Two for the worth of 1. Two birds with one stone. Two heads are higher than one. It’s a reasonably easy idea: if having one among one thing is sweet, then having two of that factor is even higher.

At face worth, ZTE’s Axon M doesn’t appear to be a $725 smartphone. The design is chunky for a contemporary telephone, though the squarish aluminum chassis is comfortably weighty to carry. Turn on the gadget, and also you’re greeted by a 5.2-inch, 1080p panel with bezels that really feel large in comparison with extra trendy units just like the Essential Phone, Galaxy S8, and that iPhone X. The remainder of the specs are simply okay, with final yr’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor and 4GB of RAM. Even the software program is a yr previous: it runs Android Nougat, as an alternative of Oreo (though ZTE is promising an replace additional down the road).

But the Axon M has a trick up its sleeve, one thing that no different telephone is provided with. More precisely, this trick is hidden behind its again: a second display, that flips out to create a mini pill of types. So, let’s speak about these screens.

ZTE Axon M

Like the “main” display, the second Axon M display is the same 5.2-inch, 1080p show, which leads to a bigger 6.75-inch mixed display when unfolded. There are three totally different modes ZTE provides for profiting from the second show, which could be switched between by way of an additional “M” button that the corporate provides subsequent to Android’s traditional software program buttons for going again, house, and multitasking.

First up is the only mode, referred to as “dual mode.” As the identify might recommend, twin mode enables you to run two apps aspect by aspect, one on every display. It works in each portrait and panorama modes, and it’s in all probability probably the most helpful and most useful of the three modes. Being capable of run Google Maps aspect by aspect with an e mail so I might get instructions whereas wanting up what flooring I used to be alleged to go to was truly type of helpful, and even simply the power to message a good friend whereas not leaving the YouTube video I used to be watching all works nicely. In twin-display mode, every app will get its personal set of software program scorching keys, letting you shut out one and open up a brand new one with out disturbing the opposite. The Axon M additionally manages audio, so that you simply’ll solely hear the display you’re actively interacting with if each try to play. And whereas the specs aren’t the newest and biggest, the Axon M nonetheless holds up nicely, even for extra demanding duties like watching Netflix and enjoying a recreation on the similar time.

ZTE Axon M

Next is “extended mode,” which helps you to run a single app on each screens in a pill-like expertise. Out of the field, ZTE has labored to optimize a few of the extra in style apps within the Play Store, together with Facebook, Chrome, YouTube, and Twitter, but when your app hasn’t been optimized for the Axon M, you’ll have to drive it to manually run in full-display in settings via a common toggle. Generally, every part I attempted labored principally nicely, even apps that weren’t particularly optimized for the bigger display, however your mileage might differ relying on what app you’re utilizing.

More disappointing is that oftentimes I couldn’t actually discover a purpose to truly use prolonged mode. Video — which might appear to be one of the best use for the bigger display — tends to realize the least from the second show. It provides you a touch bigger image on the expense of huge black bars on the highest and backside, and a bezel divides the display within the center; four:three fullscreen formatted content material fares a lot better, however I can’t advocate shopping for a $725 smartphone to observe Cheers or Fraiser reruns on Netflix.

It’s additionally unusual how a lot ZTE pushes video on the Axon M, too. There’s even a devoted hardware button that may be mapped to immediately launch video apps like YouTube, Netflix, or DirecTV with a single press. (But it’s not likely one of the simplest ways to reap the benefits of the 2-display idea.)

ZTE Axon M

ZTE Axon M

Apps like Chrome, Facebook, and Twitter take higher benefit of the display actual property, however these run into the identical drawback that Android tablets have all the time had: they only don’t optimize that nicely for bigger pill-sized shows. The different bizarre quirk is that, because of how Android measures the display sizes, holding the gadget vertically (with the 2 screens aspect by aspect) will get you the “tablet” model of an app, albeit one which feels too brief; rotating the show produces a taller model of the usual smartphone model.

For now, it nonetheless looks like ZTE is simply giving probably the most primary choices for what you would do with two screens. There are occasional glimmers of potential, like operating YouTube in full-display on one show whereas with the ability to browse or discover a new video to observe subsequent undisturbed on the underside, nevertheless it nonetheless looks like there’s extra that might be finished. Why isn’t there an e-reader app, for instance, that lets me put two pages of a ebook on the 2 screens, like, say, an precise guide? Or a gaming perform that offloads the digital buttons on one display with a digital controller?

Lastly, there’s “mirror mode,” which merely mirrors content material onto each screens. ZTE envisions individuals utilizing this to fold the telephone right into a tent-like place and watch movies collectively. I can’t say this was a use case that ever got here up outdoors of simply testing to see if it really works, nevertheless it’s there if that’s one thing you need to do.

There are additionally software program gestures that, in principle, permit you to shortly swipe to modify between modes, sending an app from one display to a different or extending it throughout each shows with fast gestures, however sadly they’re fairly hit-or-miss to make use of in follow. I spent plenty of time swiping futilely on the backside of the show, earlier than giving up solely to only use the guide button.

ZTE Axon M

I spent a number of days utilizing the Axon M as my fundamental telephone, and even with fairly heavy use of the 2 screens, the three,180mAh battery didn’t have any issues making it to the top of the day with no less than a 15 % cost left. But whereas the screens don’t harm battery life that dramatically, there are undoubtedly elements of the ZTE Axon M that really feel like the worth you pay for having the second show.

For instance, there’s solely a single 20-megapixel digital camera on the Axon M. Hitting a button to modify between the front- and rear-dealing with digital camera on this telephone truly flips the complete display round to the opposite show. It’s a intelligent answer, nevertheless it’s awkward to make use of in follow, and would go away me in bizarre conditions the place I’d exit out of the digital camera app after taking an image with the “rear” sensor, solely to be confronted with a black display as a result of the telephone was now backwards. (The digital camera is mounted above the left, or main show.) This additionally signifies that apps that use the digital camera (like Snapchat) work extraordinarily poorly within the twin-display modes, since they will solely take awkwardly positioned selfies.

The placement of the hinge on the proper aspect of the Axon M signifies that all of the buttons are shifted to the left, together with the facility button, which flies within the face of years of ingrained logic from iPhones, Samsung Galaxy telephones, Google Pixels, and virtually each different main telephone. On multiple event, I picked up the telephone and thumbed the facility button solely to comprehend that I used to be holding it the wrong way up, and that the “main” display was on the opposite aspect.

A ultimate bizarre hardware quirk was that the 2 panels on our evaluation system appeared to be calibrated in another way: one displayed hotter colours, and one was barely cooler. It’s not a deal-breaker, nevertheless it was one thing noticeable, particularly when operating some apps prolonged throughout the 2 shows.

ZTE Axon M

The Axon M isn’t the primary try at a twin-display Android telephone. The advantage of time and extra highly effective hardware signifies that the Axon M can truly comply with via on a number of the guarantees, like operating a number of apps and full-display integration, that precursors just like the Kyocera Echo merely weren’t capable of do.

But if the Axon M is the primary twin-display telephone that may truly execute the thought of a two-screened gadget, utilizing it in follow has me doubting whether or not the thought truly has sensible benefit. It is cool, on a purely technical degree, to have the ability to unfold your telephone and run an enormous model of Alto’s Adventure or two apps aspect by aspect. But between the hacked-collectively software program execution and the general lack of productive software for it, it’s arduous to take a look at the Axon M as something greater than a enjoyable gimmick. And with the hefty $725 price ticket and a plethora of extra highly effective, higher-designed, and cheaper Android flagships on the market, it’s in all probability value sticking to at least one display for now.


Verge Score

Good Stuff

  • Extra display software program works as marketed
  • Solid unibody metallic design
  • three.5mm headphone jack

Bad Stuff

  • Expensive worth for final yr’s hardware
  • Second display doesn’t add a lot
  • Camera placement is quirky

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