Last week, ZTE unveiled a piece of experimental hardware called the Axon M. It’s the first smartphone to be marketed as “foldable”, although unlike Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy X, it’s not made of a single foldable display but pairs two standard phone screens side-by-side.
There’s no doubt the ZTE Axon M is quite an interesting device, but how does it compare to last year’s ZTE Axon 7 flagship, a phone which we found to be “outstanding with few faults”. Besides the obvious design difference, what’s sets the newly unveiled Axon M apart from the older Axon 7? Let’s find out.
On the outside
ZTE says it has built the Axon M with multi-function in mind, as “M” basically stands for “multi-function”, so you’ll be able to run two apps at the same time or let them go to full screen for a larger experience.
The Axon M is basically two 5.2-inch displays glued side-by-side that form a 6.75-inch size screen with a thin line running through, when unfolded. You won’t notice it that much when you’re running apps side by side, but it does become bothersome in full-screen mode when for example, you’re trying to watch your favorite Netflix show.
You can also set the Axon M with screen mirroring so two players can see and interact or experience the same image or media at the same time. This sounds great for fans of multiplayer games or those who can’t watch a TV show alone.
But due to the dual display arrangement, the Axon M is a lot thicker and heavier than the ZTE Axon 7 measuring 150.8 x 71.6 x 12.1 mm. It tips the scales at 230 g, while the Axon 7 is only 175 g in weight and measures 151.7 x 75 x 7.9 mm.
Interestingly enough, the Axon M features only fullHD resolution, while the Axon 7 offers premium QHD (2560 x 1440 pixels) res on its 5.7-inch panel.
On the inside
When it comes to internals the two phones are quite similar. The newer Axon M includes last year’s 2.15GHz Snapdragon 821 processor (which also powers the LG G6), while the Axon 7 relies on the older Snapdragon 820.
Both handsets include 4GB of RAM in combination with 64GB of internal storage. A microSD card slot is also offered in both cases.
The battery inside the Axon 7 is a 3,250 mAh unit, while the foldable Axon M relies on a slightly smaller 3,180 mAh one. And with two displays sucking power, we don’t expect the Axon M to offer an impressive battery life, on the contrary.
The Axon 7 offers the services of a main 20-megapixel camera with f/1.8, phase detection autofocus, OIS and dual-LED flash. It also includes an 8-megapixel selfie shooter with f/2.2 on the front.
As for the new Axon M, it takes advantage of basically the same primary camera. The difference is that the newcomer only includes one camera, not two. That’s because the shooter can work either for the front or the back, depending on whether the device is folded or not.
Powered by Android 7.1.2 Nougat (Android 8.0 Oreo will be delivered), the Axon M also comes packing Dolby Atmos, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, LTE, rapid charging, and USB-C.
As for the Axon 7, it comes equipped with Hi-Fi audio DAC with Dolby Atmos which in combination with the phone’s dual front-facing speakers can deliver a great audio experience. The older flagship also has a 3.5mm headphone jack, a fingerprint scanner on the back and offers support for Google’s Daydream View VR platform.
At launch, the Axon 7 shipped out with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, but ZTE updated it to Android 7.1.1 Nougat. No word on whether it will receive the Android 8.0 Oreo update.
The Axon M will be sold with a hefty $725 price tag exclusively from AT&T. So when it comes to pricing, the Axon 7 will get you a much better deal. For example, you can grab the phone from Amazon for $459. Or you can buy it from Newegg, as it is currently at a discount with a $379 price attached.
It’s pretty doubtful customers will race to buy the Axon M. The main reason for that boils down to pricing – for this amount of money you can easily get a Pixel 2 or Samsung Galaxy S8 – but the fact that it will be sold only by AT&T plays a role too, as some customers might not want to switch to the carrier.
Furthermore, the Axon M takes advantage of older specs, so it’s not on par with the latest flagships. The only thing that justifies the high price tag is the (sort of, remember devices like the T-Mobile Sidekick?) experimental form factor, but even so, we don’t see many users flocking to spend a hefty sum of money just so they can take a piece of new tech for a spin.