So I've been using the Axon M now for one week and thought I'd post my thoughts on it. I'll start with providing a brief understanding of why the M interested me and the phone that it replaced. I do a lot of writing/reviewing/editing of technical documentation and a larger screen becomes pretty important pretty quickly. It doesn't help that my fingers are not exactly small and thumb-lock is a serious concern as it takes a decent sized keyboard to keep me from hitting a lot of wrong characters.
About 4 years ago I purchased a Padfone X from AT&T - the ability to slide a pocket sized phone into a tablet and have all my apps and data available on a 9 inch screen was very attractive. The phone did very well for me (obviously, as I used it for over 4 years) and I've come to rely on the ability to essentially turn my smaller phone into a larger display at will. However, the Padfone was old and needed updating.
Enter the Axon M, the first phone to address portability and a larger display with a reasonable opportunity to actually be usable. After a week I think I made the right choice, although there definitely are some compromises and I agree with...well, pretty much everyone else that this phone is not going to be for everybody.
I'll start with the drawbacks, followed by advantages, and wrap up with general impressions and comments.
First, and probably the most serious long-term annoyance is the lack of display balance between the two screens. There is no provision in settings to adjust brightness for individual screens, and the second screen consistently displays a little darker than the primary screen. This gets a bit annoying when reading documents across both screens. Mind you there is no functional issue but I do find it distracting.
Next up is the Quick Launch button... Will someone please find a way to just disable this? After a week of using the M I have mostly trained myself to not hold the phone so that the Quick Launch button gets accidently long pressed, but it does still occasionally happen. It's probably worse for me as I'm left handed and normally hold the M in my right hand - where one of my fingers just naturally wants to land right on top of the button.
Which brings me to AT&T. I like AT&T, have been with them since before smart phones existed, BUT... DirectTV? Really?? Positioning this phone as a media device seems crazy stupid to me, after using it to be seriously productive (see the advantages section below). TV Mode was one of the first settings I disabled. I really think AT&T missed the mark here and it feels more like a self-serving decision than one made with the interest of the device in mind.
Advantages I've encountered:
The phone is very portable, especially when compared to the Padfone/Padstation combination where I had to lug around a tablet as well as a phone. The ability to drop the M in my pocket and go, knowing that I can fold out the additional display to get some serious work done is really nice. Overall the phone is about as big as I'd want to fit into my pocket and is actually easier to hold when open. Although the unfolded screen size is smaller than the Padstation and does have the bezel strip in the middle, these compromises are indeed offset by the added portability.
The two screens work very well together in both Extended and Dual modes, and I find myself working almost exclusively in Extended mode. ZTE limited screen rotation under specific situations, and I think this was a good decision. The limits encourage better and more easy handling of the phone, so you don't end up with awkward grips or dangling the M by its second screen. With both screens in Extended mode I'm able to see enough of technical diagrams to understand what's going on, and the ability to view a previous version alongside the current document version in Dual mode makes quick work of spotting changes. Even with the smaller screen space than the Padstation I think I may end up being even more productive with the M.
The fingerprint scanner on the side and as part of the power button works very well and makes waking the phone very easy and convenient.
Overall handling the M has been smooth and easy.
Impressions and general comments:
Some size measurements, just because I like to see real measurements on devices and many of the measurements I've seen for the Axon M have focused on single screen only:
Both Screens Size/Body Ratio:
Length (Height): 5.180"
Screens Area (not removing bezels): 23.15"
Middle Bezel Space: 5.180" x 0.120"
Middle Bezel Area: 0.622" (2.69% of total screens area)
Total Usable Screens Space: 22.53"
Length (Height): 5.935"
Ratio (both screens, not removing middle bezels): 71.18%
Ratio (both screens, removing middle bezels): 69.27%
While measurements and calculations are approximate and rounded to two digits I did take care to measure with a dial caliper, so they should be reasonably close. All measurements are in inches.
It is worth noting that the middle bezel consumes less than 3% of the visual display area for both screens. While it would be great to not have any bezel I find it to again be a compromise offset by the portability provided.
I think it's a fair statement that scratching will happen, but with Gorilla Glass 5 and a Mohs hardness of ~6 this really shouldn't be any more of a concern than it is with a single exposed screen. Speaking of having front and back facing screens surprisingly enough I've seen very little fingerprinting so far.
Power management is good, but as expected running both screens as I do the battery is not likely to see me through a long day of heavy use. Mind you it very easily could do an average day of average use - but that's not what I bought this phone to do. As I said I did expect this and before ordering the M I purchased a pair of Anker 5000mah external battery packs. The external battery is smaller than the phone, very easy to travel with, and provides more than a full charge. I've gotten into the habit of plugging the phone into a pack anytime it gets around 60% and is convenient to do so. The battery pack is small and light enough to hold with the phone if necessary but I've not needed to do that as so far the M hasn't dropped below 45%. This has proven to be a good working solution to provide long-term lasting power to the phone.
Overall I like the Axon M and feel that I made a good choice. This phone may very well last long enough for me to get comfortable with the idea of moving to a folding display, although that's probably a lot to ask.