ZTE Axon A1R Smartphone Evaluation

Article Index
ZTE Axon A1R Smartphone Evaluation
Features and Specifications
General Usage
Camera Testing and More
Battery Life, Calling and More
Final Thoughts

Product: ZTE Axon (A1R)
Provided By: ZTE Canada
Price: $400 without contract on Fido ($50 CAD on 2-year term)



Today we are looking at one of the latest and greatest devices from ZTE that is a high-end follow-up to some of their other "Grand" series of devices we've looked at in the past. We've taken a look at both the ZTE Grand X Plus and the Grand X 2 and both of these devices were listed as "entry level" with price tags under $199 and $149 at launch. The device we are looking at today is priced quite a bit higher - at $399 CAD at launch, but you do get quite a bit more for your dollar. While it doesn't boast all the hardware specifications and features of a flagship device from Samsung or Apple, it does cost a fraction of the price.

Currently, the ZTE Axon is available in Canada at Fido only and as previously mentioned, the cost out-of-contract is $400 CAD with the price on-contract at a mere $50. This makes it much more inviting that a super expensive phone, but it certainly isn't a super cheap device. The phone boasts a metal body and has a great feel - but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Axon Box


About ZTE:

While many people in North America haven’t heard much about ZTE, they are a big player in other markets.

ZTE is a leading global provider of handset devices and telecommunications equipment. We are one of the top rated high-tech enterprises in the world developing and producing 2G, 3G and 4G handsets. As well as manufacturing mobile devices such as smartphones in over 150 countries, the company delivers innovative products business solutions. It connects global customers via voice, data, multimedia and WLAN Founded in 1985, ZTE is listed on both the Hong Kong and Shenzhen Stock Exchanges and is China’s largest listed telecoms equipment company.

More information about the company can be found over here.


First Look:

The ZTE Axon is a 5.5-inch device that is a big step up from the ZTE Grand X series. The Axon is a completely different device aimed at a different market segment. This device steps up the specs and includes a 1080p screen, a 13MP rear camera, and an 8MP front camera. The rear camera supports 4K UHD video recording as well as 120fps recording at 720p. It is powered by a 2.3GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801. I've experienced day-and-a-half battery life thanks to the 3,000 mAh battery sealed under a non-removable back panel. 

While the device won't set any specification records, it's a very solid device that should perform very well.


Axon in Box


The bundle included with the Axon includes a nice set of earbuds, a charging cable as well as a pretty speedy charger. The Axon has Hi-Fi sound and comes with a Dolby application that does custom presets - both through the built-in speakers or through the headphones. All in all, the bundle is as good as any other flagship phone and the Axon costs about half (or less).

The ZTE Axon is a bit of a change from the previous two ZTE devices we looked at. The Axon phone is willing to tray a low entry-price for additional features, better performance and an overall better design and build quality. The Axon is still quite affordable, and is certainly worthy of serious consideration when picking up your next device.

Bundle of Stuff


The ZTE Axon has a very large battery for the size of the phone and while Grand X 2 had a 2,480 mAh battery to power the 720p screen, ZTE stepped up the screen resolution on this device to a full 1080p and in order to keep it running longer, they upped the battery to a full 3,000 mAh battery. This gives the device an observed run-time of at least a full day-and-a-half with moderate usage and an easy two days with light usage. Even when I push this phone with a lot of screen time, Wi-Fi streaming and music playback, the battery has never left me hanging before the day is up. It lasts all day - every day.

ZTE has an interesting button layout on this device. The volume rocker is located on the left side about 2/3 of the way up. Opposite the volume controls - on the right side is the power button. below this about 1/3 of the way up the right side, is a dedicated camera button. This allows you to take pictures with the phone screen off. If the screen is off, a double tap on this dedicated button wakes the phone and puts it into camera mode. Another press, and you take a picture. If the screen is on, a single press launches the camera, and another press takes a picture. It is a good idea, but it's not flawless. We'll cover that a bit later.

ZTE Axon Front Axon Rear


Unlike other ZTE Grand-series devices, the back of the Axon cannot be removed (easily). The battery is not easily replaceable and there is no MicroSD card slot. This is a bit of a step backwards in my opinion, but it's one that allows ZTE a little more control and less failure points. While I like the removable features of the ZTE Grand-series products, many other companies have non-removable batteries and that seems to be the way things are going. It's not the best way, but it is quite common.

On the next page we'll cover all of the features from ZTE, throw in a few of our own before we talk about how well the device functions in the field and if you should really consider this as a backup device or a main device.