Axon 20 5G Purple

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

ZTE today announced the Axon 20 5G, its flagship smartphone for the year. The device is most notable for its selfie camera, which is the first to be positioned under the display without a notch or punch hole. ZTE calls it the first “true full display” on any smartphone, though other phones have achieved the same effect using motorized cameras.

How did ZTE accomplish this feat? Android Authority has the scoop.

Five core

Axon 20 5G Blue

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

ZTE says it developed five core technologies to make the Axon 20 5G’s under-display camera a reality. Working in concert, these five advancements help light penetrate the display and allow the camera underneath to capture pictures.

The first is a special material that relies on organic and inorganic substances to create a film that’s able to allow more light to reach the camera. This works together with a dual-control chip and a dedicated driver circuit, the second and third core technologies, that help with color synchronization as light passes through the display. The goal here is to avoid the interference the display itself might pose to the camera.

Fourth, ZTE optimized the consistency of the display pixels with a special matrix. Fifth, and last, the camera itself has a special shooting algorithm that works in coordination with the display to improve photo clarity. It does this by assessing the current lighting conditions and changing to improve contrast.

These five technologies are integrated into the ZTE Axon 20 5G’s 6.92-inch screen. In addition to the camera, the screen includes an in-display fingerprint sensor, as well as a speaker.

Related: Best phones with under-display fingerprint readers

The OLED display itself offers Full HD+ resolution in a 20.5:9 aspect ratio with 10-bit and 100% DCI-P3 color, which should make it ideal for watching high-quality video.

Just how well this all works is something Android Authority looks forward to testing once the ZTE Axon 20 is available. If you believe the press renders, the Axon 20’s under-display camera will be invisible. That said, press renders can be misleading. Furthermore, prototypes of Xiaomi phones with under-display cameras showed a visible, if discreet “window” in the screen.

A flagship by any other name

Axon 20 5G Orange

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

The Axon 20 5G itself bares a passing resemblance to its predecessors, but ZTE was sure to take some aspects of the design in a new direction. It’s a glass sandwich with an aluminum filling. The rear 3D glass was made using 36 processes to assemble 10 layers to give it a texture all its own. The phone comes in four colors: black, blue, orange, and purple.

The phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor with ZTE’s Z-Booster 2.0 technology. The company claims this helps improve app startup times by as much as 40%. Nine different temperature sensors, together with a three-pronged heat-dissipation system that includes liquid cooling, nano carbon fiber, and multi-layer graphite, help keep the phone cool even while gaming and shooting movies.

The 4,220mAh battery supports 30W Quick Charge and a power-saving mode during 5G operation that ZTE say helps battery life improve by 35%. ZTE didn’t say if the phone supports wireless charging.

ZTE indicated the Axon 20 5G will support the networks of all four main carriers in China, including the available 5G networks. The phone has a specially-designed antenna, called “Super Antenna 2.0,” meant to improve network performance and speeds. ZTE built 12 antennas into the mid frame, placing them as far as possible from the SoC for better sensitivity.

It ships with MiFavor 10.5, ZTE’s Android 10 user interface skin.

See also: Are there any bad Android skins out there?

A powerful shooter

Axon 20 5G Black

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

ZTE may have sunk a lot of resources into developing the under-display camera, but it didn’t neglect the phone’s rear cameras.

The ZTE Axon 20 5G features a 64MP main camera that supports 4K video capture at 60fps, as well as live HDR in video mode. You’ve also got an 8MP ultra-wide camera (120 degree field of view), and a pair of 2MP sensors for depth effects and macro shots.

ZTE paid particular attention to the phone’s video powers. While it doesn’t capture the 8K video that some competing flagships manage, it can record in a full-screen cinema mode at the 20.5:9 aspect ratio with live bokeh and beauty effects. Editing functions include splicing, cropping, filtering, speed changes, and even background music.

A crowded field

ZTE was initially positioning the Axon 20 5G as a flagship, but it doesn’t quite play in the uber-phone space. Phones from the likes of Samsung, Xiaomi, and others rely on the Snapdragon 865 processor, for example, which outclasses the Axon 20’s 765G.

In any event, the ZTE Axon 20 5G has a starting price of 2,198 yuan (~$322) for the 6GB/128GB model, 2,498 yuan (~$366) for the 8GB/128GB variant, and 2,798 yuan (~$410) for the 8GB/256GB option. This means it’s a better competitor against the OnePlus Nord, LG Velvet and the forthcoming Google Pixel 5.

We don’t know how long the phone will be supported with software updates and so on. But all we can say for now is that the under-display camera and price tag has our attention. Now ZTE needs to hold it.

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