Mobile Technology

ZTE points to the future with the first foldable, dual-screen smartphone

ZTE's dual-screen Axon M smartphone
ZTE's dual-screen Axon M smartphone
View 4 Images
ZTE's dual-screen Axon M smartphone
1/4
ZTE's dual-screen Axon M smartphone
In tent mode, the ZTE Axon M offers gamers the opportunity to play against each other
2/4
In tent mode, the ZTE Axon M offers gamers the opportunity to play against each other
Both screens are 5.2 inches diagonally, combining to make a 6.75-inch, 1,920 x 2,160 panel with the two displays both facing forward
3/4
Both screens are 5.2 inches diagonally, combining to make a 6.75-inch, 1,920 x 2,160 panel with the two displays both facing forward
The two displays of the ZTE Axon M means that screens need no longer be cluttered up with app icons, users can have a messaging screen above and a keyboard below, or watch online movies on one display while keeping up with social media updates on the other
4/4
The two displays of the ZTE Axon M means that screens need no longer be cluttered up with app icons, users can have a messaging screen above and a keyboard below, or watch online movies on one display while keeping up with social media updates on the other

Is this the future of smartphones? So far the biggest innovations we've seen in mobile this year have been bigger screens and smaller bezels, but Chinese manufacturer ZTE has raised the bar with its Axon M, the first foldable handset with a dual display, suggesting a host of potential uses.

You could browse the web on one screen and compose an email on the other perhaps, or watch Netflix on one display while Twitter scrolls across the second one. Both screens are 5.2 inches diagonally, combining to make a 6.75-inch, 1,920 x 2,160 panel with the two displays both facing forward (admittedly with a large join in the middle).

Maybe the Axon M will be most useful for productivity apps, allowing you to type away on a document in landscape mode without obscuring three-quarters of the screen with a keyboard. ZTE says a three-finger swipe sends apps between screens, or you can have them configured to act like one whole display.

In tent mode, the ZTE Axon M offers gamers the opportunity to play against each other
In tent mode, the ZTE Axon M offers gamers the opportunity to play against each other

Games could also benefit from the dual-screen approach, as with the Nintendo DS family of devices, and if you set the phone up in a tent shape you can play against a friend sat opposite, one screen each. That kind of experience will need some effort on the part of developers, though.

However, even without any special tweaking of standard apps, the ZTE Axon M is an intriguing idea. It runs Android 7.1.2 Nougat, comes with a mid-range Snapdragon 821 processor, and packs in 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of local storage. A 20 MP rear-facing camera with an F1.8 aperture is included, and a 3,180-mAh battery sits inside, but you're not really going to be buying this for the specs.

Dual screens have been tried before, most notably on the Yotaphone, but ZTE is the first to make both screens full color LCD and add the folding mechanism for good measure – similar to the many 2-in-1 laptops we've seen in recent years, only with a second display instead of a keyboard, and with everything shrunk down.

The two displays of the ZTE Axon M means that screens need no longer be cluttered up with app icons, users can have a messaging screen above and a keyboard below, or watch online movies on one display while keeping up with social media updates on the other
The two displays of the ZTE Axon M means that screens need no longer be cluttered up with app icons, users can have a messaging screen above and a keyboard below, or watch online movies on one display while keeping up with social media updates on the other

The concept might have more long-term potential than you would think at first glance. Samsung has long been rumored to be working on a foldable phone called the Galaxy X, tipped to appear in 2018 or 2019, though that is supposedly being made from one single seamless display rather than two hooked together.

With Apple, Samsung, and Google dominating the smartphone market in recent years, at least in the US and Europe, it's going to be difficult for the Axon M to muscle in, even with a unique selling point – but ZTE at least deserves kudos for trying something new.

At launch, the ZTE Axon M will be exclusive to AT&T in the US for $24.17 on a 30 month contract, we're awaiting standalone SIM-free pricing. Further worldwide availability and pricing is yet to be announced.

Product page: ZTE

7 comments
Alien
At last... I've waited years for someone to make a phone like this...and could never understand why it wasn't forthcoming. It the quality is right, it can overcome most of the major problems with current smartphones. Just waiting now for a SIM free version to become available....
vince
I'd be interested in a larger 6 inch with slide out keyboard. I hate touch screens. Too many errors when you have fat wide fingers. I wear size XXXXL gloves and most of them are too small. Why make phones for only for little people? Not giants!
Aussie_2017
Two screens means with this battery means a poor battery life specially on Android that we simply cannot block those background services. I don't see two screens as a I have to own thing, smartphones today have reached a considerable size and one continuous screens is good enough. Now imagine this device with a case on top of it, because 2 screen equals more weight too and indeed it will crack easily. Imagine the size of it. This start to smells the end of the current creativity on mobiles pretty much like happened with the PC industry. Actually with Android manufacturers is incredible similar... first is a race to up specs to sell, then they start cutting profits to make it super cheap and many manufacturers can't keep up with it, crazy designs and gimmicks come and go and for last... agonizing industry... amazing that they didn't learn it the first time. If you want something that big and heavy with a better battery life, any 11"-13" laptop with a sim card would be a better option.
discord
I can't imagine the use of it, as I have never own any two screen device. when the yota phone came into market. I wish I had one, as the dual screen offer longer battery life in the form of black and white screen. now I think the single screen do just fine for handheld operation in everyday use, if I wanted another screen , I just simply buy another phone which to me - an elegant solution to my gadget heart desire.
James Brett
Meh, I thought you meant the screen was foldable.
DaveWesely
Unlike some of the comments, I would rather have a flip style phone instead of a flat phone. It is most irritating when I handle my phone to pull it out or into my pocket, only to trigger an app or button. Granted a case would help, but that adds bulk. A hinged smart phone gives you more screen real estate without increasing phone size (better yet - make it smaller). It protects the screens from unwanted touch. You could talk on the phone with it closed like a regular phone - no worries about touching the screen with your cheek. What they should be working on is a clamshell smartphone small enough to put on your keychain...
MarcinBuglewicz
that's a regress actually. taking nintendo 3ds and adding sim tray. such future