ZTE Axon M – The Dual Screen Phone: Hands-On Review

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Smartphones are progressing at a very rapid pace, the manufacturers are always coming up with new and sometimes weird ideas for their next flagship smartphones. Recently, a Chinese multinational telecommunication company announced a dual-screen smartphone the “ZTE Axon M” which fairly acts on the phrase: ‘two is better than one’.

At first glance, the phone looks like a thick piece of a glass slab, but then you unfold the heavy and thick Axon M unveiling two 5.2 inches full HD 1080p display to give you one big 6.8 inches tablet sized screen with a big hinge at the middle. When unfolded, the device kind of looks like a cross between Nintendo 3DS and a smartphone.

It is the first dual-screen foldable Android smartphone with modern specs put up to compete against Apple and Samsung latest technology innovations.

The phone is packing some decent specs under the hood, it is powered by the last year’s Snapdragon 821 CPU with 4 Gigs of RAM and 64 Gigs of onboard storage. The operating system is also old, the phone runs on Android Nougat 7.1.2 instead of Oreo.

If you keep the on-paper specs aside, the phone actually performs pretty well even though it has two screens to power.

Now let’s talk about what you can do with the dual display on this phone, there are three different modes that the phone offers to take the full advantage of both the displays. You can switch between these modes using the on screen ‘M’ button placed on the navigation bar along with the usual Android software buttons.

The first mode is called the ‘dual mode’ and as its name suggests it runs two apps side by side, one on each screen, making multitasking even more efficient. The mode works flawlessly in both portrait as well as landscape mode. This feature is actually very useful like you can watch a YouTube video on one screen and can reply to your email on the other screen without disturbing the other. There are also set of software hotkeys assigned to each app which will help you navigate easily. If you play videos on both the display the audio will only come from the screen you are actively interacting with.

The ZTE Axon M also performs really well in more power demanding tasks like gaming while watching videos etc.

Image by PCWorld

The next mode is called the ‘extended mode’ this mode offers you to run a single app extended on both screens for a tablet-like experience. The company has optimized nearly 200 most popular apps available on Google Play Store like Facebook, YouTube, Gmail etc to run in extended mode. For other apps, you will manually need to force it to run in full screen using a universal toggle available in the phone’s setting.

Watching videos on ‘extended mode’ might not be a great choice as you get a tad bit extra display because of the standard 16:9 video ratio. You will also get annoyed by the hinge in the middle.

Other than videos, the apps take better advantage of the dual-screen display like if you run YouTube in the extended mode you can watch video on one display while browse for the next video to watch on the other display.

You can also get a big virtual keyboard on one display if you’re typing in some app. This all is just basic and I think you can do much more with this technology like view an e-book or a PDF with a page on each screen to get a real book like experience, or while gaming one screen can be used as a virtual controller.

Image by Scroll Today

The last mode ‘mirror mode’ is the simplest mode which allows you to view same content on both the screens allowing you to fold the phone in a tent-like position so you can share what you’re watching with your friend sitting on the other side of the table in a hotel while waiting for the order. The phone can be controlled from either side of the display.

There are also various gestures to switch between modes or to send an app from one screen to the other or to view it in full extended mode across both the displays.

This dual-display is also going to help you capture some really high quality selfies as it only has one 20 megapixel sensor which with just a click of a button switches between the screens allowing you to capture both front and the back with just a single sensor.

The build quality and the design is not good compared to other smartphones of 2017, the phone has huge bezels on the top and at the bottom but these bezels help to pack in Dolby Atmos stereo speakers.

The battery life on this device is really great considering the dual-screen display, the 3180 easily lasts for a day with 15 percent juice left at the end.

Overall the ZTE Axon M is the wildcard smartphone of 2017 and is the first smartphone to actually execute the idea of dual-screen. It is a very good step on the technical level but for now, it is probably worth sticking to a single screen as you can get other great smartphones with better specs, build quality and edge to edge display in the same price. The ZTE Axon M is planned to release this holiday in the United States with a starting price $725.

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