ZTE Axon M is Official: 6.75″ Dual Screen Foldable Smartphone!

Amidst a sea of increasingly bezel-less smartphones, ZTE is looking to differentiate itself from its competitors. The company’s flagship smartphone of 2017 may not pack the top-tier hardware specifications we’re seeing in the latest flagships from Samsung, OnePlus, or Google but it has one particular hardware feature to make up for it—a second screen. Indeed, ZTE is attempting to do what Kyocera failed to do with its Echo device back in 2011. The company is hoping to beat Samsung to the market with the first truly functional, foldable smartphone. Can the ZTE Axon M live up to expectations?

ZTE Axon M
Display 2 x 5.2″ @ 1920×1080.  (1920×2160 “single screen” when folded)
Size & Weight 150.8 x 71.6 x 12.1mm, 230g
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, Adreno 530 GPU
RAM 4GB
Battery 3,180 mAh
Internal Storage 64GB
MicroSD Slot Yes (up to 256GB)
Rear Camera 20MP f/1.8 aperture, PDAF, dual-image stabilization, dual LED flash
3.5mm Headphone Jack Yes
Fingerprint Scanner Yes (integrated into power button)
Software Android Nougat 7.1.2 (promised update to Android Oreo)
Price $725
Availability U.S: AT&T ($24.17/month on AT&T Next) this Holiday 2017

Japan: NTT Docomo

China: China Telecom and JD.com in Q1 2018

Europe: Q1 2018


Design

Before we talk about the Axon M, we need to talk about its predecessor, the Kyocera Echo. The Echo was released far ahead of its time when Android was still in its pre-Holo days. Not only was the ecosystem inadequate for the Echo (the device had a “tablet mode” before Google started its tablet push with Android Honeycomb), but it was clunky to use.

When folded together, the Echo measured approximately 17mm in depth which is far thicker than the average device today. Furthermore, the large bezels contributed to the feeling that the device was huge (keep in mind that 4.7″ was large for a smartphone back then). For these reasons and some more we haven’t listed, the Kyocera Echo failed to capture the market and the foldable smartphone concept died with it.

The 2011 Kyocera Echo

But this is 2017 where the industry has been improving on every aspect of smartphones down to nearly eliminating bezels in some cases. Thus, the time is ripe for the foldable smartphone concept to be revived, and it seems that ZTE is the first to take a crack at it. Meet the ZTE Axon M. With a strong hinge connecting two regular smartphone displays and software trickery via Android’s splitscreen functionality plus some home-baked tricks, Axon is pushing a flexible design ahead of the advent of foldable and bendable smartphones in the coming years.


Display

Both of the Axon M’s displays measure 5.2 inches in their diagonal, both featuring the traditional 16:9 aspect ratio as well and they are protected by Gorilla Glass 5. Above the “back” display you’ll see the camera – a single camera for both selfies and regular pictures –  and the device closes like a flip phone giving you a screen on each side. At 1080p resolution, they aren’t the sharpest displays out there, but the relatively small size of each pushes the pixel density to 426 ppi, and you’ll end up seeing twice as many pixels as in other FHD displays once you enter the signature modes that make this device so special.


Software

There are three modes that the Axon M can be used in: Extended ModeDual Mode, and Mirror Mode. In Extended Mode, applications can be stretched across both displays to fill up the combined screen area. In Dual Mode, you can run two different applications at the same time on each display. Finally, in Mirror Mode the Axon M can mirror the same app across both displays.

On stage, ZTE demonstrated a few uses cases of each mode. For Extended Mode, the company showed a user scrolling through their Facebook feed that stretched into the other display. The company stressed how this results in reducing the amount of overall scrolling that a user needs to do. In Dual Mode, ZTE showed off watching a video while also sending a tweet at the same time (and also spoiled a certain Game of Thrones episode in the process). Finally, in Mirror Mode the company showed off a chess game being played between two players on opposite ends. They attempted to show off Google Duo video conferencing, though the person who was being called never picked up so we didn’t get to see that in action.

The device launches with Android Nougat 7.1.2 on board, but ZTE is promising a prompt update to the latest Android Oreo. They also promise regular software updates for the device.

Developers looking to optimize their applications can head to developer.ztedevice.com to learn more, though ZTE states that most applications will not need to be optimized for use on the Axon M, and they made sure that the top hundred Play Store applications work without a hitch on this device as well.


Internal Hardware

Powering the device is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 SoC with 4GBs of RAM. Though the Snapdragon 821 was last year’s premiere SoC, it’s by no means inadequate. Some of the fastest phones out there including the first generation Google Pixel and Pixel XL are based on this processor, and at the same top clockspeeds of 2.15GHz. By itself, the Snapdragon 821 shouldn’t pose a problem in terms of performance, though some of you may understandably be disappointed by the lack of the latest offering from Qualcomm.

Even with the Snapdragon 821 SoC, the ZTE Axon M isn’t guaranteed to be a smooth performer. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 delivered embarrassing real-world performance when compared to its contemporaries, after all, though Samsung did clean up its act with its Galaxy Note 8. ZTE doesn’t have room for mistakes, however, since I can’t see users giving dual screen smartphones a second chance if this generation is inadequate. Do keep in mind that the phone is essentially powering up two FHD displays, so we’ll have to run it through its paces in order to see just how well it can keep up and perform in the real world.

It’s been 6 years since the Kyocera Echo, but this time we hope it’ll only be one year for the next Axon M. We’ll let you know how the Axon M performs in our hands-on review!


Battery

ZTE has embedded a 3,180 mAh capacity battery into its dual screen Axon M. Whether this will be enough for the Snapdragon 821 and two TFT LCD displays is something we’ll have to find out through day to day usage in the coming weeks.


ZTE Axon M Pricing & Availability

The company states that the phone will retail for $725 exclusively at AT&T, and for $24.17/month on AT&T Next. The company has also announced a partnership with NTT Docomo in Japan. In China, the M will be available through China Telecom and JD.com in Q1 2018. Finally, the company states the M will launch in Europe during Q1 2018, but no further information was given about which countries it will be available in.

Axon Passport M program will come for free for all purchases of the Axon M.


What are your thoughts on the ZTE Axon M? Let us know in the comments!

 

Nova Launcher Beta Updated With More New Pixel 2 Launcher Features

Ever since its original conception, Nova Launcher has been one of the most customizable and actively updated launchers out there. It’s a great alternative for those looking to give their device, no matter how old or recent, a fresh look and feel. Nova Launcher 5.5 aims to bring the Android Oreo look, feel, and even features, to pretty much any Android device. The latest beta brings even more Oreo features to the table – this time around, they are adding some Pixel 2-exclusive tidbits.

The third Nova Launcher 5.5 beta includes, most notably, support for placing the search bar on the dock. Since it’s the Nova bar rather than the stock Google one, you will be able to customize it however you want. Also, for more freedom of choice, you can place the said bar over the dock icons rather than under them. This is not the first launcher to include this, as Action Launcher has already received a similar update some days before. So, while Nova is playing catch up here, it’s still a much-needed and appreciated update.

However, this is not the only change we’re seeing in this beta. Going to the app drawer, the navigation bar icons are now tinted dark whenever the status bar icons go dark (on Oreo, since dark navigation bar icons are a part of API 26). However, this is only with the drawer: if you toggle Dark icons in Appearance settings only the status bar will be tinted. A block-style pop-up menu a la Pixel launcher and adaptive icon animations, as well as some small changes in app shortcuts and shadows, are also present.

If you’d like to test out this beta build, you should be able to grab it from the Play Store already or download the APK directly from the Nova Launcher website. Have in mind that this is a beta, and you’ll need to be enrolled in the beta before downloading these updates.


Source: +KevinBarry

All Future Official LineageOS 14.1 Builds Are Safe From the KRACK Vulnerability

Security has been a big focus within the Android community for enthusiasts, and for quite a while too. As some OEMs have dedicated themselves to monthly security updates, it has actually influenced the phones that some people buy. This is also true for custom ROMs as well since many of us want our devices as secure as possible, so we tend to gravitate toward the options that provide those patches the quickest. A new WPA2 WiFi vulnerability called KRACK made headlines this week and the folks at LineageOS says all future official 14.1 builds will be secure from this attack.

The KRACK vulnerability is interesting due to how secure many people thought WPA2 WiFi authentication was. Many had switched to it from WEP a while back due to the fact that it dynamically generated new keys to encrypt packets to improve security. This attack was brought to the attention of the public thanks to a research paper by Mathy Vanhoef that shows how it is possible to trick the underlying mechanics of WPA2. For anyone in the Dallas Texas area on November 1st, you can see a proof of concept exploit called Key Reinstallations Attacks (KRACK) at the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security on November 1st.

Due to the fact that KRACK attacks the WPA2 protocol, it’s said that 41% of active Android devices are currently severely vulnerable to the attack. When we consider how many Android smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, set-top boxes and IoT devices there are out in the wild, that shows how devastating this exploit really is. For those who are interested in more details, you can read about the step by step process for how KRACK actually works against susceptible devices here.

So now that we know its existence, many enthusiasts are looking for how we can stay safe from the exploit. Google schedules security updates at the start of each month and the company has said they’ll be patching vulnerable devices “in the coming weeks” which has led many to suspect the patches will be included in the November security update. For LineageOS users though, the official Twitter account has confirmed that all official LineageOS 14.1 builds from now on will be safe against this attack.


Source: @LineageAndroid

Developer Preview of Android 8.1 Oreo (MR1) is Arriving “in the Coming Weeks”

Today, Google made a couple of announcements about the future of the Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL and even Android itself. First, we learned that there is a custom dedicated SoC in the Pixel 2 phones for processing the images its cameras take. However, that will not be enabled until the upcoming Android 8.1 Oreo update but we also received news about this update as well. According to Google, the first developer preview of its Android 8.1 Oreo maintenance release will be available “in the coming weeks.”

We’ve talked about future versions of Android in the past with us speculating that the new Bluetooth battery level feature coming in the big 8.1 update. We learned more about this Bluetooth battery level feature late last week and it’s something that many customers are currently looking forward to. A couple of months ago we also learned that Google had already began working on Android P (like to be 9.0) as we found three commits to AOSP that mentioned the update for the Pixel and the Pixel XL.

It was originally thought that Google would be launching the two new Pixel phones with Android 8.0.1 as that version number was displayed in some FCC documents. While that still may be the case, many are now looking ahead to Android 8.1 Oreo so their new smartphone will be able to take advantage of that new custom Pixel Visual Core SoC onboard. Along with the new announcement of the Pixel Visual Core included in the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL, we also learned that Google is currently preparing the first developer preview of the Android 8.1 Oreo update.

The update will be made available for the two new Pixel phones as well as their successors. Other than that, there really isn’t much else known about the update. Google says the first developer preview will be made available to the public “in the coming weeks,” and that’s it so far. We’ll likely hear more from the company as we get closer to its initial release.


Source: Droid-Life

Pixel Visual Core in the Google Pixel 2 & 2XL is a Custom SoC for Image Processing

In the months leading up to the release of the Google Pixel 2, many had expected the company to include the Snapdragon 836 SoC. This was mentioned in a number of rumors and it would have lined up with how the original Pixel phones launched with a revised Snapdragon 821 last year. However, it turns out the two new Pixel smartphones have a secret SoC inside them called the Pixel Visual Core and it is said to be dedicated exclusively to camera image processing.

Many within the Android community have been wanting Google to create their own custom SoC for years now. When this was brought up before, it was referring to custom CPU and GPU cores like we see in other chipsets from the likes of Qualcomm, Apple, and Samsung. There was even talk about this not too long ago when the company hired a key chip designer from Apple to bulid custom chips for the copmany. This immediately got people thinking about custom CPU and GPU cores and while this still might happen sometime in the future, this could have been for the new Pixel Visual Core instead.

Today, it has been revealed that both the Pixel 2 as well as the Pixel 2 XL both have a custom SoC in them called the Pixel Visual Core. It packs eight Image Processing Unit (IPU) cores, with a single Cortex A53 core, DDR4 RAM and a PCIe line. Dedicated chips aren’t anything new to Google either as the company included the Android Sensor Hub in their Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X devices so it could monitor the movement of the device (and yours, by extension) through a sort of co-processor. Now, the new Pixel Visual Core is dedicated strictly to image processing with the company saying it can do HDR+ image processing “5x faster and at less than 1/10th the energy.”

However, the Pixel Visual Core is not currently enabled in the two new Pixel phones but it will be enabled soon. Google tells us this custom SoC will be enabled with the upcoming Android 8.1 Oreo update and that a developer preview will be made available “in the coming weeks.”


Source: Ars Technica