This new ZTE phone is an affordable Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra alternative

ZTE Axon 40 Ultra
(Image credit: Future)

If the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is on your wish-list but beyond your budget, you might like the look of the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra, a new Android phone from Chinese tech company ZTE that's a dead-ringer for Samsung's flagship.

While the S22 Ultra starts at $1,199.99 / £1,149 / AU$1,849 for 8GB RAM and 128GB storage, the Axon 40 Ultra offers the same specs for just $799 / £709 (roughly AU$1,200).

The phones aren't hugely different in most other respects either. Design-wise, both the Samsung and ZTE phones have 'waterfall' displays that curve at the edges, the same screen size and refresh rate, and the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset and 5,000mAh-capacity battery.

The ZTE Axon 40 Ultra even has a few features the Galaxy doesn't: it has an under-display selfie camera, so you're not losing any screen, and it charges fast at 65W.

Admittedly, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is the better phone overall – it comes with a stylus and has much better cameras. But we've tested both smartphones extensively, and the ZTE certainly isn't inferior to the tune of $400 / £400.

ZTE Axon 40 Ultra

(Image credit: Future)

Analysis: ZTE is a true 'best phone' contender

We haven't quite finished our in-depth ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review, but based on what we've seen so far there's a good chance that it could end up on our list of the best smartphones.

It feels a lot like the Galaxy S22 Ultra, which currently tops that list, both in terms of its hand-feel and its performance – and those are the two key attributes of a phone that we pay the most attention.

Its faster charging, and the lack of a 'punch-hole' cut-out in the screen, also contribute to a solid all-round user experience.

What lets the phone down is its camera setup – it's not bad, but it's not good enough to compete with the Samsung, or with newer iPhones. The AI scene optimization isn't great, and autofocus is slow too. The front-facing camera is especially disappointing, likely thanks to its under-display placement, and snaps seem incredibly soft with an odd aura effect around subjects.

We did find ourselves missing the Samsung's S Pen too – the lack of a stylus isn't normally an issue on smartphones, but with our hand telling our brain 'this is a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra' we did find ourselves reaching for the stylus on a few occasions, and being disappointed not to have it.

Another negative is the battery life, as the phone didn't always last through a day of use without needing to be recharged.

But with this Galaxy S22 Ultra doppelganger costing around the same as the Samsung Galaxy S22, Xiaomi 12 or iPhone 13, it's easy enough to look past a few rough spots. Look out for our full review very soon.

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. He also currently works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.