Price (RRP): $699
Budget phones often look like expensive ones but you soon find that they’re missing a feature routinely carried by premium models. So I was quite expecting the new phone from ZTE, the Axon 7, to be missing a feature or two of the kind I rather like. But despite the $699 ticket, you know, I couldn’t find any omissions. Any!
So what are these features that I like and now feel like I can’t do without? Fingerprint scanner? Yep, the Axon 7 has one of those on the back. High resolution screen? How about WQHD AMOLED screen, resolution: 1440 by 2560 pixels? Strong glass over the screen? Yup, Corning Gorilla Glass 4.
Big screen? Why, how about five and a half inches? And that’s five and a half inches that occupies just about the entire front face of the device – there’s a reason why the fingerprint scanner is on the back. The whole phone measures 151.7mm tall, 75mm wide and 7.9mm deep and weighs 175 grams.
Plenty of storage? Well, there’s 64GB built in, and you can use the tray for either two micro SIMs, or one SIM and a microSD card of up to 128GB. Decent processor? Absolutely: a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 with 4GB of RAM.
NFC? Yes. OTG? Yes. Here’s a long shot for a relatively inexpensive phone: USB Type-C? Or stuck with the fiddly Micro-B USB? Hooray, USB-C! It doesn’t make a whole lot of difference in capabilities, in reality, but it is easier to plug in, and USB Type-C is the way of the future.
Wireless charging? No, we don’t have that. And that, folks, is I think the only thing missing. Although, to be fair, that is also missing from the great majority of phones on the market, including many big name ones.
ZTE also notes that it has packed some high end audio facilities into this phone. In particular, it has a high end digital to analogue audio converter (often called a DAC in these parts) from AKM for music playback, and a high end analogue to digital converter (ADC) for recording. There are three microphones for the latter, two speakers for the former, and a proper headphone socket on the top of the device. One of the speakers is at the top front of the phone, while the other is at the bottom front, so you can put it on its side for stereo. It also has Dolby processing to fake 360 degree surround sound through headphones for when you’re watching movies. It can decode Dolby Atmos and Dolby 7.1 sound too. Fine.
The audio output has real high fidelity specifications, with support for audio at insanely high sampling rates – 384kHz. With recording it is no slouch either, with high resolution up to 96kHz sampling available, and three microphones to feed it.
The rear camera has 20 megapixels of resolution and an f/1.8 aperture, along with phase density auto focus. It can do 4K video recording at up to 30 frames per second, and slow motion in 920p at up to 240 frames per second.
The WiFi is dual band up to 802.11ac with all the features you want, including the provision of a hotspot using its 4G connection. It supposedly supports Miracast for sending its screen to smart TVs and such, but I sure couldn’t find any way of doing it. There’s the latest Bluetooth – version 4.2 Low Energy. The 4G connectivity supports up to Cat 6 with 300Mbps coming down to the phone, and up to 50Mbps going the other way.
The phone runs a ZTE interface called “Mi-Flavor UI V4.0”. It’s pretty standard and doesn’t seem to require any unexpected interactions.
The phone comes with a lightweight transparent case that covers sides and rear, with appropriate cutouts for the fingerprint scanner, camera lens, keys and ports.