The ZTE Axon 7s could turn out to be a killer flagship

The Axon 7s has a better processor and bigger battery than its predecessor

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ZTE’s Axon 7 was one of the best smartphones of 2016. It’s high-end audio, speedy processor, and slick aluminum design matched — and in many cases bested — the competition’s hardware. Now, it’s getting an upgrade in the form of the Axon 7s, an ever-so-slightly enhanced version of the Axon 7 designed to compete with new phones from LG and Samsung.

It’s in some ways a spiritual successor to the Axon 7 Max, a beefed-up version of the Axon 7 that featured a 4,100mAh battery, a Snapdragon 821, and 6GB of RAM. There isn’t much to go on yet, but here’s everything we know about the Axon 7s so far.

Design

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If early renders of the Axon 7s are any indication, it won’t look radically different from the original. ZTE’s new flagship sports the same 2.5D curved, all-metal unbody as last year’s model, and retains the front-firing stereo speakers, rear fingerprint sensor, and edge-to-edge screen.

There’s a notable addition on the rear, though: A 12MP Sony IMX368 sensor. Like the LG G6 and Huawei P10, the Axon 7s has a secondary camera lens that can handle wide-angle and low-light photography.

Specs

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The Axon 7s’s internals aren’t all that radically different from the Axon 7’s. The screen is the same size (5.5 inches), and resolution (2,560 x 1,440 pixels), the primary camera (20MP with a f/1.8 aperture and 1.25µm pixels) and selfie sensor (8MP) haven’t changed, either. But enhancements are in tow.

The Axon 7s packs Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 chip and Adreno 530 graphics, a slight step up from its predecessor’s processor (Snapdragon 820). It boasts 6GB of RAM, up from the Axon 7’s 4GB of RAM, and a 3,400mAh battery compatible with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 technology. And it adds a MicroSD slot and compatibility with Google Daydream, Google’s mobile virtual reality platform.

In fact, one of the only areas that hasn’t seen improvement is the Axon 7s’s software. It ships with Android 6.0 Marshmallow on board, a version behind Android 7.0 Nougat, the newest. Luckily, ZTE says it’s upgradeable via a software update.

Pricing and Availability

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At just $500 for a 128GB model, the Axon 7s sounds like a worthy successor to the Axon 7. Unfortunately, it sounds like it won’t be all that easy to get.

For now, it’s only available for government use in China. It’s specifically targeted at security-conscious officials, shipping with encryption and tools designed to prevent unauthorized tracking, data mining, and other forms of digital malfeasance.

But there’s a chance it’ll become broadly available later on. If and when the Axon 7s goes on sale outside of China, we’ll update this post with pricing and availability details.

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