Six years ago, a smartphone maker without much clout in the US designed an Android device with a novel second screen that turned a thick phone into a small tablet. That company was Kyocera, that device was the Echo, and uh, it totally flopped. (David Blaine doing magic tricks under 10,000 gallons of water at the phone’s unveiling was, in hindsight, not a great omen.)
Rather than leave the idea of a dual-screen phone in the dustbin, ZTE ran with it and last month released the Axon M, an AT&T exclusive. It’s hard not to look at the thing as a $725 curiosity, but don’t be fooled: It’s a lot more than that. It’s an argument that smartphones can and should be more than the flat slabs we’ve grown so used to. Too bad that argument isn’t compelling.
Having twice as much screen as usual may seem tantalizing, but chances are you won’t be using both displays all the time. When it comes to using the Axon M as you would a normal phone, the compromises ZTE had to make become especially conspicuous. When closed, the phone is half an inch thick, making it the chunkiest smartphone I’ve tested all year.
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