Samsung may be planning to launch a phone with a flexible OLED screen that folds in half next year. But ZTE took a quicker, easier, and hackier approach toward building a handheld device that you could use as a phone or tablet: the ZTE Axon M has two screens and a hinge that lets you fold the device in half.

As expected, ZTE is officially unveiling the device today. It’s expected to be available later this fall for about $725 (or 30 monthly payments of $24.17).

The Axon M has two 5.2 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel displays. When unfolded they create a single 2160 x 1920 pixel screen… with a line in the middle. When folded, you can use the device like a normal phone.

Since there are two screens, you can either have content span across both displays or take advantage of Android’s multi-window capabilities and view different apps on each screen.

The phone will ship with Android 7.1.2 Nougat, but it also includes some custom features to make use of the extra display. For example, there’s support for running two instances of the same app, which could make it easier to do things like copy and paste between email messages or browser tabs. You can also use the entire bottom screen as a keyboard while using the top screen to view content.

The phone has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC 5.1 storage, which may not be best-in-class, but which should be good enough for some relatively heavy multitasking. There’s also a microSD card slot for removable storage.

One odd choice is the processor: the ZTE Axon M will ship with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor. That may be one of last year’s best mobile chips, but it’s a bit strange to see a fancy phone shipping in 2017 without a Snapdragon 835 (although the 821 will still probably offer better performance than a mid-range Snapdragon 600 series chip).

There’s also a fingerprint sensor built into the power button, and the phone does have a 3.5mm audio jack (something that’s prominently mentioned in ZTE’s launch video).

Other features include a 20MP camera, a USB Type-C port, a 3,180 mAh battery, and Quick Charge 3.0 support. The phone is rather chunky, at 12.1mm (0.48 inches) thick, and it weighs 230 grams (8.1 ounces).

Overall the Axon M is an interesting phone… that looks a lot like an improved version of the 2011 Kyocera Echo.

Two screens could legitimately be useful for heavy multitaskers. I’m not sure I’d want to deal with the line down the middle when trying to span content across both screens. It’d be a huge distraction while watching videos or surfing the web.

But not only is a two-screen solution probably cheaper than the folding phones with flexible OLED displays we’re likely to start seeing in 2018, ZTE’s solution has another advantage: it’s almost ready to go.

The phone is expected to be available by the end of the year. Unfortunately Gizmodo reports it’ll be an AT&T exclusive in the US. In Japan it’ll be available exclusively through DoCoMo. There’s no word about the price for availability in other markets yet.

via Android PolicePhone Arena and The Verge

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15 replies on “ZTE Axon M dual-screen phone coming this fall for $725 (to AT&T only)”

  1. If I got this, I’d mostly use the 2nd screen for landscape typing where the bottom screen is dedicated for a keyboard if that’s possible.

  2. ZTE Engineers have been “slightly” inspired by 2013 NEC Medias W N-05E (available in Japan through NTT DoCoMo) … = same dual-screen management software functions / settings (extended view / simultask / stand-mirroring) & same body / hinge solution.
    They have updated HW specs according to 2016/2017, but 2011-2013 user-experience issues are still there = even though single-display folding phones (such as Lenovo Folio & others) will be more expensive, they will be more practical in hand and / or on a countertop.

    1. Yes the resemblance to the N-05E is uncanny. That was a great phone, I still miss my one. When it finally packed up, it felt such a huge step backwards having to use a plain old single screener again.

    1. Not terrible, surprisingly. I certainly don’t get security updates as quickly as I’d like but I have gotten them fairly regularly, which is more than I can say about the Zenfone I had before this.

  3. They really should be more shots of it being used “landscape”, where the line is horizontal. As someone that uses their phone for social media, notes and reading more than watching videos, the line doesn’t bother me and I’m pretty excited about this. I think it’s just a gamble as to how soon phones with true bendable screens will come.

  4. Meh. Until foldable screens hit the market, this sort of gimmickry is not interesting to me. I’d have rather seen a more conventional update to my Axon 7, at a similarly competitive price, than something that costs nearly twice as much for similar horsepower with an extra screen I don’t need.

  5. How do you protect the phone and still keep it usable? Should have some interesting case designs if it gains any traction.

  6. I can deal with the chunkiness, but why an average battery?
    I was expecting around 4,000mAh or more since you’re going to need that power.

    I wonder if you can manually turn one of the screens off, even when folded out… would come in handy for battery saving reasons.

    Not gonna lie, it looks decent but that notch in the middle is driving me crazy already. It’s too distracting in many of those UI promo shots, so I doubt it would be better in real life.

      1. Possible, maybe they just didn’t engineer it well enough.
        Although, at least your Selfies should come out perfect when using the rear camera aimed at the front.

  7. If they don’t develop a custom two player version of Battleship then they should just quit the business because this device would be perfect for that.

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