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New features galore arrive on the ZTE Axon 7, but Daydream VR is the most exciting

Why it matters to you

An update to the already excellent ZTE Axon 7 with Android 7.0 makes it the cheapest way to enjoy Google's Daydream VR.

We’re about to give you another reason to buy the Axon 7 smartphone. ZTE says Android 7.0 Nougat will be available for the device from February 7, which means not only will it have the latest software version and some great new features, but also support for Google’s Daydream VR. Currently, this is primarily a feature on the Google Pixel phones, which cost several hundred dollars more than the Axon 7. Now, VR fans have a much cheaper way to get in on the Daydream fun.

It’s worth it. Daydream VR is close to the experience offered by Samsung’s Gear VR, and way beyond the Cardboard viewer many will associate with VR on other Android phones. The Axon 7 slips into the front of the Daydream VR headset, but it’s not quite the same perfect fit as a Pixel phone. ZTE initially had some problems here, as the elastic strap securing the front of the headset to the body pressed down the Axon 7’s power button causing it to repeatedly turn on and off. To get around this, the update disables the power button when the Daydream software is running.

More: All the best Android 7.0 Nougat tips and tricks

We tried Daydream using the Axon 7, watching some YouTube VR videos and some games, where the phone’s excellent audio performance really stood out. It’s the stereo, front-facing speakers that do it. Compared to a single side speaker, it’s a much better experience. The Daydream app itself is easy to use, and the separate laser pointer-style controller makes navigation much more intuitive than the Gear VR’s side touch panel.

Adding Android 7.0 also brings a few other features to the Axon 7. Side-by-side apps, an enhanced battery saver, and new emojis are all included. Also as part of the software update, ZTE will add Hiya’s phone spam protection and caller ID system, which is ready to get rid of robocalls and let you know who’s calling before you pick up the phone. It’s the first time a phone sold in the U.S. has free spam-call protection. Hiya operates from a library of 1.5 billion numbers, and has call blocking and an auto-block system.

All this is great news, but once 7.0 Nougat arrives, the $400 Axon 7 will become the most cost-effective way to enjoy Daydream VR — and that’s even better. We already rate the phone highly, so it’s great to see ZTE continue to support it with a crucial software update that also adds several really desirable features.

Axon 7 owners should be on the lookout for a notification of its arrival, and get in their orders for a Daydream headset.