ZTE just unveiled its sequel to the Axon and it’s a real looker. The Axon 7 (yup, the company decided to jump straight to seven) offers a beautiful unibody aluminum design that you might mistake for one of HTC’s classic devices. It also comes packed with high-end hardware, putting a big emphasis on virtual reality with support for Google Daydream, along with a powerful audio experience thanks to a Dolby partnership.
I had a chance to get my hands on the Axon 7 ahead of the official reveal and it doesn’t disappoint. This is a strong successor to the original Axon in every way. As for that name, ZTE says it’s actually released six different Axon-branded devices around the world, making this device number seven. With that cleared up, let’s dive right in.
The Axon 7’s design isn’t exactly original. Those front-facing speakers and rear antenna pretty much scream HTC One, but ZTE put a ton of work into refining the device. The entire phone feels like a single machined block of aluminum without a single rough edge or bit of plastic in sight. The rear fingerprint scanner is also placed in the perfect spot to catch your index finger effortlessly when you pick it up.
The new phone is a huge step up from the original Axon. It’s just 8.77mm thick down from 9.4mm, and the bezels have all slimmed down as well. The difference between the two phones looks more like years of iteration than a single upgrade cycle.
The Axon 7 is also keeping pace with the rest of the industry, especially when it comes to specs. ZTE packed in a Snapdragon 820 processor, a 5.5-inch Quad HD AMOLED display, a 3,140mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0, and USB-C. It comes in two main variants, offering either 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage or 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Both include a microSD slot that doubles as space for a second SIM card.
ZTE’s latest phone is the first device to launch with support for Daydream, Google’s new virtual reality software set to arrive later this year. Once it does arrive, the Axon 7 will be ready. The company says it worked with Google to meet all the necessary hardware requirements and ensure a relatively speedy upgrade to Android 7.0. It’s also offering a phone-powered headset called ZTE VR.
The device also packs a pair of awesome speakers that can even offer a stereo experience thanks to a partnership with Dolby Atmos. Based on a quick demo, I can confirm that the Axon 7 speakers are loud and crisp, at least when you’re listening to the right clip. ZTE also included an omni-directional microphone that can power a conference call and picks up audio up to 23 feet away.
If you’re looking for a good camera, the Axon 7 delivers there as well. In back, it offers a single 20-megapixel sensor with a combination of optical image stabilization and electronic image stabilization. It’s capable of taking bokeh-style shots without a second rear lens and also comes packed with tons of extra settings, including a feature-rich manual mode and an Apple-inspired Live Photo GIF maker. In front, you’ll find a solid 8-megapixel selfie cam.
The Axon 7 comes in gold and silver. It launches in China today with a global release coming “soon.” We still don’t exactly how much it will cost, but ZTE promises the price will be under $500. That includes a Passport 2.0 warranty, which covers any issues with the phone for two years including cracked screens and water damage
Overall, the Axon 7 is a solid Android flagship with plenty of power, style, and a few unique features to put it over the edge. The device could face some tough competition later this year as a wave of powerful new phones floods the market, but it definitely has the edge for now.