Chinese phone maker ZTE officially announced the Axon M earlier today, revealing a highly unusual device designed to stand out from the competition with its unconventional aesthetic but also utilize its full potential and provide users with some functionalities that regular smartphones and even tablets are unable to replicate. While the handset doesn’t feature the best hardware to date, the Shenzhen-based original equipment manufacturer isn’t highlighting its basic internal specs as some of its selling points. Instead, the ZTE Axon M is targeted at a surprisingly large demographic given its aggressively unique design and seeks to prove it’s more than just a gimmick in a variety of ways.
The standout feature of the newly announced smartphone is its overall look encompassing two 5.2-inch LCD screens connected with a hinge in a setup that allows the user to fold out the ZTE Axon M by 180 degrees and come as close to connecting the two panels as the hinge itself allows them to. While this functionality could be considered a gimmick by itself, ZTE did its best to make it more than just a curiosity with the goal of allowing the Axon M to transcend the scope of a one-trick pony and convince consumers that two screens on a hinge are something that they actually need or could at least benefit from under the right circumstances. That’s where the smartphone’s various display modes come into play; the ZTE Axon M supports four of them, with three being rather unconventional and largely unique to this Android device.
The most straightforward display mode of the ZTE Axon M is the Extended one whose relatively self-explanatory name denotes a state in which the two screens of the handset attempt to blend into one and jointly display the same content. This feature can be seen in the image below and was designed to both enhance productivity in certain apps by providing users with more screen real estate to work with and ennoble regular media viewing experiences, according to ZTE. The latter claim has yet to be verified to work in real-world scenarios seeing how the hinge of the Axon M is large enough to visibly break up the two screens and may prove to be too big of a distraction to deliver a truly immersive experience despite what the manufacturer says. Still, ZTE’s partner AT&T remains adamant that the Axon M is the ideal portable device to pair with its DIRECTV NOW streaming service and even if it isn’t, being able to turn a 5.2-inch screen into a 6.75-inch one with a bit of space down the middle should still prove to be useful while reading and writing using the phone’s Extended mode.
The second viewing mode of the Axon M carries another self-explanatory name — Dual — and turns the device into a multitasking tool while its two screens are folded out. With the Axon M running Android 7.1.2 Nougat out of the box, it won’t have access to the Picture in Picture mode of Android 8.0 Oreo at launch but will at least be able to provide you with a true multitasking experience by having each one of its screens run its own app simultaneously. Furthermore, nothing appears to be stopping users from activating Nougat’s natively supported Multi-Window feature to use three or more apps in a manner that’s much more convenient than what smaller smartphones allow if the Dual mode proves to be too limiting in some scenarios.
The final mode supported by ZTE’s latest offering is the Mirror one, providing you with the ability to have the two screens of the handset display the same image regardless of whether they’re next to each other or if the smartphone is folded. The Chinese company suggested that this particular functionality should prove to be particularly useful for certain types of apps like games with multiplayer capabilities, allowing players to enjoy local multiplayer in an entirely new way. The possibility of such scenarios will likely depend on support that third-party mobile game developers decide to provide to the ZTE Axon M, though some simple reaction games should already be playable using this mode without any compatibility updates.
You can still use the device as a regular smartphone and have its back screen turned off when you don’t need it, which ZTE calls the Traditional mode. The foldable nature of the ZTE Axon M also allowed the OEM to focus on just a single camera, consequently providing users with a 20-megapixel (f/1.8) module which can be used both for video calls and selfies, as well as more traditional imagery like landscapes and portraits, depending on how you rotate the device. Finally, while the ZTE Axon M’s battery isn’t removable, it supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0, being able to go from zero to 100 percent in just over two hours, according to the OEM.