ZTE's troubles as of late have been well documented. Following a substantial fine and a complete removal of the senior staff from SVP and above, the company is now allowed to continue selling in the US and receiving US technology, meaning it can once again focus on its product portfolio. With the upheaval, new and exciting devices from R&D like the dual-screen Axon M are getting put on the back burner, while the company focuses on more mainstream devices like its new Axon 9 Pro that was launched at IFA.

We were told by our rep that ZTE was aiming to be one of the first vendors with an S845 device in market, but the situation caused a big delay. The company then subsequently waited another six weeks after the resolution to launch the Axon 9 Pro. This way, we were told, the story would focus more on the device than the other issues if they had announced it immediately.

Axon 9 Pro

Prior to the issues with the US, ZTE was a company proud of its ability to implement new features and technology into its devices. Two years ago at IFA, for example, smartphone OIS stability was a key feature in a lot of booths, including ZTE. This year, with the Axon 9 Pro, the focal points are on the display, the audio, and the video playback capabilities.

The device uses an OLED display, supplemented with a Pixelworks chip designed to enhance the color depth of content as well as automatically interpolate video to 60 FPS. For color, an additional RGB sensor is on the front of the device to help examine the environment and adjust the picture for the best clarity. ZTE knows this is not new – our representative states that features like this have been in TVs for a while, however it's never been in smartphones (we’ve seen it in some tablets). This means that any video that is 25/30 FPS will automatically be ‘upscaled’ to 50/60 FPS without the user having to do anything. Games stuck at 30 FPS will also get the treatment, although the requirements are a bit stricter for this. Also present is Dolby Atmos certified audio, which ZTE is keen to promote.

The Axon 9 Pro has a 6.21-inch 2248x1080 OLED display, and is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 SoC. It will only be offered in one combination of 6 GB of DRAM and 128 GB of storage, and comes with a 4000 mAh battery. It has two rear cameras (20MP+12MP) with OIS, and a front camera (20MP). The fingerprint sensor is on the rear, and it is worth noting that there is no 3.5mm jack. It will be shipping with Android 8.x Oreo. The device is also rated to IP68.

From a hands-on level, the device is certainly designed to feel good to hold, and from the specifications ZTE is aiming squarely at the high-end with this device. The combination of a large OLED display, high-end SoC, lots of DRAM and Storage, a large battery, and the Pixelworks technology are reflected in the price: 649 Euro for Germany, coming at the end of September. Other markets in the EU and Asia will be following shortly after.

ZTE in 5G

There was also a display regarding 5G at the ZTE booth. These were simply mockups about 5G-like devices, such as home and business access points, but ZTE were keen to state that they have a deep commitment to 5G and the infrastructure.

ZTE stated that they are primarily partnering with Qualcomm for 5G.

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  • meacupla - Tuesday, September 18, 2018 - link

    You can pack in a lot of good hardware into a highly competitive price, but earning back consumer trust is going to be way more expensive than the price difference offered.
  • invinciblegod - Tuesday, September 18, 2018 - link

    I don't know if "consumer trust" is the right word since they haven't really done anything to annoy consumers. They did geopolitical stuff that is against US policy or law but most people don't really care about that (like sodastream used to build on west bank which would annoy or please depending on one's politics). Consumer trust to me would refer to things that effect consumer's directly, like Samsung battery gate.
  • Manch - Wednesday, September 19, 2018 - link

    Consumer Trust is the right word in this case. As a consumer, I don't trust them.
  • PeachNCream - Thursday, September 20, 2018 - link

    The company hasn't done anything overtly harmful to consumers. I have no problems with purchasing and using a ZTE. The Axon 9 is way out of my price range, but if I see one of their other phones for $30 the next time I'm in the market for a new smartphone, I'll get one unless there's a smartphone for $20 and it happens to be some other brand. I just don't care what company made it.
  • Quantumz0d - Tuesday, September 18, 2018 - link

    ZTE is dead not back.

    They destroyed everything what made Axon 7 rival to Oneplus 3.

    -metal body design, drilled holes for stereo speakers
    -SD card slot
    -QHD AMOLED panel
    -AKM DAC chipset which works on Custom ROMs, a very rare case of that, iirc only a few phones were capable (SGS, SGS II- eve though it has worst Audio chip from Yamaha, SGS III, SGS is still king due to full HW EQ option available to end user )

    -added notch on top if it, removed the headphone jack. Extravagant pricing vs Axon 7's ($400), with iPhone wannabe BS design at back and all the above.

    With recent fiasco their fate is sealed. They are Doomed. Axon 7 was a hero this is completely opposite. Sad
  • milli - Tuesday, September 18, 2018 - link

    You forgot one more added benefit of the Axon 7 over the OP3 (at least for me, very important): USB 3.0.
  • 0siris - Tuesday, September 18, 2018 - link

    I was thinking exactly the same thing. Looks like the Axon 7 was a fluke, and the designers at ZTE didn't actually understand how to make a highly functional phone. Either that or they replaced the entire department. The Axon 9 looks like just another awful, bog standard 2018 smartphone design.
  • qlum - Wednesday, September 19, 2018 - link

    I actually bought my axon 7 this year as it is still hard to beat at € 300.
    as for the speaker grills they are plastic. Personally this phone turned dual front speakers into a must.

    I never want to go back to the crap other phones use where you can easily block the speakers and the sound comes from one side. While also sounding worse in general. a speaker behind the screen can possibly also work though.

    As for usb3 my previous phone was a note 3 so for me it was just something phones have in general.
  • Quantumz0d - Wednesday, September 19, 2018 - link

    Oh, I just tried at BestBuy not much time to try that out so I thought they are metal. Looks like except HTC M7 no phone has metal laser drilled holes for FF speakers.

    Yeah definitely 3.0USB C is a huge must now.
  • V900 - Tuesday, September 18, 2018 - link

    Too big, ZTE... Try again and be more original next time, please.

    You’d think a 6 inch screen is the only one that LG& co. are able to produce, since every phone these days is a huge slab of glass the size of a small tablet.

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