UPDATE April 4, 2019: We had high hopes for the ZTE Axon 9, but it won't be releasing in the United States. If you're in another area of the world, you can look into the ZTE Axon 9 Pro, but we cannot recommend this device to American readers due to carrier incompatibility. Below, we've saved the early rumored information on the Axon 9 for posterity.
2018 has been a rough year for ZTE. After announcing the sequel to the Axon 7, ZTE was accused by the US government of spying for the Chinese government. After a lot of back and forth, ZTE is now fully operational in the US. And the Axon 9, which was once considered dead, is back on schedule.
When the ZTE Axon 7 arrived two years ago, it challenged the notion of the flagship, namely its price. The Axon 7 offered better specs than the OnePlus 3 at the same price. While it wasn't perfect (particularly, its software), it evolved over time into an amazing phone with great ROM support and is on track to get Android Oreo. So when ZTE announced the Axon 9 (they are skipping the Axon 8), many Android users got excited.
We hope ZTE will learn from their mistakes and their past success and build off of them. And with their US operation saved by President Trump, we hope they take this opportunity to really deliver a great successor, two years later.
- OS Version: Android 8.0 Oreo
- CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
- GPU: Adreno 630
- 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 and unknown second camera with dual LED flash
- Front Camera: 13 MP and unknown second camera
- Speakers: Rear-firing
- Additional Features: Fingerprint scanner embedded into display
- Pricing: $550–$630
When the US Commerce Department instituted the ban on ZTE, it prevented any US company from trading with the Chinese company. As a result, it made the chance of the Axon 9 arriving almost impossible since both Qualcomm and Google are American companies.
While there was some question as to whether Google's Android operating system was subject to the ban (since it was open source), there was no question about Qualcomm, making it impossible for ZTE Axon 9 to use the latest flagship chipset from Qualcomm (or any other chips). But since the ban was lifted, ZTE should have no problem using the latest from Qualcomm.
When ZTE first introduced the Axon series back in 2015, they released two models, the ZTE Axon and ZTE Axon Pro. While they skipped the pro model with the Axon 7, it appears they are bringing it back with the Axon 9 series. An official Weibo post by ZTE shows the Pro model, which has a different design from the previously leaked Axon 9.
Similar to the Pixel 3 lineup, ZTE will have one phone with a display notch and one without, with the Pro version being the former. The camera is also placed in the upper-left corner of the back cover compared to the Axon 9, which has the camera centered.
According to AndroidHits, the Axon 9 will feature a 6-inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 2880 x 1440. While no rumors have come out regarding the specs of the Pro version, we expect a slightly bigger screen to separate the two products. Also, because of the display notch, the resolution will be different as well.
According to AndroidHits, the Axon 9 will have four cameras — two in the front and two in the rear. While we don't know the specs of the secondary lenses, we do know the primary camera in the rear is 20 MP and the primary front camera is 13 MP. We don't much else about the camera, specifically whether they are wide-angle or telephoto, but we can at least assume that portrait mode should be available on both cameras.
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.
While many speculated ZTE would announce the Axon 9 during IFA 2018, ZTE has officially announced the date on their Twitter and Weibo. The Axon 9 and 9 Pro will be announced on August 30th, a day before IFA. It will start at 10:00 am Eastern Time, perfect for US customers to watch the event.
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. If ZTE manages this price point, the Axon 9 will once again go toe-to-toe with OnePlus 6T rumored to arrive a few months later.
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.