Back in late 2016, ZTE released the Axon 7, a smartphone that made many of our jaws dropped. At that point, the Chinese phone maker was more well-known for their affordable mid-range and sometimes sub-par device offerings.
All that changed when they released the Axon and subsequently the Axon 7. That’s when we started to pay attention as both devices came with flagship specs and a solidly-built aluminium body that rivaled the likes of HTC. Heck, it even took a playbook from their Taiwanese rivals and included stereo front-facing speakers.
What made the deal even sweeter was the fact that the Axons sported slightly lower price tags compared to their competitors at that point. However, being a “young” Chinese brand, most consumers still didn’t take to the brand compared to the likes of Samsung, Sony, HTC and of course Apple.
The company then shifted away from the Axons and created a sub-brand called Nubia. As far as I’ve seen the devices are pretty up to snuff compared to the current competition but they just lack the branding and marketing power. I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on the nubia Red Magic gaming phone (if it ever gets here). However, that might just end up being a pipe dream.
The reason for that is because not too long ago, the company ran into a major snafu with the United States and has been whacked with a hefty fine and a “banhammer” resulting in the company no longer being able to use Qualcomm components and getting their Android devices certified by Google. Both of which are major blows to the company and also consumers.
So, for those of us that are left with a two- to coming three-year-old Axon 7, we’ll probably never receive the promised Android Oreo update. In fact, the update is about two months late now as it was expected to be released in April.
Unless, you’re willing to do a little tinkering and getting your hands on the Android Oreo beta that’s on the XDA-Developers forum. Your warranty is probably over by now, so you might as well unlock that bootloader and get to flashing (your phone with custom ROMS & not people by the street).
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The 8 Important Rules of Flashing:
- THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE! Backup all your files in your internal storage & SD Card.
- ALSO VERY IMPORTANT RULE! Charge your phone to a 100%. Running out of juice in the process can net you a stylish paperweight.
- Check if your phones is the A2017 (China), A2017U (US) or A2017G (Euro/Asia) model. Most units in Malaysia should be the A2017G.
- Unlock your bootloader by following this guide. YOUR WARRANTY IS NOW VOID!
- Install a custom recovery by following this guide.
- Use TWRP to create a full backup of your device just in case you don’t like the Beta.
- Download the necessary files and flash the Beta ROM from this page.
- You are now a certified geek & your Axon 7 is cool again!
Is the Oreo Beta dunkalicious or crumbly?
Keep in mind that this is a Beta version of the ROM so there are bound to be things that aren’t working as smoothly as it should. However, after spending close to a week with it, I have to say that it’s really quite stable and MAJORITY of features work fine and dandy
The forum is still very active with members posting about bugs and solutions on a daily and so most issues you face can be sorted out quite quickly if you have the patience.
As for the ROM itself, I have to say I love the fact that ZTE was about to go down that super clean and almost vanilla style of Android. I hated MiFavor with a passion as it was just another bloatware filled iOS wannabe UI. Although I have to say I still installed Nova Launcher on top of the stock launcher as I wanted a little more customisation to the UI.
The thing that really got me super happy was the fact that the notification and quick settings shade has been totally revamped and now mirrors stock Android. The original MIFavor shade was just horrible as the quick setting customisation was so limited and not to mention ugly as heck.
Overall, the Snapdragon 820 and 4GB of RAM really benefits from the cleaner version of Android as the phone is snappy and rarely lags. The camera works wonderfully and so do the stereo speakers.
Speaking of the camera, if you’re willing to tinker a little more, you can even install Google’s Camera app using an apk and flashing a patch so that it supports HDR+. Pretty sweet.
Also, ZTE seems to have retained some of their more useful features such as On/Off Scheduling, Mi-Pop and probably the most useful, Gesture & Motions.
I almost forgot to mention that the device now supports the Ambient Display feature, where the screen wakes up when you receive a notification. I think this is brilliant as it really puts the AMOLED display to good use. It might not be as handy as Samsung’s Always-On Display but I still find it extra handy instead of constantly having to rely on the tiny LED notification or unlocking the device.
There were a few bugs that I ran into so I’ll just list them down in point form:
- This is probably the most annoying for me. On default, the device wasn’t able to detect my SD card and when I formatted it, it corrupted my SD card. Apparently the fix is to format it in FAT32 format.
- Waze and Google Maps crashed and froze between 5 to 20 minutes of usage.
- There were a few times when I turned on or off Bluetooth and it showed that the Bluetooth module had crashed.
- Battery life is pretty bad but the fix is to install the Jojoc battery tweak kernel included in the first page of the Beta ROM post.
- Initially when I received calls, the person on the other side either couldn’t hear me or said I sounded like I was drowning. One way to do this is to turn off Google Voice Assistant (Bummer!)
- Not a bug but more of an annoyance. There’s still ZTE apps included such as a Browser, Gallery and Calendar app.
- Another minor annoyance is that from now on, when you reboot your phone, you’ll be greeted with a security warning. Hopefully this will eventually be remedied via a workaround.
- Clean and vanilla Android UI
- Snappy and rarely lags
- Camera works with no problems
- Stereo speakers work with no problems
- Ambient display feature puts the AMOLED display to good use
- Support for camera.api2, which means HDR+
- Great support from community
- Unofficial-Official Update / No OTA
- Running into bugs on and off
- Unsure when it will be final
- MicroSD needs to be reformatted to FAT32
It’s great to see that the ZTE Axon 7 still receiving so much love from the developer community and while the Beta is quite stable as it is, there are still some kinks that need to be ironed out before I would say it’s truly safe to be used on a daily basis.
However, if your Axon 7 is either your secondary device or sitting around gathering dust, I’d highly suggest giving the Beta ROM or other custom ROMs a shot as it definitely breathes new life into your phone.
Do you have an Axon 7? Tried the Oreo Beta yet? Tell me what you think.
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