It makes your icon set round and If you're anything like me, you're better off just ignoring these other options. Unlike other flagships -- the S6 twins and the One M9, for example -- there's no theme store here, which is fine with me. Thankfully, all of Android Lollipop's most important features are just where you'd expect to find them, and there are a few comforting flashes of Material Design peppered throughout the mix.
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Since the ZTE isn't coming to you thanks to an arcane carrier agreement, there's hardly any bloatware. In fact, I almost hesitate to call the apps here "bloatware" since most of it is genuinely useful. There's Dolby Audio, for one, and a bunch of apps dedicated to sports and fitness. Yahoo Sports is the most inexplicable addition, but it's handy if you want to keep tabs on certain pro teams.
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Beyond that, an app called RockMyRun offers curated playlists for those marathon-training sessions, along with an activity tracker called Argus that's more solid than you might expect. It nags you to create an account to squeeze the most use out of it, but it'll still track and display your day's steps in what ZTE calls the Z-Tray.
When the phone is locked, a little arrow icon will appear at the bottom of the screen -- tapping on that brings up music controls and a quick rundown of your activity so far. Most of the time, the Z-Tray is a useful thing to have, but when the notification shade is full, it's all too easy to open that when you mean to swipe to unlock. Oh, and speaking of the notifications on the lock screen, it hides all but the topmost one, so it requires an extra two taps to see what's been going on.
Sort of defeats the purpose, no?
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I'll be real with you: I wasn't expecting much out of the Axon's rear-facing camera duo. The novelty of using a second sensor for kooky post-production effects on phones like the One M8 never worked for me; it just seemed like a way to distract from the hit-or-miss quality of the primary shooter. My worries were mostly misplaced. The megapixel camera lodged in the Axon's back is a capable performer, and the Camera app doesn't lean on that secondary sensor for very much at all.
There's a Bokeh mode available by swiping to the left of the main camera view spoiler alert: The results are sometimes cool, but often screwy , and that's really it. So, that main camera. You don't need me to remind you that most phone cameras live and die by the light they're used in, so I'm not blowing any minds by saying the Axon's daytime photos were sharp and nicely detailed.
Color reproduction could've been better, though; sample shots were often washed out, undersaturated and lacked the punch you'd see in photos taken with the LG G4 or Samsung Galaxy S6 series. HDR mode mitigates the issue a bit, but man, I hate the idea of requiring HDR for nicely saturated photos the fact that you've got to physically freeze for it to work well stinks too.
The same saturation issues plague the Axon in video recordings, even when shooting in 4K; the camera picks up a respectable amount of detail, but colors often seemed a touch blander than in real life. Things naturally take a turn for the worse when it's dark out; shots were flat and smudgy at best.
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While I'm griping, I wish holding down the shutter button while the phone is locked would automatically fire up the camera. On the upside, ZTE's Camera app strikes a fine balance between simplicity and feature bloat. Remember that Bokeh mode? Once you're done there, a quick tap brings up a slew of funky picture modes like multi-exposure to spice things up for an eventual upload to Instagram. My favorite bit? There's an exposure-control slider that appears when you tap to focus on a subject, just in case the camera doesn't adapt as fast as you'd like.
Throw in a full manual mode that lets you control ISO, white balance and shutter speed and you've got a well-designed system that only provides as much control as you want it to. If you're a straight-up camera buff, there are better phones out there for you, but most people won't mind the Axon's photo chops.
Right, it's no surprise that the Axon has plenty of power to play with -- we've got the Snapdragon and the Adreno GPU to thank for that. That combination along with 4GB of RAM catapults it into the upper echelons of mobile computing along with phones that cost considerably more, so let's just turn to the tale of the synthetic benchmark tape:. Hardly any surprises here: The Axon's Qualcomm silicon usually performed a little better than the seen in HTC's One M9, but still left room for Samsung's custom chipset to pull ahead.
The Axon's SunSpider performance and Vellamo scores are the biggest question marks since they lag behind some of the others, but benchmarks only tell part of the story. Indeed, the Axon is more complex than the numbers might let on. When it came to graphical performance, it was right on par with other big-name flagships on the market. Games like Dead Trigger 2 , Asphalt 8 and my new favorite, The Talos Principle , ran like a charm, even with graphical settings maxed out.
The combination of a Snapdragon and a metal body does mean that the Axon gets noticeably warm when you start pushing it. More concerning than the warmth were some unnerving moments of flakiness I experienced during my week of testing. Opening a folder of apps took slightly longer than it ought to, even if the folder was relatively empty. Swiping through pages of apps was mostly fluid, except for moments of stuttering when I was in a rush to find something. Once, while shutting down all my running apps, the screen went dark for about five seconds and refused to heed my touch for a few seconds even after it came back to life.
I eventually had to restart the phone to get everything running normally again. It's these annoying little bits -- in fairness, things that could probably be fixed through software updates -- that ultimately dull some of the Axon's shine. ZTE tried to keep things light with its custom approach to Android, but the experience of using it doesn't always feel as fluid as it should.
Of course, pure power doesn't mean much without the juice to make everything go.
The Axon's sealed, 3,mAh battery performed worse than I thought it would in our standard Engadget rundown test. We loop a p video with the screen at 50 percent brightness with the phone connected to WiFi. The official numbers: The Axon lasted for eight hours and 23 minutes before finally dying on me. That might not sound too bad it's better than the eight hours and 19 minutes I squeezed out of the One M9 , but the G4 and its Quad HD screen stuck around for just over 11 hours.
Good thing the Axon packs Qualcomm's quick-charging tech. Thankfully, that battery fared fine with my daily grind, including email and Slack messages, the occasional YouTube video and an odd game or two.
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All told, it managed 13 hours before needing a top-up. If you're the sort of person who isn't glued to your phone, this thing will hang in there for nearly two days without much trouble. The top of the smartphone heap is already a war zone, and if you're in the market for high-end hardware, be sure to keep these other choices in mind. The HTC One M9 immediately leaps to mind because it too runs a Snapdragon and manages to squeeze a memory card slot into its slim, handsome, all-metal chassis.
It also has a nifty after-care angle in the form of Uh-Oh Protection, under which the company promises to swap your busted M9 for a replacement. ZTE's own complimentary Passport program is a little different: It comes with a two-year warranty and a day return policy. Then there's LG's G4, which also features a 5. Performance can be pretty close between these things, but the G4 has some crucial benefits: a microSD card slot and one of the best cameras in its class. It's available with a beautiful leather finish, too, and it won't weigh down your pockets nearly as much as the Axon.
And then we've got that other high-end smartphone that's expected to go easy on our wallets: The OnePlus Two. The Two is expected to make its debut very soon, and it's said to feature similar specs as the Axon, from the same Snapdragon to the 4GB of RAM to what some rumors suggest is a 5. Resist the temptation to be an alarmist: The OnePlus Two just might stop Axon sales cold, but we'll see how quickly the Oppo spinoff can churn those things out. I've got to hand it to ZTE: The Axon is the sort of powerful, budget-friendly phone I never thought the company would, or could, make.
It's got gobs of power. It's mostly well-built. The camera isn't half-bad. So why won't I buy one? First, the software isn't as polished as it should be. Secondly, I need memory.
I need room for files and photos and tracks and videos, and the widespread availability of cloud storage just doesn't cut it for me. The fact that ZTE made an actual contender of a phone, stuck it with only 32GB of storage and left out any expandable memory options is ridiculous. Samsung offers the Galaxy S6 line with more storage for a pretty penny, but still. The Axon, then, isn't a perfect handset. It is, however, a mostly great smartphone that makes me strangely excited for a sequel.
Buyer's Guide. Log in. Sign up. In terms of security, the Axon 10 Pro features the in-display fingerprint sensor that you come to expect from a high-end smartphone. The design — from the elegantly curved glass to the nearly full-screen display — definitely steals a couple of glances. Despite its thin profile, the Axon 10 Pro has an extremely solid build quality. Sure, this is indeed a competitive market landscape, and there are choices available. To finally see it come to the U.