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ZTE Axon M Review: Halfway Happy

ZTE Axon M Review: Halfway Happy


– [Michael] I’ve had more fun
in my week with the Axon M, than with almost any
other phone this year. It’s a crazy dual screen clamshell, half phone half tablet
that I would love to carry. If it’s execution lived
up to it’s concept. (upbeat music) The company behind this
change of pace is ZTE. And even though it’s the
fourth largest phone brand in North America, you
might not have heard of it. Well that’s because ZTE
is typically focused on affordable phones instead
of mold breakers like this. And to the company’s credit, very little about this
hardware feels substandard. Peel that second screen off the backside, and it spins on a hinge so sturdy it feels like it came off a truck door. The lock is strong enough
to keep in tablet mode no matter how much jostling you do. And when you shrink it
back down to phone size, it slams shut with a satisfying clack. (clicks) Worthy of the best
clamshells of yesteryear. (clicks) It’s thicker than most phones, and 17% more massive than
even the ponderous Note 8. But that makes room for a
programmable shortcut key and a power button that doubles
as a fingerprint sensor. ZTE even took a note from HTC and Apple, pressing the earpiece into
service as a secondary speaker when you don’t wanna
use the headphone jack. And phone calls are just as clear as on a conventional phone. From a hardware standpoint, the Axon M does it’s
predecessor, the Axon 7, proud. (clicks) It doesn’t take long though to start seeing the compromises. – It’s something that’s kinda in between, it’s like halfway happy. – [Michael] Android has
come a long way since the last phone like this, but it’s still not optimized
for a second screen. ZTE had to do a lot of custom
work to bridge the gap, and that took time. So out of the box, the phone ships with Android Nougat instead of the Oreo update that’s promised soon. It’s also running on an older silicon, Snapdragon 821, soon to
be two generations behind. That means you don’t get
the energy optimizations of new processors, so the Axon M drains it’s moderately-sized
battery quite quickly when both screens are on. And speaking of those screens, you might notice a significant failure in quality control when both are open. On my review device, and several others, the two displays have two
different white points. With one appearing much
warmer than the other. This is the kind of thing that might pass muster in the budget phone space, but doesn’t really fly
on an expensive flagship. What can you do with that second screen? More than you might expect, actually. The screen mirroring
feature might come in handy for showing off photos across
a table at a restaurant. I admit that’s kind of a stretch. So, more useful is the full-screen view, which stitches the two
displays into one canvas. Now this isn’t great for video, since the resulting super screen is both square-ish and bisected
by a big ugly bezel. But it is handy for
things like Google Maps, where the bigger area makes it
easier to see while driving. And the fact that Amazon
Kindle let’s you split a book across pages makes this my new
favorite phone for reading. If you stack the screens vertically, you get an insane amount
of room for the keyboard. Or, game emulator controls. Or a handy spot to leave a comment, and subscribe to a YouTube channel, without ever leaving the video. (clears throat) Finally, the A-B mode is
for hardcore multitaskers, who can run two apps side by side, and almost simultaneously. ZTE obviously put a lot of thought into not just the how of making
a dual screen phone, but the why as well. And that makes the Axon M genuinely useful a lot of the time. Unfortunately it’s also genuinely frustrating a lot of the time. Sometimes an app thinks
it’s in dual screen, even when it’s not, so half
the content gets chopped off. There’s no way to rotate the home screen to landscape in full canvas mode, nor is it possible to make use of the wasted space opposite the dock. Continuing on, switching between single and dual screens can be slow. Since the displays face outward
when the phone is closed it scratches very easily. Gorilla Glass 5 notwithstanding. And in a world where haptic feedback just keeps getting better, the vibration motor in this thing feels and sounds straight out of 2011. (phone buzzing) Lastly, we’ve got to
talk about this camera. It’s a single 20 megapixel shooter, which is logical for a
phone with two screens. But in practice, shooting
photos with this thing is a comical circus of
rotations and delays, wrong sides, and upside downs. If you lock the Axon M
while it’s in camera mode, the next time you turn it on, it’s gonna wake up on the wrong side, and when you flip it back to the front, you’ll be lucky not to
change your wallpaper or move some apps around by
scraping your hand across what you thought was the
back, but really wasn’t. And for all this trouble? You get quality selfies, sorta. But only adequate regular photos. And to stay adequate, you
need to stay in the sun. At night, you’ll get brighter
shots from phones that cost half the price of this one. That’s pretty weak. (light upbeat music) The Axon M is available
exclusively from AT&T in the U.S. As the ponderous load of
bloatware makes plain. The carrier wants $725 for the phone, or $24 a month for 30 months. Which is a bit easier to
swallow if you can also snag the $100 gift card being
included at press time. And you know, if the phone delivered a more consistent experience, I’d say it might be
worth it to some folks. But as adaptable as Android is, it’s not quite flexible enough to deliver on ZTE’s vision here. And just because something is
novel, doesn’t give it a pass. It has to provide more functionality than frustration in everyday life. And to me, this phone fails that test. It feels like a Beta product. A test run at a better Axon M-2. But let me add in closing
that if such a sequel ever appeared, I’d be first
in line to try it out. Because for all it’s failings, the Axon M gets a lot closer
to good than I expected it to. If you manage to find it at a discount, be sure to give it a go. And to find more discounts than
you’ll know what to do with, you know where to go. Thrifter is a new way to
save money on everything from gadgets to home goods
by shopping based on value, not hype. Thifter is Mr. Mobile’s
sponsor of this video, so click the link in the
description to get all the best deals at thrifter.com Until next time, thanks for watching. Please subscribe and
stay mobile, my friends. An extra what? – [Male] Dongle. – [Michael] I don’t need no dongles. (scatting music)

100 comments found

  1. I'm quite the new subscriber and can't believe I haevn't subbed to you before.. Crazy how you "only" have 505k Subs. Awesome work and great reviews!

  2. I dont know if its cool enough to buy but… how do you put a case on it????? LOL Is there one? Either way, we have this at best buy and i was excited to just see it in person. Its got a good idea going but the price point is way off bc of some of the weird things you would have to overcome. I wouldn't put $725 into a phone i couldn't put a case on.

  3. impractical phone .. ugly + bad land-of-milk-and-honey-update-PromiseS by zte . .purchase or use any zte product with risk of stress or possible heart attack

  4. I hope they take another stab at this concept. I'd be interested in a dual screen phone, like this. Just, for me, the flaws outweigh the price.

  5. it reminds me of all the neat, interesting phones we used to have before the glass slabs we have today. too bad the execution is poor. should've been a budget phone, since it looks like it performs like one. great review as always!

  6. It´s at least a try. I respect ZTE for this phone. Maybe next year they make a great phone out of this. The idea is great.

  7. landscape keyboard while seeing everything you typing

    Watching youtube while you read/write comments

    Browsing Reddit comments while you have the source other side

    Customize launcher even further than you ever thought

    Full gamepad controls at the bottom with gameplay at the top

    The list goes on endlessly, you have to be very narrow minded not to see the potentials here

  8. While it might be an interesting concept, there are way too many cons, and not enough pros, to consider buying this phone. Thanks for another HONEST phone review. Keep up the great work, Michael.

  9. Only apple can really actually get away with this unfortunately. As cool as this concept is the lack of a tight software/ hardware experience completely just dilutes the experience and given very little reason to buy such a phone.

  10. i love this concept….
    would like to have dual cameras, triple screen may work better , with the phone opening from the inside. with a flex screen on the inside.

  11. Going from note Android to IPhone. I want to go back to this now. Super awesome product. It’s durable and I wish it was on more secure platform.

  12. I swear I had seen this before. What phone had 2 screens but had the jankiest display ever. It folded out in the strangest way.

  13. ….This is OK for those that prefer a non-daily driver, "Look what I've got!" type device, but WHERE exactly is the successor to the Axon 7?

  14. If they got that center gap down to where it was just a hairline, and improved the software, then I'd really consider this. But hey, it's a 2015 phone because of the bezels… right?

  15. Same problem the DS had. Images across both screens either need to be interrupted and resume at the same point on the second screen, or not display the missing piece. Both have issues. The DS compensated by well, only making games with two separate images. The top is the game, the bottom is the map. If ZTE make the next one completely bezel-less in the center (the long sides) that would solve the issue.

  16. Google should implement their software for the dual screen rather than adopting a notch. While other companies are pushing the innovation of android hardware whereas google is kissing the ass of Apple.

  17. As always best review.👌
    I like the concept of a foldable tablet phone but in this case i am not happy with the gap between 2 screens which obstructs the seemless design. Also I wish the screen were folding inwards so that I could have used the second screen as keyboard like the old Nokia communicator 9300i😉 or like a laptop apart from multi tasking & watching YouTube. Also this would have protected both screens incase of a fall. Hope someone is listening to its customers 😉

  18. This phone is the future. I can't wait to see what ZTE can do to improve their next dual screen phone, and whether other companies will follow suit or not. Thumbs up ZTE! 👍

  19. I really like this, I just wish it was better, give it better screens and Snapdragon 835 and more refined software and I'd want THAT as my next phone.

  20. Sony hade a tablet with double screen a time ago, it was a cool device but no success at all, i think that phone is a gimmick,

  21. Honestly, this is MY kind of style for folding phones. Folding screens? Nah. A dual-screen clamshell-like foldable phone is for me.

  22. Amazon Kindle let's you show two pages at once? Sold, that was all I needed to hear. You can get them new now for 250 on Amazon, I got a used one for 150 on eBay to test to see if it is worth getting a new one.

  23. To me the phone doesn't have to do everything dual screen. Most of the time I will use the main screen, but for Kindle and email, having another screen is awesome.

  24. Remake this phone with today's technology , less bezels and then boom your pretty much close to Samsung & Huawei. I'd buy it cause the dual screens plus better price for dual screens.

  25. It's 2019, I'm surfing YouTube for videos on the Galaxy Fold and I run across this from 2017. And it's better than the Fold! Lmao! I want this kind of folding phone just with a near imperceptible bezel between the two screens. No bendable screen required.

  26. A year later, and Galaxy Fold and Mate X are hitting the market doing what this phone always tried to ( and in the case of the Fold failing at it )

  27. Nice review, even a year later. Just one question — Does it have swype and if so, does it work no matter how you hold it (2 screens, portrait, etc.)? Thanks!

  28. Now in 2019 they are on clearance for $130 give or take. I got one. Absolute steal at that price, unlocked too.

  29. I just bought one for 80% off the original price (Amazon has em for $140USD and $200CDN). If I'm not 300-400% happy, I'll amend this comment when I get it in 2 days.

  30. When you realize this is $200 on amazon today and all the compromises are worth it for a budget buyer

  31. This will be interesting just bought this phone brand new here in 2019 for only 127 hicks so can't really be that bad this. Now so hopefully it will be a decent phone to play around with.

  32. Seems pretty good now it's $135. I might pick one up for media consumption and game emulation. Pretty much a poor man's Galaxy fold.

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