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ZTE Axon M first impressions: Foldable dual screen innovation for the masses

The ZTE Axon M is a crazy Android smartphone with dual foldable display. We went hands on with the device at MWC 2018, and here are our first impressions.

zte axon m lead

The MWC 2018 expo saw the launch of some cool smartphones and other products, such as the Asus Zenfone 5-series, the Samsung Galaxy S9-series, and the new Nokia smartphones among other. But there were some interesting devices too, one of which was the ZTE Axon M. It is the company’s flagship smartphone and comes with a foldable dual display. I got to spend some time with the smartphone and here are my first impressions.

Good hardware, but could have been better

Dual displays are the highlight of the smartphone, and the Axon M comes with two independent 5.2-inch screens running at full HD (1080p) resolution. At the heart of the smartphone runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 quad-core SoC, which is a bit disappointing as it is two-generations old, and you would naturally expect it to run on Snapdragon 835 or Snapdragon 845 SoC. But, given that fact that it is a concept phone turned into reality with completely different target audience, let’s not complain about it.

The chipset is paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage, with an expandable storage option available too. The smartphone comes with a 20-megapixel front camera with LED flash, and it also acts like a rear camera when the device is turned around. With USB Type-C port and 3,180mAh battery, the smartphone comes with connectivity options such as Bluetooth, 4G VoLTE, GPS and more.

Innovative foldable design

We have seen so many foldable screen concepts but turning them into reality is always difficult. Lenovo had shown off its foldable tablet cum smartphone a couple of years ago, but it is yet to go into mass production. ZTE has not only managed to build something interesting, but also it will be selling the smartphone.

The frame is made from metal and it feels solid and sturdy too. There is a hinge on the right side that holds both the 5.2-inch screens together, and it is pretty sturdy too. Although you need to be careful when opening it, as applying too much pressure might break the hinge. When folded, the phone does get thick, and you feel like holding a brick, but that’s a tradeoff, and there’s nothing one can do about it.

The left side houses a SIM card tray, volume rocker and the power / sleep button, which also doubles as a fingerprint scanner, and there are no buttons on the right side. The 3.5mm audio jack is placed on the top, whereas the USB Type-C port is placed at the bottom.

Dual modes and screen experience

There are four modes that come with the Axon M dual screen. A traditional mode with the second screen folded and only the main screen working. This is when it works like a normal smartphone as it should. Take a look at the photo below.

Second is dual A | B mode, where you get two independent screens. For instance, on one screen you could be surfing the internet, and on the other screen, chatting with you friend. To get an idea, look at the photo below. You could use it in a horizontal or portrait mode. I would prefer a horizontal mode as on the below screen I could type out whatever I want on Messenger, Docs or anything else, whereas there could be a video playing on the top screen, or anything else too.

Third is the mirror mode where you will have the same thing running on the second screen. For instance, you can put the smartphone in the tent mode, with the second screen folded at 45-degree angle and put it on a table. Both you and the person sitting on the other side will be able to watch the same video or website or whatever is playing on the screen, like in the photo below.

And the last is an extended mode where the screen turns into a single screen to give you a tablet like experience. This mode, in particular, will be useful for people who crave to have larger screen. But there are some limitations, especially with at the middle of the screen which looks disjoint due the hinge. Here, the black bar in between is clearly visible in the middle. Look at the below photo to get you an idea.

Initial impressions

ZTE isn’t the first manufacturer to release a dual screen smartphone, as others like Sony and Kyocera among others have done it in the past. The only difference in the previous devices and today’s ZTE Axon M is the fact that it comes with Android software and hardware that is more evolved than what it was few years ago.

The Axon M seemed pretty good and I did not face any issues while briefly using it. After dual cameras and 18:9 displays, a smartphone with dual screen display could very well be the next trend in the industry. But in my honest opinion, devices like these are good as collector’s edition or the ones that star in movies, but practical usage as a daily driver may not be that great.

Who knows, devices like these could turn out to be gimmicky, only for companies to show that they innovated. Don’t get me wrong here, but we have seen many such concepts in the past that turned into reality, but you don’t see every other person using such devices like the iPhones and the Galaxies or the likes of OnePlus and Xiaomi.

  • Published Date: March 2, 2018 3:30 PM IST