The ZTE Axon 7 was a well-received phone that offered flagship specs at a midrange price. But at this point, the phone's nearly two years old and many have been wondering when a successor was coming. This year, ZTE announced they will finally release the Axon 9, and we now have a fresh set of leaked specs.
ZTE will be skipping the Axon 8 and jumping straight to the 9. Before details emerged, many in the Android community were already excited thanks to ZTE's handling of the Axon 7. While the Axon 7 had a rough start, ZTE listened to its community and addressed many of the complaints, including releasing the kernel source code for custom ROM support. Even at two years old, ZTE is still supporting this device, with Android Oreo expected in April.
The hope is this new device will follow in the Axon 7's footprints, and things are already starting to look that way. After a recent leak, we now have a good idea of how the Axon 9 will shape up.
- OS Version: Android 8.0 Oreo
- RAM: 4 GB or 6 GB
- Display: 6" 2880 x 1440 AMOLED
- Storage: 64 GB, 128 GB, 256 GB
- Rear Camera: 20 MP f/1.7 with dual LED flash
- Front Camera: 13 MP
- Speakers: Rear-firing
- Additional Features: Fingerprint scanner embedded into display
- Pricing: $550–$630
After learning ZTE violated terms of a sanctions case, the US Department of Commerce is banning any American company from selling components to ZTE. ZTE was previously accused and convicted for illegally shipping US goods to Iran. They were forced to pay a hefty fine of $890 million (the largest at the time), dismiss four senior employees, and discipline 35 others. While ZTE complied with the first two conditions, it failed to discipline the 35 members, resulting in this new punishment.
Thanks to the ban, it's likely the Axon 9 will not use a Qualcomm. The American company makes one of the most popular chipsets in smartphones, and it's the only used in most US versions of Android flagships (with the exception of Huawei's Kirin). The ban is for seven years, which means all future endeavors will be affected. While ZTE may have already purchased Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 for the Axon 9, Qualcomm would not be able to sell any more if demand requires more units. Thanks to this recent ban, the state of the Axon 9 is in jeopardy.
This year's CES gave us our first look at a fingerprint scanner embedded in the display. Instead of using a separate sensor, this Synaptics-created technology lets you place your finger along the bottom of the display to scan your fingerprint.
While this technology is a little slower than a dedicated sensor, it does allow for smaller bezels. Currently, the only phone with this technology is the Vivo X20 Plus UD, which doesn't have a US release date and uses midrange specs. Pending the big OEMs announcing implementation, the Axon 9 should be the first flagship device with this technology.
Following the 2017 trend of 2:1 aspect ratios, the ZTE Axon 9 is rumored to sport a 2880 x 1440 display. Like its predecessor, the display will use an AMOLED screen, but the size will increase from 5.5" to 6".
From the leaked images, it looks like the Axon 9 will join the small list of Android smartphones which still include capacitive keys. A majority of devices have eliminated these hardware buttons in the pursuit of thin bezels, but it looks ZTE is bucking this trend. While the buttons are shrunken, fans of the Axon 7 will have no problem adjusting, as their layout and placement is similar.
Currently, ZTE has been vague with the Axon 9's release date. At the time of this writing, ZTE has only stated that the Axon 9 will be released later this year.
As for pricing, rumors suggest the Axon 9 will follow its predecessor and be offered at a midrange price point — at least when compared to current flagship pricing. The ZTE Axon 9 should be priced somewhere between $550 and $630 dollars. At this pricing, it would once again directly compete against the OnePlus 6.
Currently, neither the leaked images nor rumors address the elephant in the room, the inclusion of a headphone jack. The Axon 7 not only included one but had one of the best 3.5 mm headphone jacks when it was released two years ago. Its inclusion of a Hi-Fi DAC allowed it to excel at audio and top our list of the best midrange phones for music lovers, so it would be a shame for ZTE to abandon this feature.
Additionally, there is no mention of speakers outside of their placement on the back of the phone. One of the main advantages the Axon 7 held over the OnePlus 3 was its audio capability. It was one of the first phones to offer Dolby Atmos and provided one the cleanest sounding speakers (a feature only topped by the recently released Razer Phone). Many fans of the Axon series (including myself) hope ZTE continues their focus on audio quality.
While this is all we know about the Axon 9 today, we'll continue to update this article as new information comes out. Are you excited about the Axon 9? What features do you hope come with the new device? Let us know in the comment section below.