New Giant Double-Screened Axon M Phone is Magnificently Weird

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Every now and then–but much more rarely, now that the phone market is generally viewed as being ‘mature’ in the developed world–a phone manufacturer comes out with a device that makes you stop and ask yourself what the designer was thinking. Android manufacturer ZTE, generally viewed as a budget device maker, is willing to take that challenge head on, with a new Axon M device that looks more like a Nintendo 3DS then a modern smartphone.

Spec-wise, the ZTE Axon M is a bit of an odd duck. It’s based on the Qualcomm 821, a reasonably high-end choice for a device, but no longer at the top of the product stack. It’s 12.1mm thickness sounds chunky compared with devices like the iPhone X, at 7.7mm, but 12.1mm is actually slightly thinner than the old iPhone 3GS–a phone which no-one reasonable complained about when it came to device thickness. (Is anyone else tired of the thickness obsession?) The display is a pair of 5.2-inch, 1920×1080 panels, which combine together to make a 1920×2160 panel when you use the device in its joined mode. This isn’t the first dual-screen phone we’ve ever seen, but the device doesn’t really make a great use-case for itself.

Axon-M-2

I’m not against the concept of a second display in theory, and Google has added much more support for dual-screen applications than we once saw. But it’s just not clear what kind of benefit this will reasonably deliver. There are options here, to be clear–and some dual-app configurations, like running a social media app while watching video may make sense–but given how conventional phones struggle when trying to keep a single screen alive for an entire day, I’m none too confident the Axon M will manage to deliver reasonable battery life, despite what ZTE says about its specially designed 3,180mAh battery. The problem here is that screens often eat more battery power than CPUs do these days, and running two screens together are going to impact endurance. A lower-power chip built on 10nm might have helped defray this cost, but there’s not going to be much help for it on a dual-screen phone.

Possible battery life concerns aside, there are two central problems with the Axon M. First, any attempt to watch a video across both screens results in a highly noticeable hinge line right in the middle of the coverage that visibly warps the final result.

TrumpFace

I’m pretty sure Alec Baldwin doesn’t have a Protoss’ head. Image by Gizmodo.

The other problem with the ZTE Axon M is that there’s no way to fold it to protect both screens at the same time. The screen hinge isn’t a 360-hinge and doesn’t permit it. The phone can’t snap closed to protect both screens simultaneously, which means you’re going to scratch it. That alone makes the device a bum deal, for anyone who carries anything in their pockets, ever, besides a phone.

Still, if you need a device that can do tent mode, and that offers a novel 8:9 screen ratio in dual-screen mode, the Axon M is one of a kind.

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