ZTE has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons lately. The Chinese electronics company was the target of a U.S. Congressional bill that sought to ban government agencies from purchasing its networking equipment, and it suffered another blow when the Senate voted to reinstate a (since suspended) export ban on its consumer device lineup. But those setbacks didn’t stop it from debuting its latest flagship at IFA 2018 in Berlin: the Axon 9.
The Axon 9, the latest in ZTE’s flagship Axon series, isn’t the flashiest handset on the block. It’s crafted from glass and aluminum, and sports a 6.21-inch, 2,248 x 1,080 screen with a 18.7:9 aspect ratio and a sizeable cutout top-center. But there’s good reason for the notch: It packs an RGB color sensor and a front-facing camera that shoots up to 20MP.
The color sensor, working in tandem with a dedicated display coprocessor, adjusts the panel’s hues to account for ambient light. And together, they power the Axon 9’s Motion Video Optimization feature, which interpolates video data and normalizes the frame rate to 60 frames per second. ZTE claims it helps to eliminate shutter roll and other artifacts.
The Axon 9’s rear camera setup largely mirrors the front: There’s a 12MP optically stabilized sensor paired with a 20MP wide-angle shooter with a 130-degree field of view. Switching between the two is a one-tap affair in the Axon 9’s camera app.
The camera app, speaking of, won’t leave you wanting. Headlining features include an iPhone-like depth-of-field mode that blurs the background in photos while narrowing in on subjects, and a Sport mode that locks focus on moving objects in-frame.
What might perturb you is ZTE’s decision to omit a 3.5mm headphone jack and the Axon 9’s Android 8.1 Oreo-based firmware. (Inexplicably, the company won’t ship the Axon 9 with the latest version of Android, 9.0 Pie.)
But to be sure, there’s a lot to like about the Axon 9. It packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 system-on-chip, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a 4,000mAh battery that supports Qi wireless charging. Also on tap are stereo speakers with dual amplifiers and Dolby Atmos tech, and a machine learning-powered translation feature that can interpret 29 languages.
Given ZTE’s stateside regulatory woes, it’s not exactly surprising that the Axon 9 pro isn’t launching in the U.S. — it’s heading to territories in Europe, where it’ll cost about $756 when it retails in September. If it does make its way to North America anytime soon, here’s hoping the price tag doesn’t budge.