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Master your ZTE Axon 7 with these handy tips and tricks

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Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

If you’re the lucky owner of a new ZTE Axon 7, pat yourself on the back: you’re in possession of one of the best smartphones on the market. ZTE’s venerable flagship may have made its debut nearly six months ago, but it still packs a punch, and it’s not hard to see why. It delivers true Hi-Fi sound at a decibel level far above what Apple’s iPhone 7 and Google’s Pixel are capable of. It boasts a well-calibrated 20-megapixel camera, a sharp 2K display, a super-fast processor, and a beefy battery. Best of all, it retails for just $400 — Benjamins upon Benjamins less than the top-of-the-line competition.

More: 10 great ZTE Axon 7 cases to add protection and comfort

But the Axon 7’s very best features aren’t necessarily obvious. Some are squirreled away within the phone’s admittedly Byzantine settings menu. Others are hidden in plain sight, but only if you know where to look. And that’s what we’re here for. We’ve put together a useful guide to the very best features the Axon 7 has to offer, obvious or not.

Change the default theme

The Axon 7’s software is relatively close to stock Android, the mobile operating system humming along beneath its aluminum hood. But if the Axon 7’s home screen icons, shortcuts, menus, and backgrounds start to grow a little too long in the tooth, customizing them is a cinch. The handset’s built-in theme chooser lets you switch between the themes with the tap of a button.

It’s a simple procedure. Press and hold near any unoccupied home screen space and tap the Themes tab, and from there, you can switch between “Stock Android,” ZTE’s “Classic Mifavor,” or any other themes you’ve installed from the Google Play store.

Customize the home screen

The Axon 7’s home screen isn’t all that radically different from Android’s default launcher. In fact, short of a few unique transition animations, an ever-so-slightly tweaked app drawer, and beefed-up search bar, it’s almost identical. That’s good news for customization.

You can reorder home screen shortcuts by pressing and holding on the icon you want to move, then dragging it to the space you’d like to place it. Pressing and holding on an unoccupied home screen space, meanwhile, summons the Axon 7’s collection of wallpapers, widgets, and backgrounds.

Give voice commands

The Axon 7 doesn’t pack much in the way of preinstalled apps, and that’s a good thing — the last thing you want are apps you never use eating up precious storage space. But the tools ZTE has seen fit to include are genuinely useful, and among the cream of the crop is My Voice, a tool that ties custom commands to just about everything. Using no more than a few verbal commands, you can unlock the Axon 7, take photos, add contacts, switch on airplane mode, disable the GPS, and adjust the brightness. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

  • Voice unlock switches on your phone with a spoken passphrase.
  • Music play controls audio playback. You can make a selection by saying the name of an artist, album, or song. You can also control playback with commands to stop the playing track, advance to the next track, increase or decrease the volume level, or shuffle tracks.
  • Photo capture controls the camera. Saying “capture” triggers a snap, while yelling “selfie” flips on the front sensor. “Flash” toggles the flash, and “exit” closes the camera app.
  • Contacts dials numbers with a spoken phrase. If you have a contact named Jim with an associated phone for instance, saying “call Jim” will dial accordingly.
  • Application and system control can silence and set alarms, launch apps, and toggle options like Wi-Fi, mute, brightness, data, GPS, airplane mode, and vibration.
  • My voice can read caller ID and text messages aloud.

You can see the full list of supported commands by navigating to Settings > My Voice. 

Use gesture controls

If you’d rather have your fingers do the talking, the Axon 7 sports a suite of gesture commands tied to specific software functions.

  • A double-tap wakes the screen.
  • A three-finger pinch takes a screenshot and snoozes ongoing alarms.
  • Holding the phone up to your ear calls the contact listed on any text message details page, contact details page, or call history details page;  answers an incoming call; or, when you’re in a call, turns off speakerphone.
  • Flipping the phone silences the ringer for an incoming call.
  • A three-finger pinch takes a screenshot.

You can enable and disable the Axon 7’s gestures by going to Settings > Gestures & Motions.

Enable a floating back button

If you’ve ever yearned for an omnipresent circle that floats above whatever app you happen to be using at any given moment, ZTE’s Mi-Pop is the answer to your hopes and dreams. Enabling it places a translucent button — either a back button or home button, depending on your preference — near the center of the Axon 7’s screen, and there’s more to it than meets the eye. Pressing and dragging outward from the circle’s center reveals additional navigational buttons, including a settings and multitasking key. Pressing and holding on the circle serves up a menu with power and restart options, screenshot capture, and volume toggles.

Enable it by heading over to the Mi-Pop menu in Settings > Mi-Pop.

Switch the navigation keys

Don’t like the Axon 7’s touch-sensitive button configuration? No problem — ZTE has made it easy to change. Head on over to Settings > Navigation keys and you can switch between two configurations, one in which the multitasking key is assigned to the left-most button and the back button to the right-most button, or a second in which they’re reversed. In both cases, the home key remains the center button.

Save power

The Axon 7 has stellar out-of-the-box battery life, but ZTE included options that stretch it further. Power Manager includes Smart power-save mode, which ramps the processor up and down depending on usage scenarios, and Ultra Power Saving Mode, which disables all but basic call and SMS functions. If you prefer to approach power management with a bit more precision, Power Manager lets you prevent individual apps from starting when the phone powers on or waking in the background.

You can even schedule the Axon 7 to power up and shut down on a schedule by heading to Settings > Scheduled power on/off and selecting times.

Customize the fingerprint sensor

The Axon 7’s fingerprint sensor is good for more than just securing your smartphone. You can use it to wake up your smartphone, snap a photo from the camera app, or even answer an incoming call.

Enable those functions by heading to Settings > Fingerprint.

Rearrange Quick Settings

Quick Settings, the tappable tiles embedded in the Axon 7’s pull-down notification shade, are a major convenience — it puts Wi-Fi, brightness, Bluetooth, and more at your fingertips. But if you’re not pleased with the default configuration, not to worry: it’s changeable. Tapping the Edit button at the bottom of the notification panel lets you reorder the tiles however you please by pressing and dragging. Also present are options to show the remaining battery level percentage and total notification count on the Axon 7’s lock screen.

Use the Axon 7 as a measuring tool

If you’re in desperate need of a digital toolkit, then ZTE has you covered. The Axon 7’s preloaded Toolkit app puts a compass, flashlight, calculator, protractor, and more at your fingertips. A noise tester application measures nearby decibel levels. A ruler transforms the screen into a virtual 4.5-inch measuring stick. A digital level ensures you’re on even ground.

You can find Toolkit in the app drawer.