This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl.
The AXON 20 5G, announced by ZTE on September 1 in China, is the world's first smartphone with a front camera embedded in the top of the display. It is believed to be the base model of the Rakuten BIG launched by Rakuten Mobile, which uses the same display. Its popularity has skyrocketed in China since its launch, and the official online store is said to be out of stock.
Related Article (Japanese)
The AXON 20 5G is powered by the Snapdragon 765G chipset, with a display size of 6.9 inches 2460x1080 pixels and a 32-megapixel front camera embedded at the top of the display. From the front, you can't see the front camera and it doesn't look like the camera is embedded. However, when you activate the front camera, you can take photos and videos through the display.
There are four rear cameras and a 4220mAh battery. The basic specs are almost on par with the Rakuten BIG and there is no doubt that the AXON 20 5G is the base model of the Rakuten BIG.
The back of the phone has a glossy finish but is fingerprint-resistant. It has an elegant image with a curved pattern that emerges depending on how much light is shining on it. You can also enjoy a sense of luxury. AXON 5G" is written on the lower left side. All 5G models in the AXON series are labeled the same, and the AXON 10 Pro 5G from SoftBank is similar. The four cameras are a 64-megapixel wide-angle and an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle, a 2-megapixel macro, and a 2-megapixel depth-finding camera.The Rakuten BIG has the same camera configuration.
The side of the device has a power and volume button on the right side, and a USB Type-C port and SIM card slot at the bottom. My first impression of the device in my hand was that it's just too thin. The device measures 172.1 x 77.9 x 7.98 mm and weighs 198 grams, and the fact that it's less than 8 mm thick at this size shows the persistence of ZTE's development team. By the way, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra with the same 6.9-inch display is 8.1mm thick and the Galaxy S20 Ultra is 8.8mm thick, which gives you an idea of how thin the AXON 20 5G is.
Since the Rakuten BIG is about 174 x 80 x 9 mm and weighs about 227 g, the size and weight of the device is slightly higher than the AXON 20 5G. The AXON 20 5G is not waterproof, so it may be slimmer.
The front camera is faintly visible when you look at the display from an angle, but it's not noticeable when you're using the device. While it's more noticeable in direct sunlight, for example, it's not as "clearly visible" as the streaks on the hinge of a foldable smartphone, and you won't notice them much.
If you take a selfie with the front camera, it looks like it would work just fine in a brightly lit room, if you're only taking pictures of your face. When you zoom in, it looks a little blurry, but that's probably because the display is on top of the camera, and I'm sure the Rakuten BIG has the same camera, so I get the impression that it's the same.
The need to hide the front camera can be felt when watching videos with the large 6.9-inch display. The larger the display size, the more realistic and immersive the video becomes. But if one part of that screen is missing, you'll be bothered by it.
Try playing back a video on the AXON 20 5G and you'll be pleasantly surprised by the large, unobstructed display. The pop-up camera is another way to hide the front camera, but it is more complicated and has a higher failure rate. Embedding the camera in the display is likely to be highly advantageous when considering content playback.
The AXON 20 5G camera has a variety of modes for video recording settings, including a vlog mode that makes it easy to take short videos for vlogs. It also uses AI to subtitle your videos when you speak while shooting, which will come in handy when you're creating YouTube videos. And the MOVIE MODE allows you to record videos in full screen, 20.5:9 aspect ratio.
Videos shot in 20.5:9 will have black bars at the top and bottom when played back on other models with a different aspect ratio. However, if you're shooting with the AXON 20 5G and enjoying it on the AXON 20 5G, there's no problem. Shoot a video in full screen and watch it in full screen. It's not easy to experience this kind of thing with any other smartphone than the AXON 20 5G.
Now if you look closely at the cameras, the spacing between each of the four cameras is quite similar to the Rakuten BIG. However, the flash position is different, so I wonder if the camera module is the same and only the flash position is different. The super wide-angle camera has an 80-degree angle of view and the macro allows you to get up to 4cm closer to your subject.
The AXON 20 5G is priced in China at 2198 yuan (35,000 yen) for the 6GB RAM + 128GB ROM model and 2,798 yuan (44,000 yen) for the 8GB RAM + 256GB ROM model. Compared to the Rakuten BIG, which costs 69,800 yen (including tax) for comparable performance, this seems quite inexpensive.
However, the dilemma is that most Snapdragon 765G-powered 5G smartphones in China have priced around 2,000 yuan (about 32,000 yen), so they can't raise their prices too much to compete with other companies. The Rakuten BIG is also waterproof and has Felica. It's not simply "cheaper in China, expensive in Japan".
I use the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Rakuten BIG, so I didn't think the AXON 20 5G was "too big" when I touched it. Of course, it will be a little difficult to operate for people with small hands, so it seems to be a product for people who can display videos, photos and social networking sites at this size and find it attractive. Only now that four carriers have launched 5G, we would love to see the AXON 20 5G released in Japan.
In addition, renowned Chinese artist Sam Falconer was responsible for the package design. Each color is named after a famous historical scientist, such as Albert Einstein, and comes with an illustration of an image of the scientist and a case of the same design. This is the kind of attention to detail that goes into the sale of a smartphone with world-first features.
This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl. The Japanese edition of Engadget does not guarantee the accuracy or reliability of this article.