ZTE has announced the Axon M in partnership with AT&T, which might just be the weirdest device you’ll see this year. It’s a folding style phone with pretty standard hardware, but it’s also a flagship ZTE phone on a major US carrier, which is a big deal on its own.
The specs aren’t really anything special with the Axon M, but they’re competitive with other phones on the market. You’ll get a Snapdragon 821 CPU paired with 4GB of RAM, and two identical 5.2-inch 1080p displays. They flip and close like a book on top of each other.
There are several different viewing modes, including a mirrored mode for two people to view content, an extended mode that turns the device into a makeshift tablet (albeit with a hinge in the middle of the screen) and a mode where you can run two apps side by side. And if you’d rather just hold the phone like normal, simply close the hinge and use it like any other device. That’s what you’ll have to do to get to the camera, anyway.
The Axon M does all of this with default Android functionality, interestingly enough. There’s no software overhaul here, since ZTE uses Android’s native split-screen ability to run apps side-by-side, and it’ll pull up the tablet version of the app if you’re using the extended mode. Android tablets aren’t known for their excellent selection of apps, though, so the usefulness of that is debatable.
All of this flipping and folding does add some weight to the device, with the Axon M coming in at 12mm thick and weighing 230 grams.
It’s a really tough sell, I think, but ZTE will be offering the phone exclusively through AT&T in the US and Docomo in Japan. It’ll run about $24 per month on an AT&T Next plan, so it’s definitely priced like a flagship. Whether consumers think a fat phone that does yoga is worth that kind of money is another question entirely.