Hands on: ZTE Axon Elite review

Ever wanted to unlock you phone with your eyes? Now you can.

What is a hands on review?
ZTE Axon Elite review

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

There are two standout features on the ZTE Axon Elite making it worth taking about - its biometric abilities and dual-camera setup.

Look into my eyes

First up is ZTE's eye scanning tech, which allows you to unlock the handset with not a pin, pattern or password, but your actual eyes. The ones on your face. It's pretty cool.

Setup is easy. Just head to the settings menu and the Axon Elite will quickly scan in your eyes - although you do have to hold the handset quite close to your face. I'd recommend doing this in private to avoid looking a little odd.

ZTE Axon Elite review

Once your blinkers are registered you're good to go. Lock the handset, and then hit the power key to wake the screen. Drag down from the top and you'll see the front facing camera take a quick peek at your eyes. It takes around a second (if you're holding the phone in the right place) to unlock.

It is quick, but it's not as fast as the fingerprint scanner on the rear which is just as secure, yet a lot more convenient. You still have to hold the Axon Elite pretty close to your face to unlock, so you'll look a bit strange walking down the street.

ZTE Axon Elite review

And it's that convenience which kills the joy of the eye scanning feature. I was really excited to try it out, and sure I had fun playing with it, but I don't think I'd use it day to day.

The fingerprint scanner is excellent, and it's easier and quicker than the eye scanning.

There is a third option though - voice unlock. Unfortunately the event space was too noisy for me to register my dulcet tones, but I suspect it won't be as easy as the finger scanner.

ZTE Axon Elite review


Moving on to feature highlight number two, there are two cameras on the back of the ZTE Axon Elite. It's not the first phone to do this, in fact there have been a number which have sported dual-cameras before it, but for ZTE it's a big talking point.

The 13MP camera sits 20mm above a secondary 2MP snapper, and ZTE says that distance is key for the re-focus tool it provides on screen.

With two cameras you have access to a true re-focus tool, rather than a digital augmented version. This means you can adjust the focus of your snap after taking it. Want to switch focus to the rear? Fine, go for it. And vice versa. Again, we've seen this on a number of handsets, but it works nicely on the Axon Elite.

ZTE Axon Elite review

There are a range of other features included in the camera including Bokeh, 4K video recording, a fully manual mode, multi-exposure and super-aperture. Round the front you get an 8MP camera, perfect for selfies and the like.

A non-removable 3000mAh battery seems small for the ZTE Axon Elite considering its size, but that's what you get.

It does however come with Quick Charge 2.0, allowing you to get 120 minutes of call time from a 10 minute charge, while half an hour of plugged in time will replenish the battery by up to 60%.

ZTE Axon Elite review

Early verdict

Its design won't be everyone's cup of tea, nor will the interface on the ZTE Axon Elite, but it does have a few features which help it stand out.

The eye scanning tech is fun to play with and will be great to show off to mates down the pub, but you'll likely end up using the fingerprint scanner day to day purely for convenience. Meanwhile the dual rear camera doesn't break any new ground, but it's stuffed full of functions giving you a lot to play with.

The plus points are intriguing, but I can't see where the Axon Elite will fit into the market and it may struggle to really make a name for itself.

John McCann
Global Managing Editor

John joined TechRadar over a decade ago as Staff Writer for Phones, and over the years has built up a vast knowledge of the tech industry. He's interviewed CEOs from some of the world's biggest tech firms, visited their HQs and has appeared on live TV and radio, including Sky News, BBC News, BBC World News, Al Jazeera, LBC and BBC Radio 4. Originally specializing in phones, tablets and wearables, John is now TechRadar's resident automotive expert, reviewing the latest and greatest EVs and PHEVs on the market. John also looks after the day-to-day running of the site. 

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.