 7 appears to be a major step forward once again, considering the many improvements ZTE has made. It is evident that the ZTE Axon 7 is more than just a minor refinement to the ZTE Axon, but in an increasingly-competitive “flagship killer” market, has ZTE really done enough to make the Axon 7 worthy of your consideration? Let’s explore that question and more with our comprehensive ZTE Axon 7 review!

Buy the Axon 7 now!

Design

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The Axon 7’s design could be viewed as a normalization of that of the first Axon, as ZTE has both literally and metaphorically smoothed the edges. Although the updated design is less likely to raise eyebrows, it certainly has character. Unlike many metal smartphones, the Axon 7 does not incorporate plastic caps in its design and instead embraces an aluminum unibody free of any edges.

Although the updated design is less likely to raise eyebrows, it certainly has character

The curved back, although similarly done before, is elegant and feels excellent in the hand. The build quality is great, and it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to get the Axon 7 to bend, even if you try. The power and volume buttons, which are now both on the right side of the device, as well as the recessed fingerprint reader are very ergonomic. The latter may seem senseless, but it is actually very nice when trying to differentiate it from the camera module.

ZTE Axon 7 Final-41

Some of our keen-eyed readers have likely already noticed and may have even already objected to the Axon 7’s camera hump. Thankfully, it’s not thick enough to cause the phone to wobble when typing on a table, except when typing with excessive force.

ZTE has implemented antenna lines in a such a way to compliment the design rather than blemishing it. The chamfer found where the aluminum meets with the front of the device is also quite nice and feels natural, next to the very slightly curved display.

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The “Designed in the USA” tag located on the rear of the Axon 7 may prompt some questions, considering that ZTE is, after all, a Chinese smartphone manufacturer. However, ZTE tells us that they collaborated with Designworks, a US-based BMW Group subsidiary, when designing the Axon 7. This can definitely be seen in the Axon 7’s design, most noticeably with the phone’s curved shape.

I wish the phone wasn’t so slippery in the hand

Although I really like the Axon 7’s design overall, I do wish that the phone wasn’t so slippery in the hand. The Axon 7’s size, smooth metal, and curved side edges combined certainly do not help make the device easier to grip. Although I eventually became accustomed to the Axon 7’s slippery profile, its height is still somewhat problematic. Reaching for the top to access the notification panel can be very interesting at times, given that any adjustment in the hand must be done very carefully due to the phone’s lack of grip.

ZTE Axon 7 Final-3

The three non-illuminated capacitive keys on the U.S. Axon 7 do the job, but could be spaced out a bit more. I am nearly sure that the current implementation was designed to cater to aesthetics, but it can be difficult, especially at first or in a dark environment, to locate the side keys, as they are curiously closer to the center than to the edges of the display.

For what it’s worth, however, I really enjoyed the ability to change the key layout. The indeterminate iconography may be a bit jarring for first-time users, but oftentimes becomes irrelevant after a day or so of use.

Display

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ZTE has definitely exceeded my expectations with the Axon 7’s display. Whereas many similarly priced options compromise on either resolution or panel quality, the Axon 7 offers one of the very best displays I have seen on a smartphone. It’s a Quad HD 5.5″ AMOLED display with a pixel density of 538 PPI, which translates to excellent sharpness, punchy and saturated colors, deep blacks, great color reproduction, and excellent contrast and viewing angles. It’s most definitely worthy of competing with the highest-end of displays, like those found on phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S7.

The edges of the display glass taper down to meet with the chamfered aluminum

Sunlight readability is also good, and the display also seems to get dim enough in darker environments. The larger screen size is great for any type of content, without being too big to hold comfortably in many cases. The Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection is also great to see, so users should not have to worry about scratching the display. The edges of the display glass taper down to meet with the chamfered aluminum, which gives the Axon 7 a consistent premium feel when swiping near the edges.

Performance

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Under the hood, the Axon 7 is powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, with two of the cores running at 2.15GHz and the other two running at 1.6GHz. The Snapdragon 820 has been used in every major flagship smartphone this year, and for good reason, as it is an absolute beast of a processor, offering up some of the best performance to date. It’s a notable step forward from last year’s Snapdragon 810, which was plagued by overheating rumors.

The overall experience is remarkably smooth

In addition to a Snapdragon 820, however, the Axon 7 includes 4 GB of RAM, which is enough for even the heaviest of multitasking. Day-to-day performance was absolutely wonderful and the overall experience is remarkably smooth. The Adreno 530 GPU is also more than enough for mobile gaming.

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Although benchmark scores aren’t everything, it is clear that ZTE’s software optimization and selective component choices have paid off. The ludicrous 140,393 score in Antutu is undoubtedly incredible as it reflects actual performance quite well.

Hardware

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Last year, we were slightly disappointed that the Axon was only available with 32 GB of non-expandable storage. With the Axon 7, however, ZTE has included not only double the amount of storage (now 64 GB), but has also included a microSD card expansion slot, which accepts up to 256 GB.

Please do keep in mind, however, that you will need to give up one of the SIM card slots if you’d like to take advantage of microSD card expansion. Regardless, this is an invaluable inclusion for those needing lots of space, and may just give the Axon 7 a slight edge over much of the competition.

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The ZTE Axon 7 is an unlocked dual-SIM device which works with all major carriers in the United States, so regardless of whether you’re on T-Mobile’s Band 12 or Verizon, you’ll be receiving full coverage. Since the Axon 7 isn’t officially supported by Verizon or Sprint, however, you will need to contact ZTE if any issues arise.

Even when plugging in a pair of $8 earbuds, the difference in audio quality is noticeable

Although ZTE did implement high-quality audio with the first-generation Axon, the Axon 7 takes it to the next level. With dual independent Hi-Fi audio chips, the AKM AK4961 and AKM AK4490, both recording and listening to audio on the Axon 7 is an excellent experience. Even when plugging in a pair of $8 earbuds, the difference in audio quality is noticeable, especially when streaming at higher bitrates. The audio sounds fuller and the volume isn’t as limited as it is on other devices.

If you’re interested in how the Hi-Fi audio recording sounds, you should have a listen of our video review found above, as the voice over was recorded using the Axon 7 and a Rode smartLav+ microphone. For informal recordings, ZTE states that the dual noise cancelling internal microphones are able to clearly capture voices up to eight meters away from the phone, which is quite impressive.

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The listening experience with the Axon 7 is extraordinary

Unlike its predecessor, the ZTE Axon 7 features dual-front facing stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos surround sound technology. The listening experience with the Axon 7 is extraordinary; the sound is impressively clear, loud, and full. There’s very little distortion, even at full volume, and the audio is surprisingly immersive. The quality is nearly unmatched, and gives the speaker found on the HTC 10 a run for its money. Whether you choose to listen to music, play a mobile game, or watch a movie, the Axon 7’s speakers will impress you.

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The fingerprint reader on the back of the Axon 7 is both fast and accurate, easily beating out comparable devices like the Huawei Nexus 6P. The reversible USB Type-C port is also great to see, and Quick Charge 3.0 (QC3.0) delivers on its promise of providing a 50% charge in just a half hour. Unlike some manufacturers, ZTE has included a QC3.0 complaint charger in the box, so you won’t have to worry about buying one yourself.

nexus 6p first 48 (7 of 36)Need an extra charger? Best USB Type-C Cables14

Battery Life

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The Axon 7’s 3250mAh non-removable battery may seem somewhat small after factoring in the powerful processor and high resolution display, but it actually holds up quite well. Battery life with the Axon 7 is excellent; I was consistently able to achieve upwards of five hours of screen on time with a full day of heavy use. With moderate usage, six hours of screen on time was achievable.

I was consistently able to achieve upwards of five hours of screen on time with a full day of heavy use

Overall, battery life is very comparable to that of the Galaxy S7, which is excellent considering the phone’s price. It does lack wireless charging, unfortunately, but that’s because of the Axon’s metal body. Thankfully for ZTE, many users prefer the much faster QC 3.0 wired charging anyway.

Camera

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ZTE has included a 20 MP f/1.8 rear camera with optical image stabilization and phase detection autofocus. In good lighting conditions, the camera does quite well. Images come out sharp and detailed with good contrast and accurate color reproduction. It doesn’t always set exposure correctly, however, and some images can look a bit washed out. Otherwise, the camera is a great performer in good lighting. The 8 MP front-facing camera also performed very well.

ZTE Axon 7 camera samples:

With its fast f/1.8 aperture and OIS, it seems that the Axon 7 would offer great low-light performance. Unfortunately, this is simply not the case; images taken in darker conditions were soft with muted colors. This seems to be more of a software issue as there is an excessive amount of noise reduction taking place in most images. The good news is that this may be able to be at least partially corrected with a software update as the hardware doesn’t seem to be the issue.

The camera performance is where the Axon 7 feels most compromised

It’s difficult to deny that the camera performance is where the Axon 7 feels most compromised. The camera is great, but it’s simply not as excellent as those found on the Galaxy S7 or even Xiaomi Mi 5.

With that said, ZTE’s camera app is very nice and easy to use. The automatic mode will automatically turn on HDR and night mode for you and the manual mode is very comprehensive. There’s also a bunch of filters and additional modes like Panorama and Timelapse. The simple “capture” and “cheese” voice commands to take a picture worked surprisingly well, and using the fingerprint reader on the back as a shutter button is ingenious.

Software

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Although the Axon 7 runs ZTE’s MiFavor UI 4.0 over Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, a “stock Android” theme is available and selected by default. When using the stock Android theme, the launcher is like the Google Now Launcher with a transparent app drawer and a few bonus features like the ability to change the home screen transitions. The multitasking menu is pretty much the same as well, but with a very handy “clear all” button.

ZTE’s software feels like stock Android with a very slight tasteful twist

Overall, ZTE’s software feels like stock Android with a very slight tasteful twist. I found myself really enjoying the full screen notification panel and editable quick toggles, and the “frequently used” settings page seems like a nice touch.

Many of the other changes made are either too subtle to mention or purely functional. The latter changes include, for example, a lock screen wallpaper which changes each time you unlock the device. We haven’t seen that feature here in the U.S. yet, but it works quite well and is a nice differentiation. There are also gestures like double tap to wake and shake for the flashlight which are always nice to have, and the power saving modes are comfortably advanced.

You can simply hold the phone up to your ear and the phone will ask who do you want to call?

My favorite addition, however, is the “My Voice” app, which allows you to use genuinely useful voice commands throughout the interface. For example, as long as the screen is on, you can simply hold the phone up to your ear and the phone will ask “who do you want to call?” You can say the phone number or a contact name and the dialer app will place the call. It’s a really cool and unique feature that I wish Google themselves would take note of.

While this is the best software we’ve seen from ZTE to date, there are still areas that could use some additional polish. For example, some translations are grammatically incorrect, the dialer app doesn’t work with third party services like Google Voice, and functional changes like My Voice could be better integrated within Android. With that said, the minor changes needed are just that: minor.

Gallery

Price

The ZTE Axon 7 is available in the United States for $399.99 from Amazon, Best Buy, B&H Photo, Newegg, and directly from ZTE. That’s a surprisingly low price for what the Axon 7 is, considering that it is unlocked and compatible with every major 4G LTE network within the United States.

There are two color options available: ion gold and quartz gray. The Ion Gold model ships on July 27th and the Quartz Gray model ships on August 17th. Both models are now available for pre-order.

Unlike virtually every other smartphone out there, the Axon 7 includes a two-year warranty. ZTE’s Axon Passport 2.0 program provides everything from upgrade, replacement, and setup assistance to unlimited out-of-warranty repairs for a deductible. Each repair, whether in or out of warranty, will include a free advanced exchange and free two-way shipping. There’s also a 30-day risk free trial period, during which you can return the phone to ZTE for a full refund if you’re unhappy with it.

Conclusion

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ZTE’s Axon 7 blows past the competition by providing amazing hardware, great audio fidelity, an exceptional display at a price point that should worry the competition.

It is clear that ZTE has put a massive amount of time and effort into the Axon 7, making it one of the best smartphones we’ve encountered. It’s surprisingly similar to popular offerings like the Galaxy S7 and HTC 10, while costing much less. It’s one of the very few smartphones that feels largely uncompromised, even next to the very best. If you’re looking for a flagship smartphone and don’t need the absolute best of cameras, we cannot recommend the ZTE Axon 7 enough. Simply put… ZTE’s Axon 7 blows past the competition by providing amazing hardware, great audio fidelity, an exceptional display at a price point that should worry the competition.

Interested in ZTE?

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So, what do you think of the ZTE Axon 7? It will certainly be interesting to see how ZTE’s strategy plays out. Are you considering purchasing the Axon 7? Do you already have one on pre-order or does another device take your fancy, and if so, which one? Please do let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Buy the Axon 7 now!

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