Different markets look for different things in a smartphone and that’s OK, but we want a taste of ZTE’s newly unveiled US flagship, the Axon.
For many the ZTE brand represents affordability; the company’s pushed out plastic-heavy handsets with middling hardware at low prices for years, but there have been glimpses of its intentions to go premium. Talk of being ‘the next Samsung’ and commercial moves to highlight the brand in the public eye (such as sponsoring the New York Knicks) have increased in recent years and the Axon is the first example of hardware that fits these new intentions.
Launched on Tuesday, the ZTE Axon is “designed in the US, for the US,” according to the company’s Lixin Cheng, CEO for ZTE’s American division. It was created based on intensive market research, right down to its name and unlike the plastic fantastic handsets we’re more familiar with over here, this thing looks to be premium through and through.
This is not the ZTE we’re used to.
An all-metal body, littered with triangular details, a 5.5-inch Quad HD display, the newer, tweaked Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 (hoping to avoid the overheating problem), 4GB of RAM, a near stock Android 5.1.1 Lollipop experience and a dual 13-megapixel camera arrangement capable of 4K video recording – this is not the ZTE we’re used to and we want it.
ZTE’s research suggests that discerning American consumers look for a phone with a top-notch camera and one that can offer a solid audio experience (the Axon has two audio chips for hi-fi recording, playback and noise cancellation), but we don’t see why this particular piece of tasty mobile hardware wouldn’t work well on our side of the Atlantic, particularly when you consider its price.
Rather than pandering to the mobile carriers, who carry greater influence in the US, ZTE is offering up this tempting flagship experience untethered to a plan for around $450 (just under £290). That’s only a fraction more than you’d pay for a Sony Xperia Z3 Compact over here, which packs last year’s Snapdragon 801 processor and just 2GB of RAM.
ZTE isn’t the only one taking matters into its own hands either, rivals like Huawei and Alcatel have started producing smartphones that offer more for less, hoping to undercut the rest of the market and build their brands quickly. So ZTE, if you’re looking to extend the reach of the Axon the UK is waiting with open arms. Just saying.
Read next: ZTE Blade S6 4G Review: In Depth