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ZTE announces an even cheaper version of its budget Axon 7

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ZTE’s Axon 7 flagship is getting a smaller companion, the Axon 7 mini. The new phone isn’t really miniature by any reasonable standard: it’s got a 5.2-inch screen, compared to the 5.5-inch Axon 7, and looks almost exactly the same as its predecessor in press photos. But it slightly scales down the Axon 7’s specs across the board, dropping the price to match. Given that the Axon 7 is already a sub-$500 phone, that puts the mini squarely in budget smartphone territory.

The Axon 7 mini has the same all-metal body as the original Axon 7, a design that reminded us favorably of the HTC One M8, although it’s a slightly lighter 153 grams (instead of 175 grams) and imperceptibly thinner — 7.8mm compared to 7.9mm. It also keeps the dual front-facing speakers that we liked on the Axon 7, although it’s using a different audio chipset. It’s also got the same fingerprint sensor and dual SIM card slots. Both phones are running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, although unlike the Axon 7, it’s unlikely that the mini will be compatible with Google’s Daydream VR platform when it launches this fall.

Beyond that, the specs drop a bit. The 1080x1920 screen has slightly lower pixel density, and instead of 4GB of memory and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chip, it uses 3GB and the Snapdragon 617. Its base model has 32GB of storage instead of 64GB, and the Axon 7’s 20-megapixel rear camera with an f/1.8 lens is now a 16-megapixel one with an f/1.9 lens. (The 8-megapixel front-facing camera remains the same.) Its fast charging is a little bit less fast — it promises a 46 percent charge in half an hour, compared to an 83 percent charge for the Axon 7 — and it has a smaller 2,705mAh battery, although the fact that it’s also a smaller phone means it’s not a totally direct comparison. It comes in the same gold model as the Axon 7, but its alternate color is "platinum grey" instead of "quartz grey," for whatever that’s worth.

If you’re actually looking for a small flagship phone, there are probably other options that fit the bill better. But if the Axon 7’s advantage was being a relatively cheap phone that still felt high-end, the Axon 7 mini would ideally feel like a quality mid-range phone. When it goes on sale later this month in Russia, Germany, Spain, Poland, Japan, Australia, India, and Saudi Arabia, the mini will sell for €299 ($333.) That’s a significant drop from the €409 (or $449 in the US) list price of the Axon 7’s base model. The mini is also coming to the US — but sadly, there’s no official price or release date yet.