Chinese electronics manufacturer ZTE is still in the process of recuperating from an extremely troubled year but is now ramping up its R&D efforts in the smartphone segment, ready to return to the market, still as experimentally inclined as ever.
A new set of renders said to be based on information sourced by insiders close to the company shows a device rumored to be released as the ZTE Axon S. The gadget in question features a sliding mechanism which has a smaller panel protruding from underneath the left side of its case. That module is equipped with five cameras in total; a triple-lens system on the back, and a front-facing setup with two sensors.
When contracted, the smartphone's screen-to-body ratio is nearly perfect, though the newly sighted depictions are likely slightly more idealistic than what the finished product ends up being, assuming the leak in question is credible.
Slider phones haven't been a thing for about a decade now, though some manufacturers started experimenting with a return to such designs over the course of the last twelve months. One prominent example comes from another Chinese company, Huawei's Honor, whose Magic 2 debuted just several months back with a unique front camera setup based on a similar solution, albeit its sliding panel emerged from the top side of its body instead of one of its sides.
The ZTE Axon S is also said to be capable of connecting to the fifth generation of mobile networks, possibly debuting as ZTE's first device with that feature. ZTE originally planned to release at least one consumer-grade 5G handset by now but the denial order imposed on the firm by the United States Department of Commerce delayed its efforts, having crippled its operations for about half a year and causing billions of dollars in losses, even without accounting for the opportunities the manufacturer potentially missed as a result of the ordeal.
That isn't to say ZTE didn't have it coming; the sanction in question was a result of what's largely seen as a consistent lack of respect for U.S. laws. The Commerce Department's response was hence so severe that it continues to threaten the firm's very existence. Without access to American technologies, including Qualcomm's chips and a license to contemporary Android builds with Google Play Services, ZTE found itself unable to produce smartphones in mid-2018, hence losing the majority of the rather significant entry-level market share it held in the U.S. thanks to its partnership with prepaid carriers.
Right now, it appears the company isn't trying to win that segment back but is instead investing in experimental technologies such as 5G, which is a bold bet seeing how its reputation took a massive hit during last year's ordeal, impacting its ability to score lucrative contracts with wireless carriers in the West. Coupled with the fact that the U.S. is presently lobbying against the use of both ZTE- and Huawei-made network equipment with its allies, the company isn't in great shape.
Yet another challenge for the Shenzen-based firm presented itself just several days back as its state-backed majority owner announced plans to divest up to three percent of all outstanding ZTE shares, hence ceding its controlling stake of the entity. The move sent its shares spiraling down yet again and the current state of affairs is hence far from ideal for ZTE to experiment with niche designs and functionalities such as 5G and slider smartphones, i.e. gadgets such as the Axon S. On the other hand, innovation may also be a way out of this troubled situation for ZTE as companies across the globe now have much safer options when it comes to conventional handsets and network infrastructure.