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#OutsideTheBox: ZTE Axon 7 Mini Review


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So, in an effort to find hidden gems in everyday items we use (and also to create content since Ron is a slave driver), I will be doing a post every so often reviewing something from a smaller business than the norm. For example, I was among the early crowd who cut cable in favor of Sling TV for my home. Sling saves me money each month and I can watch the same things I was watching before (you really should check it out if you haven’t already, they usually offer a free trial, also, they should pay me).

For this post, I will be reviewing my new cell phone, the ZTE Axon 7 Mini. I know most of you are wondering WTF is a ZTE. Well, it’s a phone manufacturer out of China that sells unlocked phones that work on almost all of the major carriers. Their two latest models, the Axon 7 and Axon 7 Mini, are some of the best reviewed phones you’ll find outside of Apple, Samsung and Google. I stumbled upon this phone after doing some research for a potential new phone due to the Samsung Note 7 debacle. I initially was going to hold onto my Note 7 until I found a phone I liked but Samsung forced my hand with an update designed to limit the battery life and annoy users into returning them.

So, what were my options? Samsung offered up an exchange along with a $100 bill credit for the trouble (I’d already exchanged my original note, that took me 4 hours) if you exchanged it for another Samsung smart phone. Well, the Note 7 is much better than the S7 or S7 Edge and this entire thing has made me anti-Samsung. That credit wasn’t enough to retain my relationship or my business. So, Samsung was out. Apple lost me with their removal of the headphone jack in favor of gouging customers into buying more accessories and, as an audio engineer, bluetooth audio quality is like nails on a chalkboard to me. So, no iPhone either. Google’s Pixel was going to be my pick but they only offer it through Verizon or financing it through them on a credit card account. Also, no expandable storage. Nope to them as well.

So, I was in a conundrum searching for a good phone with a headphone jack, expandable storage and that wasn’t manufactured by idiots. So, I hit Google and searched for Android Phones with expandable storage. Expandable storage is important to me because I like having all of my music on my phone just in case I have a bad connection. I came across this article which gave rave reviews to the ZTE Axon 7. It was both affordable AND had expandable storage. So after a few more reviews, I was sold. While searching Amazon and Best Buy for the best deal, I came across the Axon 7 Mini which is $150 cheaper (the 7 retails at $399.99). The chief difference between the two phones? .3 inches of screen and 32GB less onboard storage (I have a 256 GB SD).

I have been using this phone for a little over a week and the drop down from the Note 7, which is the best phone I have ever owned, isn’t as huge as I thought it would be. The smaller processor does mean I have to remember to close out apps running in the background and the low light camera is terrible, but outside of that, it’s a great phone considering the price. In full light, the camera is on par with the Galaxy and iPhone 7.  The fingerprint sensor on the back makes for easy opening with just a touch. The ZTE UI takes some getting used to and, in my opinion, isn’t as good as Samsung’s but again, for $250, it’s not a deal breaker.

Another potential drawback is that the Mini only works on GSM networks (no Sprint or Verizon) while the full 7 works on all of the big 4 carriers. Oh, and the phone comes with a plastic case and a limited 2 year warranty from the manufacturer right out of the box. All in all, I am impressed enough with this phone to hold on to it for a while. The Axon 8 is due out next summer and if it can improve on this phone, while keeping the expandable storage, I will certainly be buying it. Overall, I give this phone an 8.5/10. If you are looking to save some money outright or on a lease, I highly recommend this phone.

 

-AJ

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