ZTE Axon M First Impressions: Dual screen innovation in the palm of your hand
I don’t typically write first impression pieces, but when you have a phone like the ZTE Axon M you can’t help but want to share it. In case you missed it ZTE announced their latest innovation a dual-screened phone named the Axon M yesterday. This is not the first dual-screen phone to ever be produced or released to the public, but it’s the first one that looks really promising…
We’ll start out with the most logical of places, the design. The build of the ZTE Axon M is very solid and feels sturdy. There are two 1080p 5.2-inch screens held together by a hinge on the right side of the phone. The left side houses the buttons and a fingerprint scanner is in the power button.
The phone feels premium, offers no flex, and the hinge feels strong. Overall it feels solid and built to last. Unfortunately, it is also fairly thick and heavy. If you’re looking to get a dual screen phone, those are two points you’re just going to have to live with. It takes a lot to engineer a phone with two displays and a battery large enough to power them. There is no getting around it and I don’t point out the thickness and weight in detriment to the Axon M, it is more of an observation.
Dual Screen Experience
The Axon M offers four different modes Traditional, Dual A|B, Extended-A, and Mirror mode. Traditional is, as you might expect, just like a traditional single screen phone folded up. Dual A|B allows you to run two different apps at once on each screen. Extended A turns your dual screen phone into a single screen much like a tablet. Mirror mode displays the same thing on both screens A and B.
Traditional mode is not really worth mentioning, it functions just like any other phone you’ve used except it’s thicker and heavier. Mirror mode, in my opinion, is just as uninteresting as even the presentation didn’t impress me with its scenarios, such as conference calls, sharing videos when you sit across from each other, or playing a two player game across from each other on the same device.
Extended A will probably be useful for many people who crave a larger screen, but it’s not without limitations. For one there is a seam down the middle of the screen. It is a minimal seam and some will be able to accept it, but others won’t be able to. I think I fall into the latter category on this one. Another issue is when playing videos not only is there a seam but due to the aspect ratio huge black bars.
Finally, we get to Dual A|B mode, by far the most useful of all the modes in my opinion and where the Axon M truly shines. If you’re looking at getting this phone Dual A|B mode is probably the number one reason to do so. There are plenty of scenarios here such as running email and calendar side by side, browsing Facebook and Twitter at the same time, or my personal favorite watching videos while texting while having both apps on a full sized screen. It’s up to you how you want to use it and I’m sure everyone can find a use for it. This is true multitasking and beats using split screen even on a 6-inch device, where the app doesn’t truly fit or the keyboard gets in the way. Plus you never get the “this app is incompatible” error.
ZTE worked hard to make the dual A|B mode as useful and convenient to use as possible. There is a swipe gesture to swap apps between screens, but so far I’m not finding it to be very reliable. They also include a button to decide which screen gets control over the sound that comes out of the speakers. It’s clear they really put some thought into this and tried to make the experience as pleasant as possible.
The SD 821 and 4GB of RAM are plenty to power two apps at once. I was even able to play Mortal Kombat X while running Angry Birds Star Wars on the other screen. I was able to knock down some pigs in between matches in Mortal Kombat X no problem. This, of course, is not something you’d typically do and it is not kind to the battery. I just wanted to see if the Axon M had the power to do it and it passed with flying colors. In my time with the device so far I’ve not really come across any performance issues.
With a dual screen phone such as this, there is only one camera and it pulls double duty here as your rear and front-facing camera. It can be a little awkward to use or to get used to, but the point is that it works. Unfortunately, the photos so far seem to be a bit lacking in quality. That’s a pity because when you only have one camera on the device you really want it to be a good one.
ZTE isn’t the first to make a dual screen phone nor are they the first to release one to the general public. Kyocera and Sony have both taken shots at it in the past. The difference is that now both the hardware and software have evolved to make a dual screen device more feasible. These days phones come with enough power to run two apps simultaneously and Android has native support for running two apps.
This could be the next big trend in the industry or it could be just a gimmick, only time will tell. All I know is, for me, the Axon M makes mobile tech exciting again and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it or show it off to people. No matter what you might think of the Axon M and despite any of its flaws, you still have to give ZTE credit for even taking a chance and putting out something this unique. Keep an eye out for a full review in the future, where I’ll go more in-depth and test out the battery life.