ZTE’s High-Spec Flagship Focuses on Advanced Camera, Audio & AI Voice Control

ZTE is world’s sixth largest smartphone brand and was one of the very few brands which introduced a dual camera sporting stunning high-end smartphone, Axon in last twelve months.  This year, ZTE has introduced the upgraded flagship “ZTE Axon 7” which will compete with likes of Huawei P9, Honor 8, One Plus 3, Oppo R9 and Vivo X6S. Counterpoint Research Analysts in China got a first look and opportunity to proffer feedback on the latest launch from ZTE.

Some of the key features include:


Brilliant Camera

Rear Camera Axon 7ZTE's High-Spec Flagship Focuses on Advanced Camera, Audio & AI Voice Control

First of all , the 20MP camera is one of the defining features of Axon 7. “Good pictures anytime” is the new tagline on the ZTE ad. We have tested it ourselves and found the pictures to be of high quality. For basic users, you don’t need to understand settings such as focus, exposure, ISO, white balance and can still take high quality pictures with the default setting.

Counterpoint considers 3 elements to be crucial in taking a good picture

1. Focus

2. Anti-shake

3. Auto-adjustment.

Axon 7’s PDAF and closed-loop motor can achieve focus in 0.1 second and increases efficiency while taking pictures (see picture below).  Axon 7’s optical anti-shake and electronic anti-shake technologies improve camera’s shooting capability and image compensation. Compared to normal mobile phones with springs, Axon 7 is more sensitive in detecting slight movements.  Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820’s specialized Spectra ISP is assisting to achieve advanced auto focusing, auto exposure and auto white balance adjustments. Axon 7’s advanced camera features allow you to capture a good image anytime.

Some users are curious why Axon 7 no longer has dual cameras. The main purpose of the dual camera in previous Axon devices was to create depth of field. The new Axon 7 with its F/1.8 physical aperture has the same effect. We took sample images (see picture 3 and 4) to test the depth of field effect.

Sample pic 3

Sample pic 4

Sample pic 5

The depth function is achieved more easily now. The Axon A2015 which had a dual camera turned out not being the ideal premium phone for ZTE. The dual camera is also a question mark for other brands as well. It does add functionality but the benefits for consumers are a bit mixed. And consumers are also a bit confused of those benefits. So each phone using dual cameras has had a different usage case for this feature. This implicates that there are still experiments going on. It will be interesting how Apple deals with it with the upcoming iPhone 7 this year.

Axon 7’s single camera works better than the Axon 6 and it is easier to use in our view. Also the industrial design is much better with a single lens.


Advanced Audio & Voice Control

Second, superb audio features are another characteristic of the Axon 7.  If we can divide audio features into two categories: input vs out put, in terms of output, Axon 7’s dual loudspeakers increase the loudspeaker volume of your phone but doesn’t hurt your ears. ZTE’s cooperation with Dolby delivers a broad and exquisite sound effect. Nonetheless, dual loudspeakers have tiny holes on the exterior and may seem to compromise the overall look to some consumers. In terms of input, Axon 7 is equipped with dual chips and provide high quality recording experience. AKM4490 DAC can achieve 8 meters HD recording and 360 degrees voice recognition function.

Third and last I think ZTE’s voice control function is unique. In recent years, ZTE has made lots of efforts in voice control, leveraging its partnership with Nuance couple of years back. The AI powered voice-controlled functions include Voice Secretary, body sensing, auto dialing, unlocking the device, controlling music, activating camera and also image search. Voice Secretary is very useful during meetings as the recordings automatically convert into words, so that meeting summaries and minutes can be completely instantaneously, primarily targeting business users. Image searching allows the user to find images by specifying time, location, file name or app name. This is commendable for a lower scale brand like ZTE since these are some of the similar functions which we will be seeing in iOS10 powered by Siri.




In addition, ZTE Axon 7 has upgraded to Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor and 2K AMOLED color screen with 64GB+4GB memory configuration.  Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 is available and a series of sensors boost up the user experience adding to new use cases. Another bonus is the expandable memory card slot.

Product Specs

Axon 7’s targeted customers are business users and tech-savvy users that highly value product quality and innovative features. This is similar to the Huawei P9. Counterpoint suggests that customized versions of Axon 7 phones could be introduced to drive sales as ZTE still has growth opportunities in under served niche markets.

The 2K display this time uses OLED so the power consumption should be better than competitor products using IPS LCD. Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge also has the same 5.5 inch 2K OLED display. Comparing with the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge 12MP f/1.7 camera however, Axon 7 has a 20M f/1.8 camera. The battery capacity is also slightly higher than S7 Edge.

So in all aspects this is a contender for the premium segment comparable to the Samsung S7 Edge, LG G5 or Huawei P9. But in regions like the US it will be facing tough competition with Samsung’s deep marketing pockets. It looks like ZTE has priced the Axon 7 accordingly to make up for that disadvantage. The price we have received is in the range of $399-430 retail. This is a big winner as it is 2 notches lower than the competition. It’s more affordable than its Chinese competitors like the Huawei P9 even.

The Axon 7 reflects a new strategic direction from ZTE as it sees Huawei rise beyond long time competitor LG and Oppo, Vivo rising from its own home country faster than any brand before. We plan to talk more about this strategic direction in our next blog.