ZTE is looking to evolve the Axon M concept into a truly foldable Android smartphone, the company's Marketing VP Jeff Yee told Engadget during the 2018 edition of the Consumer Electronics Show. Mr. Yee suggested the process of turning the dual-screen design of ZTE's Axon M into something more in line with what consumers expect when they think of a bendable phone will take a while longer and entail multiple device iterations. The executive didn't provide a specific roadmap for the firm's ambitions in the segment, with his comments only implying that another handset similar to the Axon M may be commercialized later this year, offering a more refined take on the original concept that connects two displays with a hinge and allows them to fold outward.
Initially announced in October before being released a month later, the Axon M received a lukewarm reception from both critics and consumers alike. While the Chinese company's willingness to attempt a redesign of the traditional candy bar aesthetic was generally seen as a positive thing, the end result of that effort was criticized for being less convenient to use than its more conventional alternatives while simultaneously not providing a lot of new functionalities that take advantage of its two screens. As the addition of a second display increased the manufacturing costs of the Axon M compared to traditional smartphones, the handset ended up shipping with a price tag of approximately $700 in the United States, thus being part of the flagship territory while lacking the majority of hardware specifications of premium smartphones released over the course of this year and generally being perceived as not offering enough value for money.
ZTE is also pursuing handset innovation in terms of connectivity, having recently announced plans to release a 5G-ready Android smartphone by early 2019 and possibly end up being the first original equipment manufacturer to do so, at least in the context of the U.S. market. A device that's much closer to the general expectations associated with the concept of a "foldable phone" is currently being developed by Samsung and should be commercialized early next year, according to recent reports.