ZTE has endured a horrid 2018, as U.S. sanctions deprived it of key components and almost pushed it over the edge. Now the company’s back to business with its new top-flight ZTE Axon 9 Pro, announced today in Berlin.
The Axon 9 Pro is your quintessential flagship phone in many ways — here’s everything you need to know about it.
Ticking most boxes for design
If you were expecting a notchless design, you’re going to be disappointed here, as the Axon 9 Pro has a wide iPhone X-style cutout. It’s a little disappointing when we’ve seen the Galaxy Note 9‘s notch-free display and Oppo’s waterdrop notch. However, it also has a 6.2-inch full HD+ AMOLED screen, so expect some deep blacks (more on the display in a bit).
The phone has a tempered glass panel on the back and supports wireless charging.
The ZTE Axon 9 Pro also joins the likes of Sony, Samsung, Huawei, and LG in offering a water-resistant phone. The device has an IP68 water and dust resistance rating, so it should survive just fine if you take it into the swimming pool.
Some interesting display tech
ZTE’s new handset also packs what it calls “Axon Vision” — essentially a suite of various technologies for the 2,248 x 1,080 display. The most prominent feature is “motion video optimization,” which boosts video content to 60fps, inserting extra frames into content with a lower frame rate.
This sounds nigh-on identical to the motion enhancement and smoothing modes in scores of TVs, which essentially duplicates frames to give a 60fps presentation. Results can be hit-or-miss with TVs, so we’re curious about the final product.
The company also added HDR10 support and an RGB sensor for automatically adjusting color temperature based on the environment.
No telephoto camera here
The ZTE Axon 9 Pro has a dual-camera setup consisting of a 12MP f/1.75 main snapper (1.4 micron pixels, with optical image stabilization) and a 20MP super wide-angle secondary camera (130 degrees). Personally, I quite like super wide-angle cameras instead of telephoto shooters. Your mileage will obviously vary.
Much like other manufacturers in 2018, ZTE is touting AI-based enhancements for its cameras, in this case meaning “intelligent motion and facial recognition” capabilities.
The ZTE Axon 9 Pro eschews telephoto zoom in favor of LG-style super-wide shots.
The company hasn’t shed light on many specific camera modes, aside from noting that it can capture “motion sequences” and slow motion clips. Here’s hoping we see a few new modes in addition to the traditional camera options.
Look at the front of the Axon 9 Pro and you’ll find a 20MP selfie camera, used for face unlock as well. If camera-based facial recognition isn’t enough, it’s also got rear fingerprint scanner on the back.
Flagship power on tap
ZTE’s latest high-end phone easily qualifies as a flagship, with a Snapdragon 845 chipset, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. The one major downside is the lack of microSD support, so you’ll need to make use of the cloud or your computer if you run low on space.
The 4,000mAh battery is above average for a flagship phone these days. The company claims it can charge up “power for an entire day” in under an hour.
You can check out our dedicated Axon 9 Pro specs page over here for more details.
No Android Pie just yet
Unfortunately, the ZTE Axon 9 Pro is still running Android 8.1, along with its own proprietary skin. However, we’ve been told Android Pie is in the works.
ZTE claims the phone uses AI to deliver smooth performance. Apparently the phone can predict user behavior and automatically shut down unused apps in the background, removing associated files in the process. It sounds like the overly aggressive battery management seen on phones from brands like Huawei. Hopefully, this isn’t the case.
Flagship pricing as well?
The Axon 9 Pro will be available for 649 euros (~$757) when it launches in Germany at the end of September. China and Russia will join Germany as the initial markets for the new phone, although we don’t have pricing details for those regions.
Let us know in the comments what you think of the Axon 9 Pro. Would you buy one? You can also check out more Axon 9 Pro coverage below.