I have now now been using my new phone for a week and thought I would talk a bit about some of my impressions this morning. Firstly I feel like I need to explain my decision process a bit and how I ended up with a non-AAA manufacturer phone. For some time I have balked at the price of cell phones. Yes I am old enough to remember a time when you just walked into the cellular carrier and they gave you whatever phone you wanted along with your one year contract. After a point that became a two year contract, and eventually a discounted rate on the phone… and now they just charge you a monthly fee as part of a rent to own style scheme to dilute the cost of your insanely expensive hardware. I’ve not swapped phones nearly as often as the manufacturers would really like me to… my first “smartphone” being a Samsung Blackjack 2 which upgraded into an iPhone 3gs which caused me to venture into android land… where I have had a Samsung s2 and a Samsung s5. My natural upgrade path would then probably be the Samsung Galaxy s8 but those are around $800… and I didn’t want to spend that amount of money on a phone.
As a result I started looking at a handful of other phones, the less popular brands looking for what is essentially the best bang for the buck. I looked at the product offering from OnePlus, Moto, HTC, Huawei and ultimately ZTE. The finally decision point came down a duel between the ZTE Axon 7 and the Huawei Honor 8… and after reading a whole slew of reviews I finally pulled the trigger and ordered my Axon 7 for around $350 from Amazon carrier unlocked. For sake of reference in the marketing image above… I have the dark grey model on the far right. I was honestly expecting to get what felt like a second rate phone, but what I got instead was something that seems almost indistinguishable from the traditional quality of the flagship phones I have owned. The phone arrived in this weird white leather texture box that was extremely thick that slid apart to reveal a whole bunch of pack in items. Firstly there was the phone, that came out of the box with a screen protector installed. Secondly it came with a rubbery phone case for you to use if that is your thing… until you likely went out and got your own case later. It would probably provide a bit of shock proofing, but more importantly some grip which I will get into later. There was the ubiquitous charging brick with a fairly long usb type c cable, but what I was not expecting was a little adapter that let you use a micro usb cable and convert it to type c. Finally there was a pack in SIM removal tool on a rubber keychain, allowing you to in theory take it with you… though any straight pin or paperclip will do the trick to eject the SIM card tray.
- Operating System: Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow (upgraded easily to 7.1.1)
- Display: 5.5-inch, 2560×1440 AMOLED Gorilla Glass 4
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Quad-core 2.15GHz
- GPU: Adreno 430 GPU
- RAM: 4GB
- Onboard Storage: 64GB
- Expandable: microSD up to 2TB
- Rear Camera: 20MP f/1.8, PDAF, OIS, 4K/30 video
- Front Camera: 8MP f/2.2, 1080p/30 video
- Battery: 3250 mAh
- Charging: Quick Charge 3.0, USB Type-C
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11ac dual-band, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, NFC, GPS, GLONASS
- Networks: Both GSM and CDMA supported
- Dimensions: 151.7 x 75 x 7.9mm
- Weight: 175 g
The phone was released a year ago so in theory to compete with the Samsung Galaxy S7, but for sake of reference the specs are pretty comparable to the S8. It shipped with a ZTE android distribution called MiFavor which I have opted to simply go with because it seems to have really solid patching support via a software updater. It shipped with Android 6.0.1 but through the course of a handful of patches I was able to take it to Android 7.1.1 and it performs really solidly. One of the weird things going on with this phone is that like many international focused devices it comes with dual SIM card slots. What makes it interesting is that the second SIM card slot also serves as you micro SD card, which means the device only has the one card tray and everything fits neatly in it. So far the battery life is excellent and for reference I wound up playing Final Fantasy Record Keeper from bed last night for about two hours and only used 15% of the battery. The graphics are and screen are beautiful and everything seems to run so much better than it did on my Galaxy S5… but granted that was a really aging phone at this point.
The only gotchas I have run into thus far is a combination of two things. Firstly this is a really heavy phone… like if I got into trouble I legitimately feel like I could chuck the phone at someones head and potentially knock them out… or maybe give them a concussion. The second part… is that the full Aluminum body is slick… like insanely slick which is magnified by the fact that it is heavy. In theory that flimsy rubber case that they give you in the box is probably to help counteract this. However there have been multiple times I have had the phone damned near slip out of my hand while pulling it in and out of my pocket or just while holding it and using it. I purchased an aftermarket case that I liked to try and negate this so it isn’t a deal breaker but just something you need to be aware of. The size of the phone is fine for my giant sized hands… but for most people this is probably going to feel like more a “phablet” and less like a phone. So far I am loving it and I have zero buyers remorse. The only problem that I can see with this product is that the pricing seems to be extremely volatile. I purchased mine for around $350… and yesterday when I went to link it to a friend it was selling for closer to $450. If you can find one for the right price though I think its an amazing flagship replacement, and very worthy of going up against the more well known phones. As I continue to use it I will probably do follow ups to this quick review as the device ages.