Four months ago I received the beautiful quartz grey ZTE Axon 7 from Newegg. Since then, I have been using the Axon as my daily driver. When I first decided to order the phone I was sceptical due to some of my poor experiences with the ZTE brand. The marketing, build, tech and the 2 year warranty persuaded me to give it a try and I am a huge fan of this phone. I would like to share my experience of using the ZTE Axon for the last four months.
The body of the Axon held up surprisingly well over these last 4 months. Since I received the phone, I have exclusively used the clear case that was packaged with it. The case is thin and incredibly flexible, but it’s managed to keep scratch and dent off the metal body of the device. The case has also been turned a slight shade of blue after picking up the dye from my jeans pocket. When removed from the case, the body looks as gorgeous as the day I unboxed it.
The screen has picked up a few micro scratches that can be seen when held in certain light. I removed the packaged screen protector because it made the picture seem a little pixellated and created a kind of rainbow effect. I have been unable to find a good screen protector replacement. Most of the reviews I hear about tempered glass say that it doesn’t cover the entire screen and the plastic ones I usually avoid due to personal preference. I have noticed a couple of times after mowing the lawn that the screen had a little flicker to it. Letting rest outside my pocket for a little while always fixed it. The color, brightness and tone have all held up very well with the only thing that I find lacking is that there is no baked in “night mode” that is featured on many new devices. This is a quirk that is easily remedied by downloading an app like Twilight.
The software that came on the phone was one of the weakest points, in my opinion. When it was brand new, I was forced to use the “notification bell” which made me press a bell icon on my lock screen in order to see any of the notifications that came in. Originally, there was no other way around this obnoxious software quirk. It seems that someone at ZTE was listening though because within 2 months one of the updates allowed you to disable the bell feature. Also, small improvements were made here and there. One of those improvements was a battery manager that shows you which of your apps uses an abnormal amount of power and lets you restrict those apps. I have not been using the stock launcher that came with the phone, I have instead opted for Nova Launcher Prime mostly for the extra customization options that it offers. The Axon is promised to be Daydream ready as soon as it releases the Android Nougat update later this January which I anxiously await.
Performance has held up very well switching between apps and multitasking is seamless. There were only a few times that I found myself having troubles with the battery life. I found myself factory resetting it one time to fix the quick drain and that seemed to remedy the situation. On a heavy usage day, I’ll usually be around the 20%-30% when I go to charge it at night. On moderate usage days, it tends to be between 50% and 60% at the end of the day.
The one thing that I am truly disappointed with is the camera. I find that the auto mode gives the picture a very dark exposure. Low light with the auto mode is almost unbearably dark unless in direct sunlight. Also, I the auto focus can sometimes take a little longer hone in on the picture you want. These things can be fixed with the camera apps manual mode, but it’s a little bit of a bummer when I’m looking for a quick point-and-click. The camera hardware should be able to handle taking some great pictures, so hopefully this could be fixed in a future software update.
The single best feature of this phone is the speakers. If I had a dime every time I played the preloaded Dolby digital demo, I would have paid for this phone 10 times over. The speakers are crisp and clear and they have remained that way for months. There is no sign of crackling and the bass is still as deep when I first played the demo. I usually hate listening to anything through the tin sound of cell phone speakers, but now, I find myself comfortably watching YouTube videos during my lunch hour without cringing at the high treble and the very shallow bass. The speakers are what make this phone really stand out from the rest.
I look forward to using this phone for quite a while. With the latest hardware alongside software updates that keep improving the experience, I find that I’m incredibly pleased with the phone. The axon 7 definitely exceeds the expectations I had for a $400 smartphone.