ZTE on Tuesday announced its latest experimental device in the form of the ZTE Axon M, a dual-screen Android smartphone meant to provide consumers with a highly unique choice in the higher-end market segment. The Axon M falls somewhere between a device in the upper mid-range and premium category as it ships with components that were deemed premium in 2016 but have now largely been replaced with more capable hardware. The unconventional handset is equipped with two 5.2-inch TFT LCD panels with 2.5D glass which are connected via a 180-degree hinge and can fold out to form a 6.75-inch screen, essentially entering tablet territory. The ZTE Axon M is powered by the Snapdragon 821, Qualcomm's 2016 SoC which was found in a number of critically acclaimed devices like the Google Pixel, Pixel XL, and the LG G6. The quad-core chip is clocked at a maximum operating frequency of 2.15GHz and ships with the Adreno 530 GPU running at approximately 653MHz.
The Chinese original equipment manufacturer also opted to equip the ZTE Axon M with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal flash (eMMC 5.1) memory expandable via a microSD card slot by up to 256GB. The company's new offering boasts support for Bluetooth 4.2 and features a USB Type-C 2.0 slot, as well as a 3.5mm audio jack and VoLTE compatibility. The ZTE Axon M is 150.8 x 71.6 x 12.1mm in size and weighs 230g, thus being relatively bulky for a smartphone as even most contemporary phablets rarely pass the 200g mark, with its added weight apparently being a direct result of the phone having two full-fledged screens. The device itself is made of aluminum and glass and should be relatively resilient to everyday wear and tear, though it remains to be seen how well its hinge will hold up over time.
The battery found within the handset is of the 3,180mAh variety and isn't removable, though it supports Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3.0 technology which allows it to reach a full charge in just over two hours, ZTE claims. The OEM's new Android handset is rated as being capable of delivering 28.7 hours of talk time and 11.88 days of standby time on a single charge, with those numbers corresponding to those of other mobile devices that can usually get you through the day. The ZTE Axon M supports Nano SIM cards and runs Android 7.1.2 Nougat out of the box, seemingly enhanced with the company's proprietary mobile software. While an update to Android 8.0 Oreo seems like a given considering ZTE's software support practices, no specific time frame for its availability has yet been provided by the Chinese firm.
Due to its unconventional design, the ZTE Axon M comes with just a single camera that can act as both a front and rear-facing module depending on your needs. The setup entails a single 20-megapixel sensor situated behind a lens with an aperture of f/1.8 which is fairly bright and should produce relatively reliable results even in low-lighting conditions. Phase detection autofocus is also part of the package, as is a voice control motor (VCM) dedicated to improving the general autofocusing capabilities of the smartphone. Dual image stabilization and what ZTE refers to as the "Super Auto Mode" with Auto HDR are part of the experience, with the camera itself being capable of recording 4K videos at 30 frames per second and shooting slow-motion clips at up to 240fps in 720p. The camera setup is accompanied by a dual-LED (dual-tone) flash unit and robust software that comes pre-loaded with multiple modes for all types of scenarios including portraits, long exposures, and selfies. A traditional manual shooting mode has also been included for advanced users, ZTE confirmed.
Dual speakers and Dolby Atmos support are two selling points of the Axon M which the company hopes will appeal to audiophiles, with ZTE stating that its smartphone comes equipped with a dedicated audio chip for the purposes of HiFi reproduction and recording. The newly announced handset will be an AT&T exclusive in the United States, with the second largest wireless carrier in the country being set to offer it on a 30-month contract for $24.17 per month. The ZTE Axon M will start retailing within the next month and it remains to be seen whether the smartphone eventually makes its way to more countries, as well as if it manages to prove to be more commercially viable than the long-forgotten Kyocera Echo from 2011 which was based on some similar design principles.